Home Works: Best picks of domestic design
“They live in their hometown”
This eyecatching and inventive clock by Korean designer, Dongjin Byeon, does not employ numbers and hands to show time, instead, the figures of an elderly woman, her granddaughter and a fast-moving, dog represent hours, minutes and seconds respectively.
The figures move through the scenes of daily life that are arranged around the circumference to indicate hours. For example, when the grandmother sits on a bench, it is about 7:00 am/pm with the assumption that she would take a rest on a bench looking at the sunrise/sunset. According to Byeon, his clock also “suggests the daily patterns of our lives but it also implies our aspiration for a simple life."
Wellness: Healthy Living
A growing number of pet professionals are making house calls
Most of us are accustomed to taking our dogs for services, or handling routine maintenance tasks ourselves. But increasingly, daunting medical needs, complicated schedules and plain old compassion-based issues are creating a demand for a more retro approach: house calls.
Pat and Bob Engeman of Long Island, N.Y., doted on Riley, their small Shih Tzu/Maltese mix. When Riley was diagnosed with incurable transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), or bladder cancer, in 2009, they were determined to give him the best quality of life they could provide during the time he had left. However, the realities of what Riley needed on a daily basis were overwhelming.
“We had to give so many injections,” says Pat Engeman. “It was too emotional for us. We were afraid to do it wrong. He needed three a day when he first got home from the hospital. My husband was running home at lunchtime, then I would wait for him to come home after work. I thought, ‘This is crazy — someone should be able to come to the house.’”
After checking out options, Pat connected with Pet Home Health Agency, based in New York City. Owner Charlene Overcash had created the unique service when she realized that she could combine her love of pets with her long-time experience as a home-healthcare nurse. Today, her clients range from busy young professionals who can’t stay home to care for their convalescent pets to the elderly who are physically unable to tend to their pets’ medical needs. Further, Overcash provides veterinarians with a full report of each visit as well as assurance that their patients are receiving appropriate post-surgical treatment and/or rehabilitation.
Overcash herself made the hour-long drive to the Engemans’ Long Island home to demonstrate proper techniques and to give the couple an emotional boost. After a few visits, a vet technician who also lived on Long Island was entrusted with Riley’s care. Slowly, as the Engemans grew more confident about caring for him, the professionals were able to reduce the number of visits, which also saved the Engemans money. Thanks to his in-home care, Riley made it to his 10th birthday in January 2010 (he was peacefully put to sleep in April 2010).
The Engemans were touched that Overcash and Rose, Riley’s main vet tech, stopped by with cookies and flowers after Riley’s passing. “People probably scratched their heads over why we put so much money into this dog even though we knew he wouldn’t survive. Overcash and Rose just take that extra step and personalize everything. They know he’s not just a dog. He had a good extra nine months.”
Heeding the Need
As part of a traditional veterinary practice, she recognized that it was a struggle for many pet owners to come to the office. Elderly clients could not drive, parents of small children found it difficult to get everyone in the car for a trip to the vet, and people who owned multiple pets had to make multiple visits. Also, when it came to euthanasia, many people balked at bringing their beloved companion into a sterile office and sharing such a personal event with a lobby full of strangers.
“Now, when I do euthanasia, they just feel so much more comfortable because they’re home with their pet,” says Foster. “Many times their pet will be on a blanket in front of the fireplace with the whole family gathered around. They share pictures and say goodbye. Then I do the euthanasia. We talk afterward and they get to a point of feeling better about making that decision. It’s very peaceful to be allowed the dignity of saying goodbye to a pet at home.”
Foster has also noticed that some people are more comfortable talking to her in their home than in an exam room. They share stories, and sometimes the details clue her in to things that are affecting the animal.
“Seeing puppies in their new homes is a perfect example of being able to really help a client get a good start,” says Foster. “For example, people tend to over- or underestimate the size of the crate they need for their dog. Usually, it’s too big to be a good housebreaking tool or too small for an adult dog to be comfortable in for any length of time. With their dog right there, I can show them how to better size the crate. I can also see the placement of the crate and help them learn how to use it as a positive place by making it the dog’s ‘den,’ a happy and secure place to go, and not a punishment.”
