As the youngest of the four kids, Ben hasn’t blazed too many trails in the family.
Last to graduate school, last to get married, and still hasn’t bought a house. But don’t feel too bad for him, because he finally got his first “first” in the family: dog ownership.
Around Christmas last year, Ben and his wife Sam met Ruby the dog at Pearson Airport. Their “potcake” arrived from an adoption agency in St. Lucia. They call them potcakes on the islands because they eat the food burned to the bottom of the pot. Ruby had been a stray at the local dump.
After Ruby arrived, Ben and Sam looked at everything with a new perspective: daily schedules, summer plans and gardens. What was an expression of their veggie-plot wishes and plant-sale whims all changed with Ruby in mind.
We recommend that you consider the following when accommodating beloved fur-friends in your garden:
Plant toxicity. One of the most common questions we get is whether certain plants will kill a dog or cat. Generally, a pet needs to eat plants fairly compulsively to suffer any effects from the “standard,” mildly toxic plants such as Alocasia and Aloe. Garden plants such as Autumn Crocus, Azalea, Cyclamen, Kalanchoe, Lilies (Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter and Japanese Show), Oleander, Dieffenbachia, Daffodils, Lily of the Valley, Sago Palm, Tulips and Hyacinth have the potential to be much more harmful. Not all dogs or cats are plant-eaters, but if you have seen this tendency in yours, it would be worth finding no-risk alternatives such as Dogwood, Smoke Tree, Forsythia, Spirea or Lilac. The ASPCA and Humane Society websites have extensive lists of plants to avoid.
Designated “business” zone. Sounds like an economic-development plan, but if you’ve ever donned a housecoat at night in January so your dog can do her “business,” you know what we’re talking about. A smart dog can be trained to use a specific area so it’s good to plan somewhere discreet, and off the well-trod path.
Made in the shade. It’s easy to underestimate how the heat affects pets. Even with Ruby’s Caribbean lineage, she really slows down in the summer heat. Make sure you have a tree or shrub to give your pets shade, and a patch of grass or ground cover for them to flop into. Growing in the shade can be difficult, especially when a small beast has made that shady spot their favourite place, but it’s worth it to maintain ground cover there for a few reasons. Bare dirt absorbs heat when it’s exposed and tends to follow the pets into the house when they’ve been laying in it, not to mention a bed of foliage is just more comfortable. We recommend pachysandra, Irish moss, or winter creeper (euonymus fortunei) which will grow just about anywhere. Providing a cool place to hang out can also minimize the amount of doggy digging.
Happy and hydrated. Some dogs just know how to find the water that is going to upset their stomachs. Puddles, ponds and even birdbaths can all play host to bacteria which can affect your dog, so it is best not to tempt them if they’re thirsty. Have a bowl of fresh water available to them in the yard just outside your back door if possible.
Remember feathered friends. Chances are if you love your pets, you love birds too. Bird Studies Canada finds that the biggest threat to wild bird populations is domesticated cats, which kill more than 100 million birds in Canada each year. Studies find that cats are just too stealth to be stopped by bell-collars, so it is recommended that they be kept inside. If your dog is also a bird hunter, best to leash them in the yard or remove those bird feeders to avoid tempting birds into the danger zone.
Having a fenced-off garden will help you enjoy the benefits of the hobby without the problems associated with dog-life.