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Dog's Life: Home & Garden
Tips on Dog-Safe Gardening
Garden organically, for the sake of both the planet and your dogs.
Dogs on Grass

Raised beds protect plantings from scampering paws and swinging tails. Dogs can be taught where they’re permitted and where they are not.

Digging pit, preferably in shaded locations, give dogs places to practice their excavation skills without disrupting your garden beds. You might entice them to use it by lightly burying (as they watch you) a treat-filled Kong.

Leave a plant-free “patrolling” area around the perimeter of your yard; dogs instinctively (and repeatedly) cruise boundaries and fence lines.

Construct a barrier around plants of the nightshade family, including eggplant, tomato and potato; their foliage and stems contain dangerous alkaloids that can kill a dog. Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna), Larkspur (Delphinium ajacis) have toxic effects on the heart and circulation. When dogs eat large amounts of onions, they may suffer red blood cell destruction. Rhubarb leaves (Rheum rhabarbaram) contain oxalic acid. In quantity, it damages kidneys.

Avoid cocoa bean mulches; their chocolaty smell makes them pup catnip, but they contain theobromine, which is toxic for dogs.

Cross almond or walnut trees off your list for areas used by dogs; tannin is a canine toxin, and almond and walnut hulls contain it; moldy walnuts are also a problem. Avoid trees with toxic bark, such as cherry (contains cyanide-like components). And, some stone fruit trees (apricots, plums) can provide raw material for obstruction by indigestible pits.

Do not use snail bait containing metaldehyde, which is highly poisonous to dogs and cats. Copper barrier tape is a good alternative; slugs and snails are deterred from crossing it by the tape’s tiny positive electric charge.

Protect young trees, especially if you have a male dog. Be sure to frequently rinse the trunk and soil with fresh water. Or, secure a copper or galvanized splash guard of appropriate height and circumference around the developing tree the first couple of years to divert unwelcome attention from your pup.

Dog's Life: Home & Garden
The Perfect Garden Dog
Digging and weeding and vermin control, oh my!
Garden & Dogs

"Here,” my friend Jeanette said, shoving a plastic grocery bag at me. Limp daffodil foliage flopped out of the top. “They’re a gift from Pepper. She dug them up—again!—in the flowerbed by the back porch and I didn’t have the energy to plug them back in for the third time.”

Those of us who love gardening and love dogs have days like this. It’s tough to find a good garden dog, one who will hang out with you without trashing the tulips. Cats, spectators to the core, are better suited to the job. They can lie there for hours utterly content to simply be, occasionally exchanging a look with you that says: “Isn’t this the life?”

Not dogs. Dogs are participants. Idleness is anathema. If you don’t give them a job, they’ll find one on their own. Though I’d lived with dogs for years, I still didn’t really get that fact when Else, our German Shepherd, arrived. At six weeks old, she was little more than a ball of fluff with two big eyes and two big ears, one of which flopped sideways as though its crinoline stiffener had gotten wet. Since she was so young, I assumed I could mold her into the garden dog of my dreams, teach her to hang out with me, lazing about the place companionably. I didn’t suspect that she would view hanging out as dereliction of duty.

She was four months old that first spring when I gathered my tools and the two of us went out together. She trotted alongside with a relaxed, loose-jointed gait that made her look as though she had been put together with rubber bands. But her attitude, eager at first, grew alert as we went into the fencedin vegetable garden. When I stopped to survey the place, she sat down as though programmed to a perfect heel-and-sit. While trying to decide what to do first, I absently reached down to grab out a clump of errant timothy grass, self-seeded from the surrounding fields. Like furred lightning, Else clamped down firmly on my hand (gloved, thank goodness) and began to pull. I corrected her.

“No, Else. Leave it.”

She looked puzzled, slightly hurt. I reached for another weed; she chomped down on me again.

“No, Else. Leave it!” I insisted.

She sat down again, mystified. She was a team player. She was helping. It’s what German Shepherds do. They protect and serve—even in the garden. And it was obvious that as she looked around, she could see a lot of opportunities to serve. A vermin population needed keeping in check. Barn swallows needed discipline, accomplished through a series of deep-chested woofs during what looked like a game of quiddich played back and forth across the yard. And the compost pile clearly needed regular excavations. She saw her duty then and over the past eight years, she has done it assiduously.