She also demonstrates a variety of training techniques — among them, how to teach a puppy to give up chewing on that slipper in exchange for a more appropriate toy. “Typically, I sit right on the floor, which makes dogs more comfortable and lets puppies act like themselves,” says Foster. “The client can watch me, and I think that helps reinforce the recommendations better than just talking about them in an office.”
Healthy pets and people were also on Mary Glenn-Rhodes’ mind when she founded Mary’s House Cleaning Service in Tucson, Ariz., 20 years ago. After she survived cancer and a stroke, her doctor advised her to find a low-stress career. A neighbor suggested that she clean houses, but she didn’t take it seriously until she realized that there was a customer base who desperately needed her: those who lived with companion animals. Not only could they use help keeping up with the fur, dirt and accidents, they needed someone who loved animals, too.
Before her staff comes in with cleaning equipment, Glenn-Rhodes makes it a point to meet the pets, talk to them and give them treats. She feels it’s very important not to barge in on animals, but rather, to give them a chance to adjust to the change in routine and new people in their home. After a few visits, she says, dogs typically get excited as soon as her truck pulls up.
She has also created her own natural, pet-safe cleaning products using essential oils, which she feels are calming for both companion animals and their people. “I bring longevity to my clients’ pets because of what I use,” says Glenn- Rhodes. When a client loses a beloved pet, Glenn-Rhodes admits that she cries. She understands that pets are members of the family and is often asked to care for them when the client needs to be out of town.
Saraceno opened Wagging Tails, a food, treat and toy delivery service, more than a year ago after being laid off from her job of 30 years. She first became interested in canine diet and its role in behavior and overall health when her late Golden Retriever, Casper, was plagued with mysterious gastrointestinal (GI) ailments. Searching for ways to help him motivated her to learn more about good canine nutrition.
After they lost Casper to bloat when he was five, she and her husband got another Golden Retriever, Timber, who also developed GI issues. “We took what we learned for Casper and applied it to Timber, but it wasn’t enough,” Saraceno recalls. “We kept learning, researching, adding holistic doctors to my list of remedies, and got him on the road to good health.
“A lot of dogs have GI issues and people don’t even recognize that they have them. Some think it’s okay for their dog’s stool to look like soft-serve all the time,” says Saraceno. “I educate people, give them the info they need to make good decisions, give them choices based on their circumstances and budget. Education is the key.”
Dogs suffering from age-related issues make up the largest part of her client base. As part of her service, she takes time to find products that will help improve the dogs’ quality of life and keep them free of pain. Others like the convenience factor of home delivery for everything from flea/tick preventatives and quality food and treats to toys and other must-have canine accessories. She says customers keep coming back because she cares about what happens to their dogs after they receive their home orders.
“When you go into a bigbox store to pick up dog food, no one ever questions what you do,” says Saraceno. “Someone at the counter will ask if you found everything you were looking for, but no one asks, ‘Does your dog like this food? Is he shedding excessively? How do his stools look?’ I talk about that all day long with my clients. I don’t want to just sell them food, I want to know how their dogs are doing.”
Animal behaviorist Kay Weber, who owns Kay-9 Petiquette, was also inspired by her dogs to make a career change. The former mechanical engineer was devastated when a friend decided to euthanize her three-yearold Labrador Retriever, Chelsea, after harsh training techniques used in the world of competitive obedience caused her to be dog-aggressive. Weber contacted renowned animal behaviorist and author (and Bark columnist) Patricia McConnell, PhD, for hwelp with Chelsea, but her friend declined to follow through.
When Weber’s Lab, Baker, presented with some ADD-like behavior, she again sought McConnell’s counsel, and with her help, Baker was transformed into a well-adjusted adult dog. Impressed, Weber went back to school and earned a master’s degree in psychology with a specialization in learning theory/animal behavior.
