Herd it at the Water Bowl
Greater Illinois, Inc.
PO Box 4169
Lisle, Illinois 60532 (630) 415-1206
Herd it at the Water Bowl
Michael J. Mifflin
It is the time of year when gardeners’ fancies turn to plotting and planning. The blueprints from the previous year along with the numerous catalogs from Wayside Gardens and Jackson & Perkins, among others, are out on the kitchen table while the dogs lay under it or around the kitchen patiently waiting for the digging to begin. Since my wife is the family gardener, I wait for the flora to appear later in the summer. It’s my job to pick up the dog droppings from the yard. I’ve tried to get the dogs to help with fertilization by dropping in the garden, but have been unsuccessful thus far. They find their inspiration elsewhere, like in the middle of the yard.
Spring is heralded by Quigley, our mixed breed dog: half bearded collie, half pruning sheers. He prances around the yard with one of the branches he trims from the butterfly bush, trying to engage Aoife or Bevan in a game of chase while showing Pamela that he’s doing all he can to be of help. She does not find him as helpful as he finds himself.
Quigley spent the winter digging holes around the back yard indicating where the flowers should be planted. The yard resembles a firing range for mortar rounds. We hope the neighbors overlook the creative layout.
The collies remain yard friendly. The damage they do is from lying in the same spot on the berm watching strollers pushed down the sidewalk and then alerting everyone that there is danger by running along the fence barking. Bevan is sure that one day a baby is going to do something bad, like throw a bottle into the yard. He prepares every time for that eventuality.
With all of the excitement of saying good-bye to winter, preparations not only include what to plant and where, but more importantly how toxic for the dogs are the chosen plants.
Dog Friendly Gardens, by Cheryl S. Smith covers all aspects of gardening while considering our canine friends. Serious gardeners must keep in mind the dog’s existence in the garden since the yard is the dog’s domain. Fences, gazebos, water features, and composting are discussed. She also has included an extensive table of plants with their toxicity levels. Only a few dogs and, of course, puppies are habitual plant eaters. Most dogs keep their herbaceous eating confined to grass; however, being aware of what symptoms appear should too much of a particular plant be consumed is most helpful. For the most part, ingestion of plants results in digestive distress in the form of either vomiting or diarrhea. Some can cause skin or mucous membrane irritation with swelling in the contact area, i.e. muzzle, tongue, or gums.
The last chapter, “Good Garden Behavior,” covers building a digging pit, for the dog, not the gardener; redirecting a chewing dog’s interests; and creating an acceptable elimination area, among other suggestions for keeping your garden and dog healthy. Dog Friendly Gardens can be obtained through your library, or can be purchased through your bookstore or online.
Many sites on the Internet have information about dog-toxic plants. The Google advance search “dog toxic plant” found www.aspca.org/toxicplants among others. The ASPCA site is a great place to start looking for plant toxicity. This connects to other sites having information relating to dogs and plant poisoning. Remember that often the information provided indicates worse case scenarios, and not if the dog happens to bite off a leaf and spit it out, which is usually the case with dogs who garden.
My experience over the years with walking dogs around various neighborhoods is that there are specific plants that withstand the onslaught of dog watering very well. If gardeners insist on planting close to sidewalks or in areas where dogs will be passing, the plants most likely not to have adverse reactions to dog piddle are yuccas; lily of the valley; sedum; and peonies. After all, how do you think the pee got in peonies? I’ve never walked a dog that could pass a peony without making a contribution. I hope the scientific community soon finds flora to classify as pooponies. Dogs can take forever looking for that perfect pooping place. How nice it would be to have a plant that signaled: This is it, the place to poop. Hostas are another good choice and come in a many varieties and sizes. There is that old adage: Hostas: urination causes no ruination. Earwigs cause damage to the leaves overnight, but the hostas hold up to dog watering without any indication a dog came close to the plant.
As the summer wears on, the temperatures rise, and gardeners try to enjoy the fruits of their labor, finding a cool place from which to enjoy the garden can be difficult. Look for the dogs. They will have found the coolest garden spot from which they can watch the neighbors and intruders into the ‘hood. Digging a slight indentation into Mother Earth helps in cooling one off. If you are taking along afternoon tea or a slight repast while appreciating the garden, don’t forget to bring something to share.
Look for the next installment
of “Herd It at the Water Bowl” mid-June. Michael
can be e-mailed at: email@example.com.
Comments, questions, or suggestions for further articles are welcomed.