But while she has plenty of jobs to occupy her, she remains convinced that she was born to weed. That’s probably because at heart, like most working dogs, she likes to work in tandem. I get that now. Fortunately, she has matured. She no longer grabs my hand the minute I go for a weed. She stands by quivering in anticipation, but not doing anything until given the order.

So when my daughter, Abby, and I revamped the weed-filled raspberry patch, we recruited Else. The patch was a mess. In addition to monster pokeweed and a miserable tangle of bindweed, we were dealing with saplings of invasive white mulberry that had sprung up.

We were a little daunted by the prospect before us, but Else, now part of our response team, was in her element. In the course of the morning, she helped yank out wads of bindweed and taught the pokeweed who was boss, but her favorite part of the project was getting rid of the mulberries. This was major weeding; the trees are deep-rooted even when young, and require digging. At each tree, Abby and I dug down to loosen the dirt and expose a length of long yellow taproot while Else waited, big ears erect and twitching, eyes riveted on the growing hole. When we reckoned there was enough root to grip, Abby deployed her.

“Okay, get it, Else!”

Legs splayed out like the platform on a drill rig, Else went at the root with gusto, growling as she yanked and yanked and yanked that thing out of its lair. After wresting it free, she brought it to Abby and spat it out at her feet, clearly pleased. Score one for the team. We did everything but high-five her.

Else will probably never be the garden dog of my dreams. She will never just hang out from morning to evening. She’s too committed to participation. But over the years, I’ve adjusted my expectations and methods. I make sure she’s had plenty of exercise and has done some kind of satisfying (to her) duty—ferreting out a mouse or rabbit, aerating the compost, playing another game of quiddich with the barn swallows, maybe doing a little more excavation behind the honeysuckle in her on-going quest to reach China. After a day spent participating, she’s learned to relax. Although she remains on standby, ready for deployment, she’s content to lie on the path at my feet while I sip a gin and tonic, the two of us watching the bees together companionably.

News: Editors
Invisible Perils in Parks

Park maintenance is normally not an issue that most pay attention to. We probably blindly trust that weed clearing is done with minimum impact to us and our dogs. Dogs especially, with their noses to the ground, can be more susceptible to the affects of harmful pesticides and weed killers like Roundup. Mark Derr wrote in a recent post on the perils of a dog park that aren’t visible to us. His park in Miami Beach is a place that seems to have gotten hooked on Roundup.

"By the turn of the millennium, reports were piling up associating exposure to Roundup with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, fertility problems, and Parkinson’s Disease, among others. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2002, well before we discovered Roundup liberally sprayed in the park but on the chance that these reports were pointing to something real, I raised a ruckus with the city and demanded that its use be discontinued.  I argued that even if weren’t toxic to humans, it was to amphibians and birds and thus should not be used in a nature preserve, which technically our park is."

But years after the ruckus was raised, Derr found that Roundup was still being applied to city parks…

"The city changed its ways a little.  Indeed, last fall, when I observed a man spraying a colorless liquid around trees and along asphalt pathways, I asked what it was, and he said, “Roundup.”  It is common to mix color with Roundup so that people spraying can easily see where they have applied it.  But in this instance, I can only assume the intent was to conceal, because Roundup is so addictive that the parks department, like its counterparts in other cities and its own citizens on their own property, cannot give it up.  Its potency and the myth of its safety make it impossible for them to renounce."

Derr writes about recent studies about just how harmful this chemical is. The use of Roundup, and other harmful chemicals, is certainly is a question that should be asked of our park’s departments. Do you know what chemicals are used in your parks?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Keep your Lawn Free from Urine Spots
Dilution is the solution to pollution

 It is a common misconception that "acid" in a dog’s urine is what causes the brown spots left behind on our lawns. However, the culprit is actually the high nitrogen content of the urine. Nitrogen is “the waste” in the urine and is the result of protein breakdown through normal body processes. Because a canine diet is very high in protein, there will be high levels of nitrogen, and you’ll be battling blemishes for as long as your pet uses the lawn for its place of business. 

A repeated vet school mantra was, "dilution is the solution to pollution," and that concept holds equally true in the case of urine scald on our lawns. Therefore, the best way to help prevent brown spots is either by dilution or by addressing the external environment. Besides training your male dogs to pee through the fence onto your neighbor’s lawn (kidding!), here are tips to keep your lawn lush and green:

The most effective way to prevent grass scald is to the water the area immediately after your dog urinates. If you have easy access to a hose or a rain barrel, give the area a quick dousing.  I also have a tub in my sink that I use to catch excess water when I’m at the sink; instead of letting it go down the drain, I collect it and use it to water my plants. This idea could be used to water the lawn as well, while remaining mindful of the environment.