When Weber first goes to her client’s home, she observes and evaluates both the dog and the people. Ideally, all family members are present so they can share as much information about the problem behavior(s) as possible and learn how to be consistent in making changes.
“The dog is the easy part,” says Weber. “Trying to get the people to understand what’s going on, why it’s happening and how we can make it better is the hard part. Behavior modification is often common sense, but you need someone to guide you.”
Though some are looking for a “magic-wand” fix — wave the wand and make it better — she finds that most clients are sincerely concerned, and turn to her because their pet’s problem behavior and affects family life. Another thing she wants to know is how committed the family is to the dog. “When we make a plan, I ask them, ‘Is this realistic? What’s going to work for you and your family?’” says Weber. “I want the family to be happy with the dog, and I want the dog to be happy in the home.”
Only the Finest
Nail trimming or buffing is just one of the popular services offered by Beverly Hills groomer Steve Ogden, who owns The Spa Dog. He says that people who are stressed about cutting their dog’s nails inadvertently create stress in the dog, too, making for an unpleasant experience all around. Assisted by his Chihuahua, Golly Gee, he helps the client’s dog relax in the grooming truck, then methodically trims one nail at a time, offering a treat in exchange for each successful trim.
“I’m more about the relationship with the dog and the relationship with the client,” says Ogden, “Your energy has to be centered — LA is stressful. If you’re calm and centered and focused on what you’re doing, the dog will calm down.”
Typically “Hollywood,” some dogs put on an Oscar-quality performance when their people are present, but as soon as they get into the grooming truck, they’re ready for hair and makeup, so to speak. And if they’re still acting like little divas, Golly Gee sets them straight. “She barks if they hesitate to get into the van or the bath,” says Ogden. “Every dog needs a job, and she makes my job so much more fun. Clients love her.”
His client roster reads like a page out of People magazine: Christina Aguilera, Nicole Richie, Candice Bergen and Jaclyn Smith, among others. But Ogden says you don’t have to be a celebrity to use his services. He believes groomers are the first line of defense in preventative health care. Many times, people are not aware of their dog’s hot spot or a foxtail between their pads until Ogden points it out. He says clients appreciate having help in watching out for their pet.
Mobile animal masseuse Kerran Ascoli also addresses dogs’ physical and mental quality of life. Owner of Spirit Animal Massage in Rhode Island, she often travels to southern Massachusetts and eastern Connecticut for her clients. When she began studying massage and Reiki energy healing, she practiced on her Katrina rescue, a Shepherd/Chow mix named Cocoa. After Cocoa succumbed to cancer earlier this year, Ascoli rescued another dog, a three-legged Shepherd/ Corgi mix she named Sammie. Massage and Reiki have been especially helpful in keeping Sammie in balance.
Ascoli started her mobile massage service because she finds that animals are more comfortable in their own surroundings. Instead of using a massage table, she encourages the dog to relax on the floor. If the dog prefers to stand rather than lie down, she will accommodate that.
Scooby, a 13-year-old Golden Retriever with hip dysplasia and arthritis, is one of her regular clients. Unlike those who think canine massage is frivolous, Scooby’s owner recognizes that Ascoli’s work has all the benefits of human massage.
“I see him once a week. Now he can walk better, he’s less stiff and it’s a better quality of life for him,” said Ascoli.
While most people think of a pooperscooper service as a convenience, Dirty Work owner Cara Brown of Atlanta says she and her staff have also alerted clients to their dog’s need for medical attention.
“A few years ago, we found fresh blood in a dog’s stool,” says Brown. “Blood is one of those things you don’t mess around with. The client took the dog to the vet right away. Luckily, it was just some sort of tear in the lining of the intestines. But they may not have known about it if we hadn’t come over.”
On other visits, Brown and her staff have been told that the dog has swallowed something — anything from a diamond ring to money — and asked to keep an eye out to make sure it passes. “One dog swallowed a stuffed toy and when it came out, it looked like a face on the poop,” says Brown with a chuckle.
