So you have a garden and would like to have a dog? Some say it can not be done! Not true!!! I have had 1 to 3 dogs in my garden for 45 to 50 years without a lot of damage.  The key is for them to have their own space where they can dig, play, or sleep.  This column is in memory of Pepper who died in August. She weighed 60 pounds and was an expert digger in their pen in the back corner of the yard with a board fence in back.  We covered plywood with indoor-outdoor carpet for a sunny spot to sleep. She would throw dirt over her head and back when making a new bed for the night. The next day she would make a new one and Snoopy would sleep in the old. Snoopy is a Bichon Frise, weighs 20 pounds, and is not as good a digger.  Every so often I filled the holes in and ran the sprinkler to keep the soil cool and moist. I also put in a layer of gravel to cut down on mud.

          Pepper was a Keeshond, growing up in the garden and house.  Kees are from Holland and their name means “canal hound”. The Dutch peasants rebelled and used the dog as their symbol.  Royalty won of course because they had the weapons.  They declared that all Kees be put to death and sent soldiers out.  The only ones that escaped were on the barges. They went up or down the river to get away.

          Pepper never dug where there was a plant but she had 2 places as her favorite in the garden. One was under a big Blue Spruce and the other was under an Alberta Spruce.  I filled them in the other day and they were well made so she could sleep in the damp lower soil and rest her chin on the edge to watch what I was doing.

          For 40 to 50 years I have had either Collies or Keeshonds. Both are smart and nice and try to keep their owner happy. I made a terrible mistake with Lady, my first Kees and let her have puppies (seven of them).

The neighborhood kids knew when I got off work and came over to help. Seven bowls of food so no one starves. Seven kids in a circle with a bowl and a puppy! One day a little girl was crying her eyes out and said “Eight kids, seven puppies”. So we had to share.  It was awful but I could not keep all those puppies.  I kept the runt (Princess) and mourned as each puppy left. Never again will I let go of puppies.

          My yard is full of gravel paths so that I can work from there even when it is wet.  They got part of a wiener if they got to the pen on the paths.  One had a hard time as he would rush to be the first into the pen, and then realize what happened and dash back to the garage and start over.

          Kees have two coats, both thick. The under coat is soft and grayish while the top is longer, coarser, and darker.  In the dead of winter Pepper’s coat was 5 inches long. She’s in the same family as Northern Sled dogs so she liked to sleep in a snow bank curled up with that curled bushy tail over her nose. This past winter she was 14 and no longer wanted to sleep outside. Also, her arthritis was hurting so she could get her front feet up those two steps into the kitchen but I had to lift the back two so she could come into the kitchen.

          Whenever I was working in the garden the dogs were too so I could yell if they made an error and went into the flowers. She never ate a flower or a bulb but was content to watch.  I have a number of grasses that the dogs liked to eat. Their favorite was Ribbon Grass, very aggressive with green and white striped leaves about 2 feet tall. No way could they eat the grass as fast as it could grow new stems.

          Rabbits lived under the shed near their yard. While Snoopy has tried for nine years to catch one, Pepper was too dignified to bother. Every generation of my Kees were terrified of thunder, the 4th of July fireworks, and Halloween.  Pepper would retire to my bedroom in the presence of strangers.  Books warn you of dogs, and especially cats, of eating house plants.  She never touched any of the many plants that crowded every window in winter.

          Lawns were made for dogs! My mower is always at its highest, tallest setting. In June when it is tall, lush, green and cool, Pepper looked for the best place and rolled and rolled, then stretched out and went to sleep.

          In winter dogs have the entire yard. As soon as plants begin to show in the spring, I have cheap, 2 foot, white wire fences I run along the path edges to remind them to stay on the path. About a week and they remember! Not all dogs will be this easy so check in about that puppy you want to bring home! I have noticed that Jack Russell Terriers never stop jumping, rolling, running, and even climbing. So choose a calm breed to explore carefully and enjoy the flowers as much as you do. There are 300 different species in my yard and all doing fine after those first puppy days.

          Pepper died in August of 2010 and Snoopy stopped eating and would lie down and just stare ahead. It has taken roast chicken, raw hamburger, and many slices of Begging Strips plus sleeping on the foot of my bed, never more than a few feet. Also, he hasn’t been in the pen except to look around, since Pepper left. One kind neighbor brought him a pork chop with gravy and that seemed to turn the corner!!! He is o.k. now.  

Copyright 2010