Another intervention is the construction of a small graveled, mulched, or artificial turf area in the back or side of your yard. You can train your pet to "go to the back," and with positive reinforcement and praise, they will eventually and automatically head to that area to do their business. You can make this site visually appealing by placing potted hostas, ferns, or other greenery around the perimeter.

The kind of grass you put in your yard also determines how well it will tolerate dog urine.  Fescue and perennial ryegrass are most resistant, and diluted amounts of urine (hosing down the spot like stated above) can actually act as a fertilizer.  What are the least hardy of grasses? Kentucky Bluegrass and Bermuda grass are the most sensitive to urine scald.  Another tip: if you fertilize your lawn, use a reduced nitrogen fertilizer.

Now a word for those over-the-counter medications that are touted to be "lawn-saving supplements." I personally (and strongly) caution against their use.  Nothing you give your pet internally will safely stop urine from damaging grass, and the only appropriate interventions are those that address the environment- not the dog!  The environmental changes discussed above may be more time-consuming work, but it’s a small price to pay if you wish to have both a lush lawn and a healthy pet.

These medications work by either changing the pH of the urine, or by adding salt to the body. And it should be reiterated: urine burn is a nitrogen problem, not a pH problem. When you use medications that alter the pH of the urine, you run the risk of causing urinary crystals or bladder stones in your pet. Certain types of crystals and stones thrive in the altered pH environment, which will create a much bigger problem than a lawn blemish.  The other “lawn-saving supplements” are actually pills that contain high amounts of salt. This in turn causes your pet to drink more, thereby diluting its urine (dilute the grass, not the dog!).  Giving your pet high amounts of unnecessary salt is not a good option, and this is especially true if your pet has underlying kidney or heart disease.

Another recommendation I have heard is the use gypsum salts and this is another option I caution against.  Gypsum is calcium sulfate, and this material can cause eye, skin, oral, and respiratory irritation in our pets.

Since we’ll never be free from pee, I hope these tips have helped, and I’ll see you next week!

 

 

 

 

Dog's Life: Home & Garden
Top Tips for Spring Cleaning
From our readers

The entrants in a recent Bark contest had some incredible cleaning tips, and we want to share them with you. The reigning champion of reader cleaning solutions was vinegar, and we agree—it’s versatile, it’s green and it works. But take a look at a few other DIY tricks to kick your spring cleaning up a notch.

Throw a few feet of cheap nylon netting in the dryer with your clothes and bedding. It grabs all of the pet hair. Shake it out and reuse it.
—Andria Head, Bremerton, Wash.

A great way to recycle dog hair is composting— I put some in my worm box.
—Tima Priess, Ester, Alaska

Add a few drops of organic essential oil (lavender, peppermint, vanilla) to a cotton ball and suck it up with the vacuum. The cotton ball will give the carpet and room a nice, soothing smell with each vacuum.
—Irma Aguirre, San Francisco, Calif.

When my front-load washer gets stinky from retained moisture, I add one cup of baking soda with the next load of wash. It reduces that smell, helps brighten the wash and is more environmentally safe than the major detergent brands.
—Nyla Wright, Bellingham, Wash.

I recycle shredded newspaper and office paper by soaking it for a few days. Then I form bricks, let it dry and use it for our woodburning stove. Free heat!
—Abby Smith, Arbor Vitae, Wis.

I take all my old shirts and tear them into different size rags—some for windows, some for floors, some for dusting. I also save grease from the deep fryer, soak the rags and light my grill or fire.
—Sharon Phillips, Ashford, Ala.

Wear rubber gloves and run your hands over the furniture. The fur comes right up.
—Janice Mitchell, Maryland Heights, Mo.

The best way to remove dog fur from many furniture fabrics is to wet your hands and rub them along the furniture. Continue re-wetting your hands as they dry and removing the accumulated fur. It’s a snap.
—Barbara Morgan, Tucson, Ariz.

When your dog pulls the stuffing out of her toy, don’t throw it away. Put it out in the yard for nesting material for birds and small animals.
—Linda DeCelles, Rowley, Mass.