As one who lives with three rescued mixed-breeds, Brown understands that her employees bond with her clients and their dogs. In order to facilitate that relationship, each scooper has a regular client roster. Dirty Work attends to residential and commercial properties, including assisted-living facilities where elderly owners can’t pick up after their dogs. Most clients receive weekly visits, although occasionally, young mothers whose toddlers who have developed a fascination with poop request more frequent service.
There When You Need Them
“It is about trust,” says Ogden. “People and their dogs have a very intimate relationship, and I’m right in the middle of it.”
Perhaps that trust is most needed toward the end of a beloved pet’s life, when those who don’t understand that bond often underestimate the pain involved in caring for a sick or dying pet.
The complications of modern life help us appreciate the simplicity of canine companionship. Our dogs are always there for us, whether we come home late from work or are distracted by other responsibilities. An in-home pet professional can afford us more quality time with our cherished pets and in some cases, provide that extra care and attention that our dogs so generously share with us.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Plus, readers write about their multi-dog households
At the end of last year, Cameron, Lola and I drove north to visit Shana Laursen of Greyhound Friends for Life at her remarkable, 1,000-acre facility in Auburn, Calif., where she cares for both Greyhound and mixed-breed rescues. We had been looking for small, male Terrier to “complete” our family of three female dogs, and saw a photo of a little brindled stray, a Jack Russell Terrier mix, being fostered by Shana, and we were admittedly smitten. We wondered as we made the trip to see our prospective new dog: would he disrupt the delicate balance among our three dogs? What a pleasant surprise when this small, oh-so-sweet, plucky boy pranced center-stage with confidence, like he’d been among us all his life, completing our family so perfectly. All was definitely right in their world—they were once again a pack of four.
Have you noticed that we’re not alone in this scenario? Your friends at the dog park now have two, three or perhaps more dogs, often in a variety of types and sizes. These modern-day packs share a home, people and time together.
Historically, multi-dog households are nothing new. Working dogs have long helped with chores (herding, hunting, hauling, guarding), while “pet” dogs pulled indoor duty, cuddling with younger humans and keeping the pantry varmint-free. For the most part, harmony prevailed. Recently, our four-dog family suffered a loss, and we were down to three, all females. Then we adopted Charlie. As the youngest, and a latecomer with a relatively unknown provenance, he could easily have been a boat-rocker.
Imagine our relief when we discovered that it was quite the reverse. Everything got calmer, tension was defused, the two sibling sisters stopped bickering. There were no fights over bones or other prized trophies, such as everyone’s favorite plush turtle; they even made room on the couch for the new boy. What gives? All our fears of jealousy, rivalry and snarling mayhem gave way to a “go team” attitude. The pack was back!
Curious, I questioned Bark behaviorists to see if this blissful state of multi-dog living had been studied. Could it be that four (or more) really is better than one, two or three?
Karen London noted that even though she wasn’t aware of any research on “the number of dogs and decreased tensions/difficulties,” she has observed that “in households with big groups (five, six, seven), there is sometimes less competition over resources and some increased social flow compared with households of two or three dogs.”
Patricia McConnell, seconded that, and added, “Sometimes more is good. There does indeed seem to be a kind of social inhibition once you get a certain number of dogs together ... but, again, what that number is depends on many things, including the personalities of the dogs.” Both cautioned that it doesn’t always work out so smoothly. McConnell says, “I have had clients who had two or three dogs who got along great until they got ‘that new dog,’ and then everything went south.” As London pointed out, “It’s all different if even one dog in the group is seriously aggressive toward other dogs.”
Barbara Smuts observed that “there seem to be at least three different ways in which a particular dog can enhance multi-dog dynamics: with a calm but very strong and firm leadership; a gentle but decisive intervention when tensions mount; or a ‘good energy,’ cheering everyone up.” She also noted that what I might want to pay attention to in my pack are tendencies to “reconcile” or “console” after a tense episode.
