Indianapolis landscapers should be considered hellscapers.

The funny thing about Indianapolis is how you can bump into people in ways like you might think of in a small town. I guess it’s not impossible a person in Chicago or New York might randomly see someone around town in the course of a day’s errands. But I think it happens more here.

To give you an example I met a guy for coffee one afternoon. I can’t even remember where or why I extended the invitation, but it was probably Facebook. After seeing this guy’s name in a few circles about some website work I figured it was worth a chat. I make it my business to know people in my business.

We meet for bad coffee and service at Mo Joe’s and we talk about the usual niceties. He’s from El Paso, Texas. Works for a local shop that makes websites for high end service groups. In both cases he’s simultaneously more southern and more webby than me. Which is annoying.

Before we go he mentions his boyfriend was at the table right behind me the whole time. Not coincidentally, of course, but we took a few moments to talk about his work. Turns out he’s interested in freelance architecture design that’s more approachable and affordable for average people.

We part ways and a few weeks later my ash tree in the front lawn dies. Those two facts aren’t related, but I also have no proof they aren’t.

And in the funny way Indianapolis ticks, I saw these two guys a couple more times. Once on my bike on the way home. Then again twice in one weekend at two distinctly different places miles apart from each other.

The whole time my ash tree continued its slow death slide into being a literal stick in the ground.

In pursuit of finding a guy to cut down and replace the tree I discovered that the people who cut down trees aren’t the people who put them in the ground. Those seem like obvious lateral business moves to me, but I’m not a lumberjack or a landscaper.

After finding a bunch of quotes from landscapers and tree removers in the range of $500-$1000, these were all far higher than I valued such a service. So applying a process I call “encouraging people to do it for less”, I managed to get a guy to do it for $375. Henson’s Landscaping did a fine job of chopping down the tree and grinding out the stump. I just wish I could have gotten them to give me ideas on the “landscaping” part of their name. But they never returned my call. Like about a dozen other places in town. It was starting to become a vast hellscape of broken promises. I wasn’t indicating anything other than “I have a house. I’d like some landscaping.”

So I turn to calling all kinds of places for quotes on landscaping. All the ones that showed up in trucks with logos on them were immediately out of the running. Too pricey with too much overhead. I know how much guys like me cost, and someone has to pay that logo designer.

And in step with Indianapolis’ modus operandi, these two guys I met for coffee popped in my head. “I bet they know people who know things about trees.”

Turns out they know things about trees. Joey Ponce and Brian Burtch, both operating under the banner of “City in Green” came out to the house and gave me 100% more than at least a dozen other places around here would: in that they actually came to the house and gave me a quote. No other landscaper seemed to bother giving me the quote or showing up when scheduled. Brian’s a licensed architect with his firm NEON Architecture, so the quote even had schematics of my house and property lot. Which was both helpful and creepy.

I like hiring people who operate at small scale. They care more and are way more affordable, but are the hardest to find. I got lucky bumping into these guys.

Brian and Joey gave me an estimate, they stuck to it, and we were able to split things into phases to meet the seasons and my budget. This weekend they came out and replaced the death hole in my front lawn with three new trees. A red maple, dogwood, and eastern redbud. They’ll grow quickly, look good, and they’re not ash trees, so they stand a solid chance of not being eaten alive by supper.

City in Green's first project

Next spring we’ll throw down phase two: a mulch bed off the front of the house with native grasses and plants. And by “we” I mean them while I stand around remembering how much I don’t like to be dirty and Jeremiah makes dinner.

As it turns out this was their first landscaping project. You should be their second. Because this is how Indianapolis works and and stays looking nice.

Dogs

The one thing I miss the most about living on the northwest side of Indianapolis is the close proximity to the Indianapolis Humane Society. For the year I lived up that way I’d routinely volunteer my time with the dogs. Jeremiah would donate some of his time to sitting with the cats. As you can imagine, the dogs are way more fun.

I’d help people check out the dogs, take them out for walks, introduce people to the kinds of dogs they might be describing an interest in (“small”, “short hair”, and “good with kids” was always top of the list). It was always great walking a dog up to the adoption desks with a family.

Here at the house we’re clear on the other side of town and closer to Indianapolis Animal Care than the Humane Society. But Animal Care might as well be on the moon with its clumsy location behind the trash incinerator, the electrical plant, and miles of industrial parks. So I don’t really get to volunteer anywhere now.

Jeremiah and I adopted Ares at Indianapolis Animal Care. He was marked with a relatively lackluster tag that said “Seems friendly, tail wags a lot. Stray, found: Washington and Lynhurst”. He had only been there for a couple weeks.

If you’ve never been to Indianapolis Animal Care, it can be reasonably described as the saddest place in Indianapolis.

The staff there is great. They have volunteers, but nowhere near the army the Humane Society or other shelters have, mostly because of their obscure location. The facilities are adequate. I wouldn’t call them dilapidated or embarrassing like I would IMPD Mounted Patrol’s horse facilities.

The sadness comes from the sheer lack of energy from so many of the dogs. Normally you’d walk through a room full of dogs in kennels and you’d expect them to stand up, jump around, walk, bark, or otherwise be interested in you. Not at Indianapolis Animal Care. Many of them didn’t even turn their head, let alone stand up. Some had been there for months. Because IAC is the tax-funded shelter of first and often last resort, with no ability to turn away anyone or any animal like other shelters, there’s an invisible death clock hanging over the place. They do a good job of working with other no-kill shelters in the state when that deathclock nears midnight, but there’s only so much space.

They routinely divide the open shelter area into two chunks. “Dogs with contagious kennel cough off the left. Those without on the right.” This is about like taking an elementary school classroom and having kids with the flu on the left and the kids without on the right. You can imagine how well that would work.

So when anyone asks me, “Where should I get a dog?” I can’t speak forcefully enough that the answer is: “Anywhere, but you should go to IAC.” Even if you live in a surrounding county, pay the extra few dollars to adopt from IAC.

We’ve had Ares for a couple years now. This weekend as Jeremiah was plucking things out of his garden, another dog wandered up. No tags, looking very thin, and in need of flea treatments and a bath, he seemed to take quickly to Ares in the driveway.

Now we seem to have another dog. We’ve done due diligence in reporting him on Nextdoor and IndyLostPetAlert.com. We had him checked for chips. Sunday was spent at FACE – another place that’s doing more good than you could ever hope to report – to get him checked out.

I didn’t particularly want another dog. But there are just two options and one of them is taking him to IAC. He’d likely get adopted given his size and demeanor. But Indiana rarely ranks high on any “good” list of anything. This is no exception. 125,000 animals a year end up in shelters in Indiana, not even counting rural areas where people just do whatever with who knows what. 40% per are euthanized. 8,000 animals a year are put down in Marion County alone. Interestingly, of all the things we can’t get legislators to agree on, we got one: House Bill 1201 was signed by the Governor this year, requiring all dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered statewide. We’re 30th to do so.  It passed unanimously. Of course, those laws rarely work anyway.

Apparently if you find a dog in Indianapolis, you have to turn it into Animal Care. It’s up to them what happens next. This makes the libertarian side of me vibrate as it assumes no one could possibly do something better and cheaper like just taking care of it.

So you can see my dilemma here. And why there’s now a dog that likes to sleep under the blankets, enjoys chicken, bounces up and down when you walk into a room, and lazily sunbathes around the house.

I guess we need a name. Any suggestions?

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