Place your silverware in a dish lined with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Add two tablespoons of baking soda and one teaspoon of salt. Pour hot water over and let soak for a minimum of 30 minutes. Wipe clean.
—Nikki King, Federal Way, Wash.

For cleaning “gunk” from the walls and mirrors of our rental, we found that diluted white vinegar works great. —Veronica Adrover, Modesto, Calif.

Dog's Life: Home & Garden
Living Green
Wise choices make your home healthier for you and your dog

Try this: Select a spot in your home and lie down on the floor. Is it the kitchen? Give the floor a little lick. Or the living room? Put your nose on the carpet and take a really deep breath. Then, wander into the bathroom and check out the porcelain “drinking fountain.” Okay, stop the experiment. You get the idea: this is your home from your dog’s point of view. You generally experience your surroundings from a five- or six-foot elevation, but your dog is much closer—and much more inclined to sample her surroundings.

While there isn’t one set definition for “green” or “eco” buildings, there are important general concepts to bear in mind: Energy efficiency, size (it matters), sustainability, use of recycled materials and low impact. Considering that the average US household is responsible for twice the greenhouse gas emissions as the average car, energy efficiency tops the list—aim for good insulation throughout your home, well-sealed heating and cooling ducts, windows and doors weather-stripped, and energy-efficient appliances and lighting. (More tips can be found at epa.gov.)

If you are remodeling or redecorating, use resource-smart building materials, which are safer for you and your dog as well as for the environment. And, before you purchase flooring material, or even paint for your walls, give some thought to the environmental consequences of your choices. Even small changes can have a big impact. Consider using traditional materials—beeswax polish and vinegar and lemon juice for cleaning, for example—zero to low-VOC paint (latex), finishes and adhesives; and non-aerosol products.

Follow suggestions laid out by green-building expert Jennifer Roberts in her book, Good Green Homes. When you are selecting home furnishings or building materials, ask yourself (or the retailer or product manufacturer) the following questions:

• Is it safe and healthy to use in my home?

• Will it introduce irritants or off-gas potentially harmful chemicals?

• Will I need to use harsh chemicals to clean or maintain it?

• Is the harvesting or manufacturing process safe and healthy for workers?

• Is there a safe way to reuse, recycle or dispose of it when I’m done with it?
It is easy being green these days, and a little research will lead you to many good, environmentally sound alternatives. Your dog’s life, not to mention your own and your family’s, will be the better for it.

Green Flooring Materials
Many kinds of flooring materials can be considered green, including:

Wood
There are basically two types of wood: softwoods, which come from rapidly growing trees like pine and fir, and hardwoods, such as oak, maple, teak, etc. Be sure all wood is FSC certified and does not come from old-growth trees. Even better, use reclaimed/recycled wood. Wood flooring is easy to clean with simple products like vinegar and water. Only use zero- to low-VOC and plant-based sealants.

Bamboo
There are more than a thousand different species of this fast-growing woody grass. It is stronger than most hardwoods, and, like wood, can be sanded and refinished multiple times. (Luckily, the type used for flooring is not the kind pandas feed on.) After harvesting, it quickly regenerates. TIP: Even if it comes factory-finished, experts recommend resealing it to protect it from doggy water-bowl spills.

Linoleum
Made from linseed oil, a byproduct of flax (Oleum Lini). It is antibacterial, making it ideal in kitchens and bathrooms. It is also antistatic, so it repels dust and dirt. It comes in a wide range of colors, and even though it does offgas due to the oxidation of lineolic acid, it is less harmful than vinyl, and is considered to be more environmentally friendly.

Cork
From the outer bark of the cork oak tree (Quercus suber). The bark naturally sheds and regrows about once a decade, so harvesting does not harm the tree. Cork resists rot and mold and makes a great sound-absorber and insulator. It also adds an extra cushioning and “bounce” to the step, great for the long-standing cook and indoor ball-tossing!

Other good flooring materials to consider are concrete, brick, tile (ceramic, porcelain and glass), terrazzo and stone.

Avoid Vinyl!
Even though its low cost and wide variety of colors and patterns make it a popular flooring choice, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) continues to be the subject of considerable controversy. Its production releases an extraordinarily toxic chemical—dioxin—and many, including the Healthy Building Network, consider PVC to be one of the “most environmentally hazardous consumer materials produced.”