“In recent studies of one captive wolf pack and a group of dogs, individuals showed strong tendencies to make-up after a conflict, and I’ve noticed this in my pack, even when the conflict is very minor and occurs during play,” Smuts explained. “One of the two contestants will approach and nudge the muzzle of the other or lick the mouth. It can be very quick and subtle, but if you watch for it, you may see it happening. In addition, in the dog study, if the two animals involved in the conflict did not reconcile quickly, a third party not involved in the conflict frequently approached the ‘victim’ or ‘loser’ in a friendly way soon afterwards, as if trying to console. Both reconciliation and consolation are well-documented in nonhuman primates, and it’s not surprising that they occur in canines as well. In primates it’s been shown that reconciliation reduces anxiety.”
As for my team, I think that young, frisky Charlie added just the right combination of playfulness and silliness, cheering up everyone, acting as consoling peacemaker and soothing family dynamics.
I would love to hear about your multi-dog household, and what you’ve observed. Share your experiences with me at email@example.com or simply add your comments. We have already heard from many of you, would love to hear your stories too.
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Happy workers, smiling dogs
With approximately 20% of US companies now having a dog-friendly policy and more studies showing the benefits of these policies, there are many worthy and innovative businesses that deserve recognition for welcoming dogs. In recognition of Bring Your Dog to Work Day (June 22) The Bark editors have compiled some notable, dog-friendly businesses.
Autodesk (San Rafael, California)
Bissell (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Ben & Jerry’s (South Burlington, Vermont)
Replacements, Ltd. (Greensboro, North Carolina)
Their formal pet policy requires each dog to be current on vaccinations, on a six-foot leash at all times, and polite to people and other dogs. They emphasize that “your pet’s behavior is your responsibility,” they also stress good training.
Printing for Less (Livingston, Montana)
Clif Bar (Emeryville, California)
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (New York, New York)
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Ten things to look for when selecting your dog’s daycare facility
1. Cleanliness. There should be minimal offensive odor and immediate clean-up of accidents, and the other dogs should be healthy-looking.
2. Playtime provided for the majority of the day. While a two-hour “naptime” is common, during the rest of the day, your dog should have time to play with staff members and other dogs.
3. Proof of current vaccinations. Distemper, parvo, rabies and bordatella vaccinations and/or titers should be required.
4. Adequate supervision. Staff members should be physically in the rooms with the dogs at all times; supervising through a window or a gate is not enough.
5. Safe staffing levels. A good daycare facility maintains an approximate staffing goal of one person for every 10 to 15 dogs.
6. Assessment of a dog’s suitability for the daycare environment. An incoming dog should be tested to ensure that she enjoys the company of other dogs, and should be acclimated to the group slowly and safely. She should be placed in a group of dogs with play styles and energy levels similar to her own.
7. Safety arrangements. Small dogs and large dogs should be segregated.
8. Size of the facility appropriate for the number of dogs. Ideally, each dog needs approximately 70 to 100 square feet of space for safe off-leash play.
9. A staff with experience and knowledge in animal group behavior. Look for staff members who attend seminars, belong to daycare groups such as the American Boarding Kennel Association daycare division, or have experience working with dogs in groups.
10. Appropriate control measures. Avoid daycares where the staff controls the dogs by routinely punishing or physically manipulating them. These control measures include interrupting the dogs by calling them away from a potential conflict, giving short (2-3 minute) time out periods, or redirecting the dogs to more appropriate behaviors.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Eyes in the Sky can help find your dogs
Does your dog suffer from wanderlust? Or during those long summertime hikes, do you worry that she might follow her nose just a little too far and turn up missing? Or would you like additional peace of mind while exploring the backcountry with your dog? A Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking device could help allay those concerns. There are now at least five products on the market that can help you track down your pooch. Three require monthly service charges beyond the initial purchase (Globalpetfinder, Pocketfinder and Zoombak), while two employ handheld tracking devices and have no monthly charges (RoamEO and Garmin’s Astro Dog Tracking System).
