Contributed by Sheryl Klemanski, Director of Finance and Resource Management
I am always amazed at the wonders I see at the Arboretum as I come to work or leave each day. It may just be the sight of a few deer grazing on the grass as I drive up Frederick Law Olmsted Way or how the sun reflects off of the Exhibition Greenhouse in the early morning. In the fall, the muhly grass looks like pink smoke billowing from the hillside. But the one experience that has brought the biggest smile to my face is seeing a little Papillon named Pandora. Pandora is 15 years old. Despite being deaf and having limited vision, Pandora demonstrates so much excitement when she is at the Arboretum that she has captured the hearts of the staff.
Pandora and her “mom”, Wanda Buckner, have been coming to the Arboretum almost daily for more than 11 years. They have walked almost every trail from Hard Times to Owl Ridge to the Carolina Mountain Trail. Wanda has had Pandora since she was a puppy and can attest that although Papillons are considered a toy breed, they are far from delicate. This certainly explains how this little ball of fur can take on the challenges of our toughest trails.
What brought Pandora to our attention is her enthusiasm for the Arboretum. In the summer months, you can hear her barking with her head out of the car window as she and Wanda make their way up Frederick Law Olmsted Way to the parking lot. Some may say she is just reacting to the treat given to her at the gate, but I choose to believe she is responding to the entire experience of the Arboretum. When she gets out of the car, she jumps up and down as she readies for her walk. Wanda believes that Pandora is under the impression that this is her place (which, of course, it is).
Even though Pandora is a small dog, she is kept on a leash at all times for her protection. During her walks, she has seen all kinds of wildlife, from other dogs to squirrels to a bear!
I’m not sure if Pandora is our oldest canine member (in human years she is 99 years old), but she is certainly our most recognized. Her walks are now limited to the core garden areas, but her enthusiasm for the Arboretum is still going strong. Pandora serves as a role model for everyone who comes to the Arboretum, whether to work, volunteer or visit… whether you’re a young pup or a more mature dog, I encourage you to enjoy the experience!