Does Green Building Cost More?
It doesn’t have to. Many green building features and products cost the same as, or even less than, their conventional counterparts. Other green features may cost more upfront but result in savings year after year. Energy-efficiency upgrades, for example, usually pay for themselves by lowering your monthly energy bill.

Here are two places to start your investigation. If you’re thinking of remodeling or other large-scale projects, visit greenbuilder.com. For tips on home care, see care2.com/healthyliving.

 

GLOSSARY
FSC Certified
The Forest Stewardship Council is an international organization whose certification process provides consumers with assurance that wood was harvested from well-managed forests and plantations. Be sure to look for the FSC label when purchasing wood. fscus.org

LEED Green Building Rating System
A national standard established by members of the US Green Building Council, it provides a framework for assessing building performance and sustainability. It is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. usgbc.org

Offgas
The release of vapors from a material; many materials in the home offgas formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). TIP: Interior plywood emits urea formaldehyde (a carcinogen)—use exterior-grade plywood instead.

Rapidly Renewable Resources
Don’t contribute to deforestation; instead, use products made from rapidly renewable resources that regenerate quicker than the demand for the products—bamboo and cork for example.

VOCs
Volatile organic compounds are a range of chemical substances that become airborne, or volatile, at room temperature. They are found in paint, wood preservatives, aerosol sprays, glues, cleansers and disinfectants, moth repellents, dry-cleaned clothing, and even air fresheners. VOCs are a major source of indoor air pollution, exposure can cause symptoms ranging from nausea, eye irritation and headaches—just think of how your dog will feel being that much “nearer” to the source TIP: by choosing a zero to low-VOC water-based paint, you can really reduce, or even eliminate, this concern.

Safer Paint
Here’s a quick chemistry lesson. Not everything with “organic” in its name is actually good for us. When we walk into a newly painted room, the first thing we notice—besides the lovely color—is the smell, which comes largely from VOCs, chemicals added to paint to speed up drying time. Choose low- or zero-VOC paints; interior flat paint with VOC level of 50 grams per liter or less, and interior non-flat pain with 150 grams per liter or less. VOC content should be labeled on the packaging. Note: that low odor does not mean low VOC, some manufacturers use fragrance to mask the paint odor.

 

Culture: Reviews
Eco Dog Planet’s Doggie Waste Bags
Bark Likes This

Sometimes the most impactful innovations are those made to simple, every day acts — like picking up your dog’s waste. We were introduced to Eco Dog Planet’s Doggie Waste Bags at last month’s Global Pet Expo where they debuted their eco-friendly poop bags made from tapioca. The light but sturdy bags are manufactured from the starch of tapioca plants, a sustainable non-GMO crop that helps support small farmers in Indonesia. The material easily decomposes in soil or landfills when exposed to micro-organisms. Renewable resources, community farming — a great back story for sure, but how does the product … perform? Very well we’ve found. The bags have a slightly thicker feel to them than other starch bags we’ve tested, and a toothy surface that helps buffer the tactile experience. Plus, they don’t fall apart in your pocket after a few weeks as some other starch bags do. Bark loves Eco Dog Planet’s Doggie Waste Bags! A pack of 60 bags sells for $9.99 at ecodogplanet.com

Click here for a chance to win a box of bags.

News: Guest Posts
What Do You Do for Earth Day?
One suggestion, follow your dog’s lead

Earth Day—the giant environmental teach-in that became a four-decades-strong spark for eco-activism around the world—is spinning, like Earth, back around.

In the past at The Bark, we’ve focused on promoting green living choices to reduce our environmental footprints and paw prints—and these are still major priorities. But this year, we’re marking Earth Day by emphasizing something a little more fundamental: nature.

Last summer, editor-in-chief Claudia Kawczynska reported on Richard Louv’s ground-breaking work on nature-deficit disorder. Simply, that in this digital age, we are getting out in nature less frequently with negative physical and mental health consequences, including everything from obesity and anxiety to depression.

But those of us with dogs in our lives have a distinct advantage. Our pups need to get out—and the greener, the leafier, the wilder the setting the better. So on this Earth Day, we’re celebrating and appreciating their contribution to our lives. With their wagging tails and eager grins, our dogs insist we get our daily dose of "vitamin N."

How does you dog help you get closer to nature?

