Saturday’s Farm Diary – Our Dogs and the Garden

Squeek (Brindle) and Riley (Black and White)
Some of you may know that we have dogs. Two large dogs. Squeek (spelled wrong on purpose) is our 5 year old female greyhound/pitbull mix. Riley is our male German Shepherd/Border Collie mix of unknown age. Riley was our first dog and for the first year we had him he was incredibly good. But he seemed lonely and that’s where Squeek came in. They are two peas in a pod and couldn’t have been more perfectly matched. But with the younger dog, they soon were getting themselves into trouble. Though the trouble was usually sporadic, they really went out with a bang each time. One incident we came home to involved our two feather throw pillows on the couch. You would be amazed at how many feathers they put in those little 12″x12″ pillows.

The “Feather Incident”
At our previous home we were able to keep them in the backyard when we were gone. But with that came the digging. Squeek liked to dig because it was fun. Riley dug holes to lay in. Either way, my ornamental garden took a hit and we had to put up fences to try and keep them out of the beds. It didn’t work. Riley – the dog that won’t walk through a door that isn’t all the way open – would shimmy under the fence to dig. 
Then one day the crime of all garden crimes was committed by these two. We had a vegetable garden that was separated from the rest of the yard by a chain link fence. Unfortunately the gate didn’t have a latch but it was difficult to open – usually requiring someone to lift it while swinging it to keep it from getting caught on the concrete. We had just built a new 4′ x 10′ raised bed, filled it and planted it with seedlings. I bet you know where this is going. We came home to find that they had gotten the gate open and dug out all of the dirt and seedlings from the bed. They didn’t touch the other beds, just this one with the soft, fresh dirt. Not only were the seedlings goners but most of the dirt was scattered all over the yard in a 15′ radius. Bastards. We immediately went and bought a latch for the gate and that was the end of that.
Our next challenge was the digging in the ornamental beds. We couldn’t stop them from digging, because, well, dogs think digging is fun. So instead we decided to try and focus them on a different part of the yard to dig. We built them a sandbox in the corner of they yard where it was kind of shady. Because Riley is black, he likes to lay in freshly dug, damp holes to keep himself cool. Because the sand is fairly loose (we used river sand which is finer in texture and stays damp longer) it was easier to dig as well. To keep them out of the ornamental beds we purchased a Scarecrow. Not the thing you see on TV hanging above cornfields. No, this is a device that is an impact sprinkler with a motion detector on it. When it senses something in front of it, it shoots out water for a few seconds. This worked wonders. It also worked for our neighbors to keep raccoons out of their fish pond. But always make sure to turn it off before working in the garden. It really is startling to get shot in the face with a high powered stream of water while you’re digging up bulbs.
Is that fruit in you hand?

After we took care of the digging we had a new problem. Riley and his intense love for all things fruit. Our neighbors had a fig tree espaliered to our adjoining chain link fence. Apparently Riley learned he could stick his tongue through the chain link fabric and grab their figs. He also got into our garden one day and ate all of our ripe strawberries THROUGH the bird netting. How he did that we’ll never know. But the dog was obsessed. And then our nectarines got ripe and started to fall. We tried to keep him out with more fencing (it wasn’t planted in the veggie garden) but it didn’t work. Now for those that don’t know, nectarine pits are toxic to dogs, as are all stone fruit pits. Same goes for apple and pear seeds. They contain a toxin that dogs metabolize into cyanide. But we just couldn’t stop him. Anything that fell on the ground he would suck the fruit off and then crack the pit. The problem ended up correcting itself rather quickly though when we found that he had broken both of his upper premolars (the biggest teeth in his mouth) on them and we had to have them taken out. He no longer could chew on them. I regret not being more proactive before the problem started though. From then on we had to make sure no fruit was ever on the ground.

Fast forward to our new house with the long lot. Squeek is a runner, and is now our biggest troublemaker. She doesn’t run away. She’s very attached to us and we can actually work with the side gate open and she’ll stick around (we will never, howeve,r walk her off leash and if she’s in our fenced front yard, the gates are closed so she can’t get out). But she likes to run nonetheless. Her breeding not only allows her to be insanely fast, but also incredible agile. It also makes for a dog with a high prey drive, esp. when it comes to squirrels. And we have lots of squirrels. Evil squirrels that tease the dogs. Because of this issue we now have to keep the dogs in the house when we aren’t home because Squeek has proven to us multiple times that she can get over any one of our 6′ high fences when chasing a squirrel.
Up over the fence. She can also get over the taller fence from the ground.

We didn’t want the dogs running through our garden so we installed a 4′ high fence dividing the yard. We should have known better. While it works well keeping Riley out – lazy dog won’t jump higher than the couch – it does nothing to stop Squeek. She learned early on how to jump it. Now it’s barely an obstacle for her. If we’re in the garden, she’ll jump it. If she has to do her business, she’ll jump it. If there are squirrels, of course, she’ll jump it.
So our next project is to somehow  keep her from going over it. I think we may need to dig out the Scarecrow again. Hopefully it still works.

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