Dig it? Unfortunately, yes.

We finally got the fence completed in the new, big backyard so the dogs can roam around to their heart’s content. There are trees, flowers, lots of grass and fresh air to sniff. The openness has even put a spring in Ollie’s step. He trots a bit across the expanse now and then, bad hips and all. It’s heartening to see the old boy romp that way again, if only for a few seconds at a time.

The guilty party.

What could be wrong with that picture?

Well, where Ollie seems just happy to be out there, Atticus, the Australian shepherd/collie mix, has a mission in life. And that’s to protect. Protect and chase. Protect, chase and, oh yeah, to dig, dig, dig. To specifically find and dig up the mole that burrowed a tell-tale tunnel in a particular part of the yard.

I open the door to the back and Atticus bolts down the steps and sprints to that area over by the tree bed. Nose to the ground, he bloodhounds and frantically searches for a sign that any mole or vole might be in his reach. The slightest hint provokes the deepest, hardest dig, dirt and grass flying from beneath his paws as if they are threshers.

Unless I am standing there as well, in the role of playground monitor, in a matter of minutes the holes in the mulch and the twisting cavern in the yard, which I’ve repeatedly covered over with a rake, are back, as bad as new.

The unfortunate unintended consequence is that, if and until we come up with another solution, Atticus is reduced to bathroom visits to the yard before repairing to the deck and screened porch, where he can wander but also be confined to the premises.

The moral: Dogs will be dogs, diggers will dig, and what in the sad hell are you gonna do?