Dog's Life: Home & Garden
Tips Galore for a Green Spring Cleaning
. . .  and the living is easy-est with STAINLESS STEEL, Sharon Steel, 1960. R.C.

 

The entrants in a recent Bark contest had some incredible cleaning tips, and we want to share them with you. The reigning champion of reader cleaning solutions was vinegar, and we agree—it’s versatile, it’s green and it works. But take a look at a few other DIY tricks to kick your spring cleaning up a notch.

 

Throw a few feet of cheap nylon netting in the dryer with your clothes and bedding. It grabs all of the pet hair. Shake it out and reuse it.—Andria Head, Bremerton, Wash. 

 

A great way to recycle dog hair is composting—I put some in my worm box.—Tima Priess, Ester, Alaska

 

When my front-load washer gets stinky from retained moisture, I add one cup of baking soda with the next load of wash. It reduces that smell, helps brighten the wash and is more environmentally safe than the major detergent brands.—Nyla Wright, Bellingham, Wash.

 

I recycle shredded newspaper and office paper by soaking it for a few days. Then I form bricks, let it dry and use it for our woodburning stove.  Free heat!—Abby Smith, Arbor Vitae, Wisc.

 

I take all my old shirts and tear them into different size rags—some for windows, some for floors, some for dusting. I also save grease from the deep fryer, soak the rags and light my grill or fire.—Sharon Phillips, Ashford, Ala.

 

Add a few drops of organic essential oil (lavender, peppermint, vanilla) to a cotton ball and suck it up with the vacuum. The cotton ball will give the carpet and room a nice, soothing smell with each vacuum.—Irma Aguirre, San Francisco, Calif. 

 

The best way to remove dog fur from many furniture fabrics is to wet your hands and rub them along the furniture. Continue re-wetting your hands as they dry and removing the accumulated fur. It's a snap.—Barbara Morgan, Tucson, Ariz.

 

For cleaning “gunk” from the walls and mirrors of our rental, we found that diluted white vinegar works great.—Veronica Adrover, Modesto, Calif. 

 

Place your silverware in a dish lined with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Add two tablespoons of baking soda and one teaspoon of salt. Pour hot water over and let soak for a minimum of 30 minutes. Wipe clean.—Nikki King, Federal Way, Wash.

 

Wear rubber gloves and run your hands over the furniture. The fur comes right up.—Janice Mitchell, Maryland Heights, Mo.

 

Never get just one use out of bathwater. Recycle used water for houseplants, and to soak rags and clean waste baskets, dirty galoshes and the rest of the house.—Elissa Sara, West Palm Beach, Fla.

 

Add baking soda to a fresh vacuum cleaner bag to cut down odors.—Debby Aceves, Goleta, Calif.

 

Birds love the stuffing out of old dog toys to build nests...a new way to reuse those worn out toys!—Anna Hamel, Birmingham, Ala.

 

Buy large packages and divide them up into Tupperware to avoid all the wasteful packaging of individual servings.—Jennifer Hunter, Pepperell, Mass.

 

Don't throw out used toothbrushes. They can clean all sorts of things!—Dawn Nordquist, Albuquerque, N.M.

 

Eucalyptus leaves are natural flea and tick deterrents.—Meghann Pierce, Napa, Calif.

 

How many ways can you reuse plastic grocery bags? 1. To line small garbage cans. 2. I cut them up in strips and then tie them together to make a plastic yarn to knit with. This makes great tote bags. 3. As a poop scooper when you walk your dog.—Diane Jay, Fort Worth, Texas

 

I have laminate flooring and a dog that slobbers. I run a dust mop with a bit of white vinegar between cleanings to cuts down on stains.—Erika Bongort, Cedar Park, Texas

 

I use lemon peel to clean my sink, and afterwards I put it down the waste disposal. It cuts the grease and smells lovely.—Ali French, Parker, Colo.

 

I use diatomaceous earth on my floors and yard to keep fleas away; I use borax as a cleaner on hard surfaces and add it to the washing machine as a laundry booster; I clean clogged/slow-moving drains with baking soda and vinegar, flushed with a gallon of boiling water.—Elizabeth Beavers, Lawrence, Kan.

 

Lavender oil in a spray bottle (4 parts water to 1 part oil) keeps fleas, ticks and other bugs off you and your animals!—Wendy Bennett, Micanopy, Fla.

