When I lived in Bartlett, IL, the backyard must have been very boring. There were no squirrels, so Natasha started digging. She dug a large, deep hole in the center of the lawn. She also used to lie in the Hostas on the north side of the house in the heat of the summer. Both dogs were much more entertained when we moved to what is now called Squirrelhaven because of the abundant wildlife.
Not only did the dogs get to watch Canadian Geese, ducks, egrets and herons at the pond, they were on guard against woodchucks, skunks (I really don't want to talk about it), opossums, and rabbits. Natasha even startled a deer once on the other side of the fence. So everything was great with the dogs in the garden, except for one thing: both dogs were challenged and tormented by the squirrels. Over the years, Natasha had caught a rabbit, a baby bird, woodchuck, and even an iguana. Despite valiant efforts, she never caught a squirrel. It was not from lack of trying. With single-minded intensity, she barreled through the garden after the squirrels, leaving trampled plants in her wake.
I had planted an Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snow Queen') as the main feature of the front bed of the garden.Natasha didn't seem to notice it was there. After the third time the branches got broken by the white flash, I finally realized the futility of trying to get it to grow there. I transplanted it next to the house, where it remains, the victim now only of errant Frisbees and baseballs.
I tried fencing off the main garden from the lawn, but what was a little plastic fencing to a large and determined predatory machine? She'd leap right over the fence as if it wasn't there when pursuing a squirrel. Besides, the fence didn't look good, and it kept Natasha from being near me when I gardened, which she liked to do after the mutt died.I took down the plastic fence and instead started fencing in individual, at risk, plants with metal fencing.Not a perfect solution, but it was one I could live with.
The other problem with the dogs in the garden was that they used to eat the mushroom compost. It must have smelled good to them, because they'd come in with black crud in their teeth. (I stopped using it when I finally had enough homemade compost to use to improve the soil in the backyard before the beds were expanded.) I'd also catch the mutt chewing on the woodchip mulch. I'd tell her "No eating," and she'd stop. My dogs were smart enough to confine their munching to that and the occasional bit of grass, as I grew Digitalis and Aconitum. They were never interested in eating plants or vegetables, so I didn't worry about them being unsupervised in the garden. Had they been raw vegetable eaters, I would never have planted poisonous things.
This post is part of Gardening Gone Wild's Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop series. To read other posts on gardening with pets, click here.
(I must apologize for the quality of the photos in the post. Most were taken over 10 years ago with a film camera, and scanned onto my computer.)