All of the units, with the exception of the Astro, work by having you set a virtual fence by either walking around the desired perimeter or, in the case of Zoombak and Globalpetfinder, logging the zone size into their system; you are then alerted if your dog, who is wearing the GPS unit on her collar, breaches those limits. (Note: these units do not function as electronic or “invisible” fences.) The units vary as to how the alert is sent and received as well as how the live action of your departing dog can be followed and charted.
Pocketfinder’s PetFinder, the newest ($130, $15/month), uses the nifty Microsoft Virtual Earth platform for its mapping interface. When your dog moves beyond the allowable zone, you receive an alert via a text message or e-mail—meaning you have to have your cell phone or be near a computer to receive it. A prototype was recently tested by a Los Angeles Times writer, who noted that the alert came minutes after his dog had left the zone, and that the map had a slow refresh rate (five minutes).
Zoombak ($200, $15/month) works in a similar manner, but you set the boundary by logging it into their system on a computer. Its mapping interface might not be as refined as Pocketfinder’s, but the device can be refreshed manually, so the wanderer’s location can be established in a matter of seconds. Globalpetfinder ($290, up to $19.98/month) also uses cell phones, PDAs and computers for the alert. You can create a virtual fence of any size through their online command center, and up to five fence locations can be stored. The easiest way to use this device is in its “Basic Mode,” which does not entail setting up a zone; all you do is dial F-O-U-N-D from an account-activated cell phone, and you will be told your dog’s location.
Two cautionary notes: Since many areas have unreliable, or nonexistent, cell phone coverage or less-than-ideal Internet connectivity, be sure your area can be serviced by these systems. Also, almost all of these devices are for medium to large dogs, as the size and weight of the units are likely to overwhelm the small guys.
The two products that use hand-held receiver devices and do not rely on cell phone coverage to track the dog should be more popular with outdoors enthusiasts. The Astro (about $642) by Garmin, one of the first manufacturers of GPS devices, has a range of five miles, and claims to even be able to tell whether a dog is on point (or perhaps sniffing a gopher hole!) or running. The wireless receiving transponder is worn either on a collar or on a harness that holds the antenna upright. The dog’s location is radioed to a handheld unit, which has a compass showing the precise distance and direction your dog is moving.
For those who are less than adept at compass reading, it also has a map page showing nearby roads and other landmarks; the location alerts update every five seconds. With the RoamEO GPS Pet Location System ($400), the radio unit is mounted on its own rechargeable collar and your dog can be detected at a distance of up to one mile; plus, it allows you to set up a virtual fence (making it adaptable to home use). Like the Astro, you can also clock the speed of your dog; up to three dogs can be monitored by one unit.
One of the most attractive features of any of these systems (except for the Astro, which mainly functions as a tracking device) is the alert you receive if your dog strays out of her allowable space. Nothing is better than having a well-trained dog with spot-on recall skills. But for some, knowing that those “eyes in the sky” are watching their wandering pup could provide that extra bit of comfort.
A. Garmin’s Astro Dog Tracking System
D. Pocketfinder PetFinder (Location Based Technologies)
RoamEO GPS Pet Location System
C. Zoombak Advanced GPS Dog Locator
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Groups help pets in need
Making a serious problem worse, record housing foreclosures are escalating the nation’s already sizable numbers of homeless and abandoned pets. Thankfully, some enterprising organizations and individuals are stepping up to lessen the burden on individuals as well as shelters.
For example, the not-for-profit No Paws Left Behind was created specifically to be the “voice” of pets affected by foreclosure; the website has a database of no-kill shelters and foster groups, searchable by zip code. Long-established sites such as Petfinder.com also help people locate shelters in their geographic area. Finally, at least two websites—Homewithpets.com and Peoplewithpets.com—provide free searchable databases for pet-friendly rentals.
Not surprisingly, the housing crisis has also put an additional burden on animal shelters. To help them cope, national entities such as HSUS and American Humane have created grant programs that offer financial assistance to shelters and rescue organizations that are helping families keep and care for their pets.
