By Dean Vickers, Director of Animal Welfare Studies and Education at PetSafe
Springtime never comes fast enough. I appreciate the sunshine and warmer temperature that offsets the lull between the winter snow and summer sunshine. My dogs, much like myself, welcome the change in season. As a general rule, they enjoy spring and fall more than any other season. It is not too cold for J’Maul and the girls are not panting in the scorching summer heat. My pet lover friends and I jokingly refer to this time of year as the ‘Goldilocks’ Season’; you know, not too hot and not too cold….just right.
In preparation for summer, one of the first things many of us like to do is to start planning to get the yard and the garden in shape. I love getting my hands dirty and working in the freshly tilled soil. It is a great way to relieve stress and feel good about working with nature. I try to be a good environmental steward, I compost and I am very conscious of the types of chemicals I use on my garden. My garden, just to be clear, is a small raised bed garden and an extensive array of planted containers. I do container gardening for a several reasons:
1. The soil in Knoxville, Tennessee is far from fertile, so I can add composted soil to the raised beds and be more successful with the harvest.
2. To keep the dogs out of the beds; if the garden looks too lush, it will become a summertime bed for J’Maul. Great for him, not so much for the flattened plants.
3. I just like the look. Garden centers have incredible varieties of ceramic and terra cotta pots and it adds to the aesthetic of the garden, patio, front porch, or wherever I decide to move them.
4. It makes for a highly versatile and fluid gardening experience.
“The Grass is Always Greener…”
Outdoor spring cleaning starts by fertilizing. It’s not just about keeping up with the neighbors; nothing is more welcoming than coming home to a lush green lawn. Whether you choose to fertilize the lawn yourself, or hire a professional service, it is very important to check the product labels. As a general rule, most lawn fertilizers can be toxic to your pets. There are some ‘natural’ products, but that doesn’t always mean the product is non-toxic. While are not always as effective as their chemical counterparts, it is definitely worth researching products and finding a pet-friendly lawn service in your area.
“You Americans sure do love your mulch.”
I wasn’t a big mulch fan until I saw my first bag of black gold. I have been hooked since that fateful spring day some fifteen years ago. Ranging from the traditional cypress, to pine needles and even pelletized and dyed recycled tires, some mulch can be harmful to your pets. Cocoa bean mulch is made from the hulls of cocoa beans; it typically maintains the rich chocolate aroma that dogs love. As you know, chocolate is poisonous to animals. It contains theobromine, which is a caffeine derivative that can kill them if too much is ingested. There are conflicting stories on the actual amount of mulch that your pooch would need to consume to be toxic, but why take the chance?
One of the most exciting indicators that spring has arrived is seeing the crocuses, tulips and other perennial favorites break through the thawing ground and bring color and life to the yards and gardens. Although the flowering plants create a stunning ambiance, there are a few cautions for you. All the parts of lilies can be toxic for cats. Even the ingestion of a small amount can cause kidney failure. The same holds true with daffodils and tulips; the bulb is the most toxic, but any portion of the plant can create problems for your pets. Ingestion can cause cardiac and central nervous system seizures and intense gastric irritation.
Once again, your local garden center will be able to direct you to the pet friendly plants and bulbs, as well as the deer resistant plants – if that is an issue for you.
‘Hello Pic-i-nic Basket’
Spring also means more trips to the park with your dogs. I am a bit of a geek when it comes to taking my dogs to the park. I can make a day out of it. I bring a picnic lunch with me. Fair enough, it is really just some bottled water and a cold cut sandwich shoved into a backpack, but it technically still constitutes a picnic lunch. I make certain that I bring plenty of water and that my dog’s tags and collars are securely fastened. Even though they are microchipped, it is still an additional level of protection. Speaking of protection, I also make sure that they are current with their flea, tick and heartworm medication. For trips to the park, I toss a small blanket, or towel, in the backpack as well as moist towelettes. As a dog owner, you can relate; inevitably, they will find a stream or puddle. Seriously, it could be in the middle of the Sahara Dessert, and they would manage to find the once source of water! But at this point, it is about them and I let them play; after all, this is their day out. I am just along for the ride and the enjoyment.
Speaking of parks, dog parks in particular, stay tuned for an exciting announcement from PetSafe on April 15, 2011. Until then, enjoy the beautiful weather and your furry friends.
About the author
As Director of Animal Welfare Studies and Education Dean Vickers provides education on the proper use and benefits of PetSafe products to legislators and pet owners worldwide. He also collaborates with the PetSafe new product engineers and designers to facilitate new product and improve existing product design based on feedback from the pet behavior community.
Spending most of his career in advocacy, the former Ohio State Director for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has assisted with animal abuse and neglect cases, as well as assisted with rescue during natural disasters, animal hoarding, and large scale animal abuse cases. He also worked with law enforcement on several dog and cock fighting raids and spent years advocating to strengthen animal welfare laws at the Ohio statehouse both with HSUS and as an independent consultant.
Vickers has conducted trainings, written articles and given speeches on animal welfare, rescue and advocacy issues throughout the United States for diverse audiences, including: National Animal Control Association, Midwest Veterinary Conference, National Animal Care Expo, National Conference for Animals in Disasters and numerous smaller venues.
Vickers is a graduate from The Ohio State University with a degree in History and Political Science. He currently lives in Knoxville with his 3 rescue dogs, Annikka, J’Maul and Isabella.