I thought since I had reviewed a pet product for the backyard this past week I would continue the theme of achieving backyard feng-shui with dogs. Plus, I wanted to write a happier post because sometimes it can be so easy to get caught up in the negative experiences of life, and it’s important to remember the simple pleasures. Also, Earth Day was this past week and what better way to celebrate than to talk about nature.
Now, I have to admit that gardening has never been a favored past time of mine. I’m not really an outdoorsy person. I don’t care for bugs, or getting dirt beneath my fingernails. However, after having dogs, particularly big dogs, learning to love the outdoors has been a must. I think I’ve adjusted pretty well as I now look for interesting and fun places to take Simon and Rosee. During the week we all go on daily walks, but over the weekends it can be nice to go somewhere different. Luckily, there are a few nearby trails that we can go to and walk or hike, and we live fairly close to the Sacramento River where we like to take Simon and Rosee when it’s warm so they can swim. Well, Simon likes to swim, and Rosee likes to splash along the edge. Being outside is one of the main places Rosee and Simon like to be. They love to bathe in the sun, stretch out in the grass, and take naps in the sand (when we spend a day at the beach, of course). As a result, I knew our backyard needed to be dog-friendly. At the same time, the backyard did need to at least look appealing for humans because it’s still our backyard after all. Fortunately, my mom loves gardening and took charge.
The first order of business when it came time to create a dog-friendly backyard was to put in grass. Originally, our backyard did have grass, but after years of redoing and rearranging things we were left with barely any grass. Then once we adopted Simon it was decided that it would be easiest to put all new sod down. Now, it might seem easy to put sod down, particularly given the size of our grass area. The truth is that this past fall we put down sod in our backyard for the third (and hopefully final) time. I do have to say though, that the reason the past attempts at trying to grow grass in our backyard had nothing to do with the dogs. The first time the sod never quite took to the ground, and the second time grubs developed. Fortunately, the grass seems to be doing well this time around, which is good since it is the main place Rosee likes to lay while we play fetch with Simon.
The second concern to address was greenery. Finding the right plants and flowers to put in the backyard can be a bit tricky when there’s dogs involved. Mostly because Simon and Rosee have a tendency to sample the greenery, and therefore it became important to ensure that any plants we put in were dog-friendly. There is a list on the ASPCA website of safe and unsafe plants for animals. Personally, I find this site and the list sort of confusing and somewhat difficult to navigate, and mostly end up searching for a few more websites/posts/blogs that offer relevant answers. Yet, it is there. Hopefully, someone else will have better luck with it than I have had. Originally, simple plants like pansies, impatiens, alyssum, and rose moss were planted, and they seemed to do well. They were hearty enough to stand up to the dogs walking on them, and looked pretty. We also tried planting some basic shrubbery, but those never quite worked out so well. Rosee had a tendency to continually chew on these plants, and Simon liked to encourage this habit of hers by digging them up. It’s quite funny now that I think back on it, although at the time I was far from laughing. Nevertheless, through trial and error we found which plants worked (by that I mean which plants Simon and Rosee left alone) and which ones didn’t.
The next concern, let’s call it the 2.5 concern because it developed as a result of the second concern, was how to protect the plants from Rosee and Simon. The dogs enjoyed digging up and eating the plants, and if they weren’t doing that they would run over them when they were playing. I know I did say that the plants we chose were pretty hearty and stood up to the dogs’ giant paws, but we still wanted a way to keep the dogs out of the plants the best we could. Initially, we put everything in pots so that the dogs couldn’t actually step on anything. However, this didn’t stop them from digging up the plants. Enter: the wall.
The wall was an idea that we got from an outing to our local Orchard Supply Hardware one day last summer. It’s made out of cinder blocks, and steps down to an opening in the middle. We decided to build up the wall three blocks high so it didn’t completely block the view of the plants and it was low enough so someone could sit on it as well. The wall is a pretty awesome addition to our backyard because not only does it keep the dogs out of the plants, but it looks beautiful and it helps showcase our plants.
While we do have some planters (made out of leftover cinder blocks) that run along the side of the walkway, the main area of plants is that corner, which is now made into a focal point with the help of the wall. Most recently, we had to put in the front gate because Rosee liked to run through the middle for fun. I swear she grinned every time she did it.
The fourth and final concern to address was to find pieces of furniture that was comfortable and useful to humans, but usable by the dogs as well. There is a swing for the humans, and two dog houses for the dogs.
A gazebo was added for some much needed shade, and two giant utility boxes were put in for storage, although they now serve double duty as the dogs like to sleep on top of them in the afternoon.
So there it is: a journey through our backyard. It’s taken a few years of experimenting and experiences to get things right and an awful lot of replanting the plants that Rosee and Simon decided to dig up, but ultimately I love our backyard and so do the dogs.