On the other side of the equation, people who are in a position to help are stepping up too. Perhaps the most inspiring is Mimi Ausland, a 12-year-old from Bend, Ore., who created Free Kibble, a sponsor-supported online trivia game in which each answer scores 20 pieces of kibble for shelter animals. To date, she has donated well over 10 million pieces of kibble to the Humane Society of Central Oregon, and plans are in the works to add more shelters.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Lucky dogs frolic in a water wonderland designed just for them
It was June 1989, and we had found our dream home: one and a half acres of grass and woods for the dogs to enjoy and some potentially nice areas for my own gardening pleasure. Privacy, so we could have as many dogs as we liked. Perfect! Oh, and the house was nice, too, all on one level, no stairs—we could grow old there. But it included a swimming pool, something we weren’t terribly excited about; my husband and I knew how much work and expense a pool involved, and weren’t sure it would be worth it. However, our daughter Julie, then 9, was thrilled to have a backyard pool, so we signed on the dotted line and bought ourselves a house.
Initially, our dogs were moderately interested, but while they liked lake swimming and creek wading, the pool was a little scary, and they mostly avoided it. Then, five years later, Sprint, our first Border Collie, came to us. From the start, she loved the pool. An avid retriever, she quickly learned to dive in after a ball or toy. As the years passed and our “dog nation” gradually became entirely populated by Border Collies, it developed that they were the only ones in the pool. The three of them, all girls and all crazy for the water, would drop balls into it for one another to retrieve. After a play session in the meadow, they would dash to the water and plunge in, happy to cool off.
Julie grew up and moved away, and her father and I were not keen swimmers. But we still had to keep the pool chlorinated to prevent mosquitoes, and regular cleaning was required. Then, fate intervened. When some underground piping broke, we were told it would cost thousands of dollars to make the necessary repairs. We decided to fill in the pool (even that was a surprisingly expensive operation). On a whim, I approached a local pond designer and told him my crazy idea: to convert the pool to a pond designed for the pleasure of the dogs and as a focal point of the garden. Could he do it for less than the cost of filling it in? When the answer was yes, I decided to go for it.
The conversion, which took a bit more than three months, was laboriously executed by a crew of two or three men. They broke up the apron, dumped some fill into the pool, built a wall across the middle and crafted stone into the border of the resulting two ponds; the lower pond was about 36 inches deep, while the upper pond was 30 inches. A biological filter was tucked under a bush, and two waterfalls added interest to the space while oxygenating the water. Fish and plants would keep a healthy ecosystem in balance. The first summer, we introduced a half-dozen goldfish into the upper pond. By the following summer, there were several dozen.
Planning Pays Off
Before I landscaped the area around the ponds, I watched the dogs at play. As anyone familiar with Border Collies knows, they are always on the move, circling in consistent patterns; I noted where they ran and placed slate stones to form paths along their established routes. Then I planted around the paths, fairly certain that the new bushes and perennials would be unharmed. I decided there would be no fences, since the whole point of the ponds was for the dogs’ enjoyment, and I wanted them to be beautiful but fully dog-friendly.
To maintain some level of hygiene, I taught the girls to use an undeveloped side yard as a bathroom. It would probably be more difficult if we had male dogs, and sometimes visiting boys mark on the bushes. This is not ideal, but we put up with it for the pleasure of their company.
In the beginning, I had hoped that the upper pond, which is farther away from the house and has ledges for plants, would be mostly for the plants and fish, and the lower pond for the dog play. Amazingly, this has turned out to be the case—the girls play almost exclusively around the lower pond. Some fish have come over the waterfall, but generally, the two species ignore each other. When the dogs decide to run around the whole pond and garden area, the path system comes into use; they stick to these stone runways and do not damage the various plants and bushes around the ponds. It is an ideal setup, successful beyond my wildest dreams.