 

To keep drains from clogging, use 1/4 baking soda followed by 1/2 cup white vinegar and flush down the drain. It foams way up and works!—Pat Byrnes, Northampton, Mass.

 

To remove candle wax off of carpet:  place some ice cubes in a plastic bag against the wax on the carpet.  The ice should make the wax brittle and easy to pick/pull off of the carpet.—Dianne Houghtaling, Lansdale, Pa.

 

Wash windows with vinegar and water instead of window cleaners.—Boni Tenenbaum, Dublin, Calif.

 

Using a steam cleaner eliminates the need for chemicals.—Roz Granitz, Novi, Mich.

 

We use beeswax or soy candles with lead-free wicks so not to poison ourselves or our puppy when we use candles.—Susan Weis-Bohlen, Baltimore, Md.

 

Use hydrogen peroxide to kill germs and bacteria instead of bleach.—Amy Miller, Eagle point, Ore.

 

To replace disposable paper towels for cleaning, cut up old bath towels and worn t-shirts. Socks make great furniture dusters.—Gina Isaac, Eugene, Ore.

 

Microfiber cloths are about the best there is to attract and grab pet hair and with 2 Dalmatians, I need them!  They're washable and reusable.—Barbara Brandon, Parma, Ohio

 

We take advantage of our building's composting so that we cut down on trash. Since there's not rotting food in the trash bin, we don't have to take it out as often. With the combo of compost and recycling, the volume of trash really dwindles.—Lijay Shih, San Francisco, Calif.

 

When your dog pulls the stuffing out of her toy, don’t throw it away. Put it out in the yard for nesting material for birds and small animals.—Linda DeCelles, Rowley, Mass.

News: Guest Posts
Saving the Planet One Dog at a Time
The education of a conservation dog team

Dogs assisting biologists and conservationists around the world in the never-ending effort to protect and save the planet we humans abuse and call home at the same time—almost sounds like a sci-fi movie doesn’t it?

If you love dogs, odds are you love or at least appreciate the natural world. It is no secret that protecting the environment is extremely important. We all impact the environment every day, whether by driving gas-powered vehicles, writing on paper that came from trees, leaving our lights on in our house—you get the idea. None of us are innocent bystanders, but we can all be proactive by lessening our impact and/or getting directly involved in protecting the environment.

I chose both from an early age. Like many little girls, I loved animals and my passion never wavered. I have made a career out of it—working as a wildlife biologist, a wildlife rehabilitator and a zoo manager. I have worked and lived in the United States and South Africa, where I met my future husband, a fellow conservationist, Mike.

My love of wildlife has always had one strong competitor… a love for dogs. My current household consists of four dogs. Two sweet, geriatric Pointers that Mike had when we met, and my two “boys,” former Bark cover dog, Golden Retriever Riley and his hilarious sidekick Tank the Frenchie. Dog training has always been a fun hobby. However, in recent years as my career in wildlife was sidelined so I could be a fulltime mom to now four-year-old daughter Camryn, I got involved with dog training more seriously and started attending conferences and training seminars.

It was at one of these seminars in early 2011 that I heard the wonderful Ken Ramirez speak about the use of dogs in wildlife conservation efforts. He spoke of dogs finding sea turtle nests, detecting orca poop in the ocean, locating invasive plants and illegal caches of ivory, and on and on.

Rebecca Ross with tiger cub, zebra and giraffe in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

What was this? Did I hear him right? My two passions joined together? I did hear him right, and during 2011, as we were living and traveling throughout southern Africa, I took the opportunity to learn more and interview fellow wildlife conservationists to see if dogs really were a resource they could use.

The answer was a resounding yes. Fast-forward a year and a half later: Dogs for Conservation is now following in the footsteps of only a few pioneering people and organizations that specifically train dogs for conservation work.

In only a few short days, I am flying to Florida to pick up a Golden Retriever puppy, donated to us by a kindhearted and supportive person. He comes from an impressive line of hunting, search and rescue, disaster and cadaver dogs.

Over the coming months, I will blog about the special training for our first Conservation Dog and special projects. I will also write about my travels to increase my own knowledge and training, including a trip to Namibia to visit with the scat-detection dogs and livestock guardian dogs at the Cheetah Conservation Fund as well as several seminars for human remains detection dogs and disaster dogs.

Come along for the ride, I can’t wait to introduce you to the first paid employee of Dogs for Conservation. (Paid in tennis balls and treats of course!)

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