Putting the Ponds to Use
The dogs’ main activity consists of running around the lower pond and throwing balls for one another. Sprint, the “alpha female,” will carry a ball to the highest spot on the rocky border and stand there, pretending to ignore the other two, who stare intently at her. After some casual mouthing of the ball, she will finally drop it in, or put it down and push it in with her paw. Then the fun begins. All three girls begin circling the pond, whining with excitement, preparing to dive in, changing their minds, running some more. Finally, one of them will take the plunge and return the ball to the steps at the corner. Sprint then grabs the ball and heads for her high spot, and the whole thing is repeated. This can go on for quite an extended period and provides much entertainment for both the dogs and anyone watching. There are endless variations on the theme, and the joy is infectious.
This sort of plan would only be amusing for certain kinds of dogs. The obsessive circling habits of many herding breeds tend to keep them close to the water, providing amusement and exercise without harm to the surrounding garden. The dogs are too busy to dig or explore the plantings. When they are tired, they throw themselves down in the shade, resting up for more water play.
Today, the ponds and their adjacent gardens are a pleasant, non-harmful addition to the backyard environment. Just as a zoo designs different habitats for each species, so I designed this habitat for my “water collies.” The pleasure we all receive from it is immeasurable, and we happily share it with visitors as well.
Dog's Life: Home & Garden
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?
Green Flooring Materials
Other good flooring materials to consider are concrete, brick, tile (ceramic, porcelain and glass), terrazzo and stone.
Does Green Building Cost More?
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.
LEED Green Building Rating System
Rapidly Renewable Resources
News: Guest Posts
Confession: I’ve been looking for love online—Match.com, eHarmony—off and on for years. With little success. I’ve made several great friends, dated a few men for short periods, but have failed to find a true partner.
I now realize that my three dogs likely have a lot to do with my on-going singleness. The real question is: Did I create this situation subconsciously-on-purpose? Perhaps. Probably. I love my dog-centered lifestyle.
Many articles about dating bemoan single women’s relationships with their dogs, theorizing that we’re replacing men with our canine companions. After all, what man could possibly be as adoring, forgiving, trustworthy and unconditionally loving as our dogs? No issues regarding toilet seats, either.
Most of us diving into the online dating seas have a list of deal-breakers. Mine include smoking and young kids at home. As I scroll through online profiles, I realize that I also often screen out men who have dogs. Why? I want a dog-loving man; indeed, a lack of affinity for dogs is another of my deal-breakers. But because two of my dogs are aging females, one somewhat reactive to other large female dogs, I’m skipping profiles that show a man smiling beside a large breed dog. If a man has a small dog, I keep reading, but warily. If he has more than one dog, I move on because I can’t imagine trying to combine my three dog household with more than one additional small dog. These are men who in all other respects appear to be good prospects. But if I can’t imagine adding their dogs to my current pack, why bother even making contact? So I don’t.
Then I have an aha moment, putting myself in the men’s shoes: Coming upon my profile with photos of me posing beside two huge wolf-like Malamutes and other photos with my Aussie, they must be thinking….no way! Too many dogs! A dog nut! Deal-breaker!
And they’re right. Dogs—and trail running—are my lifestyle. If a man doesn’t like at least one or the other, we won’t be spending much time together. He doesn’t have to be a runner, but he does have to love dogs, my dogs in particular. With three dogs, my ability to travel, even get away for a weekend or an overnight, is limited. Many men in my age group (50-65) are retiring and list travel as their top interest. Talk about a lifestyle disconnect.
Like many of the women profiled in those articles about the hazards of dating women with pets, I’m quite happy with my life and lifestyle. The thought of all the disruption and compromise required to incorporate someone new is frankly exhausting. Finding the right partner can’t be forced. It needs to happen naturally, with the right person—another dog-nut who accepts my dogs and me (although I’ll continue to hope he’s temporarily dog-less when I meet him).
I’ve decided to save my money; my Match.com subscription has expired. Nor will I try a pet-centric dating site like DateMyPet.com. I hope that the less I try to find the dog-loving partner I desire, the more likely it is I’ll bump into him in some random, casual way. It’s all about timing. Meanwhile, I share my space, time and love with my dogs, who happily reciprocate.
Copyright © 1997-2016 The Bark, Inc. Dog Is My Co-Pilot® is a registered trademark of The Bark, Inc