We love to garden and we work on ours whenever the weather and our work schedules will allow. Hammett, our family friendly Irish Setter, is still with us. He’s a bit slower in the field, but is healthy otherwise. We’d like to keep him that way, so our garden needs to be dog friendly as much as possible.
This year we went to the new garden center in town to pick up some flowering ground covers to fill in shady spots between the larger plants under the trees, along with a few new flowering trees for the backyard. The owner of the garden center knows Hammett snuffles at everything, so she steered us toward plants that are safe for both dogs and cats.
But, as we wandered through the aisles of glorious flowers and foliage, she mentioned a very popular groundcover that is a no-no for any gardener with pets that like to sample the new greenery in the yard.
Portulaca, a groundcover that has many colorful varieties,
can cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. Ferns and Burro’s Tail might be a better choice. No flowers, but safer if your dog chews everything in sight.
We knew that day lilies were not a good idea for cats, but thought that calla lilies might work for dogs, especially after we saw the beautiful pink one at the garden center. Nope. They can cause burning, irritation of the mouth, tongue and lips, and excessive drooling. Sheila sighed and put the pot back on the bench.
Unfortunately, we discovered that peonies are a bad idea for dogs because eating the flowers can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and depression. I was a little surprised at depression being listed as a symptom, but then if the poor dog gets sick…I guess that would be an issue while he mopes around recovering. We solved our problem by fencing the peony area. Hammett has been trained to avoid fences.
Everybody in the family knows that the garden is a work in progress, especially since the wet weather more or less drowned a few specimens. With that in mind, the cousins bring us small plants or clippings whenever they stop by. We’ve enjoyed expanding the flower beds, but one gift was a well-meaning near mistake. Hibiscus
also causes vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. After we heard about the problems, we planted it next to the peonies, behind the fence.
We love mums in every color and variety. We know they cause vomiting, diarrhea, and even incoordination, but we have planted them in an area of the yard where Hammett never goes. A black snake lives a few feet from there and ever since Hammett first saw the snake and jumped about ten feet straight back, he stays far away from that part of the property. The snake is happy, Hammett is happy, and we get mums in the yard. Win-win-win.
A clematis can cause vomiting and diarrhea, but ours is growing on a porch post, well out of Hammett’s reach.
Our dog friendly flowers – coreopsis, petunias, snapdragons, and cornflowers – are lookin’ good and we have them in spots where Hammett might wander through or snuffle at a bug on the ground. They look pretty and his tummy stays happy.
To read “Don’t Poison the Dogs and Cats” (part 1) click here.
Check with your garden center for information about pet friendly plants.
Click on this link from the ASPCA:
*Photos by Patti Phillips
Planting season started a few weeks ago in this part of the country. The danger of frost has gone, so we’ve been looking at perennials for now and bulbs for later, that will finish the beds underneath some of the trees in the yard. Daffodil bulbs are great because they multiply and spread on their own and they will come back up and bloom for years. And, ya gotta love that great splash of color in the Spring!
BUT, the friendly gal at the garden center saw Hammett and told us that if he chewed the bulbs he would get sick, so we were warned not to leave daffodil bulbs on the ground while waiting to plant them. We bought a few and stored them on a shelf in the garage, waaaay out of a snoofing dog’s reach.
We had dealt with the toxic plants for people last season, but now we had to think about what might be dangerous for Hammett, our lovable Irish Setter. We catsit every once in a while, so they were a potential worry as well.
The garden center gal steered us through the ground covers and shade plants. Caladiums, whether the plain green and white or more colorful varieties, may cause an intense burning in the mouth, as well as vomiting for both cats and dogs.
Pretty, but we crossed them off our list.
We were hopeful about Day Lilies, since Sheila wanted an entire slope in the side yard filled with them. We heard partially good news. Day Lilies, no matter which variety, are non-toxic to dogs, but highly toxic to cats. So toxic to cats, in fact, that they can cause kidney failure. Sheila suggested that we get the Day Lilies and keep the visiting cat in the house or in the fenced-in backyard. Problem solved.
Then I remembered one Easter when we ate dinner at Sheila’s mom’s house. Her cat kept peeing on the Easter Lily we had brought as a present. We were all horrified, finally exiled the cat to the back porch and put the plant outside to ‘air out.’ Turns out the cat was pretty smart. The garden center gal confirmed that Easter Lilies are just as dangerous to cats as the Day Lilies.
We headed toward the flowering perennials, still positive about what we would find.
We wanted something showy, splashy with color, and a natural lure for butterflies. Lantana seemed to fit the bill and we knew that it would not need much water in the heat drenched summers. But they were a big NO for us, since they are toxic to both dogs and cats and can cause vomiting and other nasty things.
We don’t have houseplants as a general rule, because Hammett has a big tail that seems to have a mind of its own. More than one potted flower bit the dust until we decided that Hammett was more important than having the indoor plants. But, a friend of ours does and as we passed the exotic plants section, I saw a Bird of Paradise in full bloom. We had seen one in the Azores growing in front of a school and admired the color. It’s not normally a houseplant, but our friend is able to grow one in her greenhouse-like kitchen area. Her BofP is about four feet tall and spectacular.
But, guess what? It’s mildly toxic to cats and dogs, causing mild nausea and vomiting if they eat the fruit and the seeds.
We have more research to do, but so far zinnias, bachelor’s buttons, and coreopsis are on the ‘okay flower’ list. Zinnias and bachelor’s buttons aren’t perennials, but they will reseed themselves. Works for us and works for Hammett, too!
For more information about plants that can be harmful or harmless to pets, go to
*Photos taken by Patti Phillips
Dogs in law enforcement are just plain cool. Their natural ability to hunt and snuffle out the evidence is essential in many areas of crime fighting and we have to give them and their handlers lots of thanks and respect. Certain breeds are especially suited for the sometimes athletic assignments, but all the ones chosen to serve are intelligent, easily trained and loyal to their masters.
Most dogs in K9 units are trained in specific tasks, so in general, dogs that search for bodies (cadaver dogs) or are employed in Search and Rescue for missing persons, would not also be used in narcotics recovery. These talented noses are trained to sort out the target odor even when hidden in the middle of greasy fast food, or in smelly basements.
Meet four of the breeds most often used in police work:
The Belgian Malinois is known for its endurance and ability to stick with a task until completed. They are used in some areas to detect narcotics for the police, but can also help with Search and Rescue operations. Malinois are intelligent and like to stay active. They are sometimes mistaken for German Shepherds because of their coloring, but they are actually quicker and more agile. They have a lighter bone structure, and are thinner through the chest and trunk.
Bloodhounds are large hounds that have been used for centuries to hunt, but also to track human beings. They have incredible endurance and are popular with law enforcement because of the accuracy of their noses. So accurate, in fact, that evidence tracked by a bloodhound has been accepted in courts of law. (A bloodhound won the Hound group at the Westminster Dog Show, February 2014.)
The German Shepherd has been used by so many law enforcement groups, both civilian and military, that is regularly called a police dog. They are known to be fearless and have strong, muscular bodies. They have worked in all areas of evidence collection and recovery, but just happen to have a nasty growl that can come in handy when a suspect is hesitant about following directions.
According to the American Kennel Club, Labs have been the most popular dog in the United States for the last twenty years, largely because of their family friendly attitude and their ability to be easily trained. They are sometimes used for narcotics, explosives and evidence detection, as well as for Search and Rescue functions.
My dog, Hammett, is an Irish Setter. He’s smarter than some people I know, and we love him to death, but he could never work in law enforcement. His nose has been spoiled by bits of lamb and treats he manages to trick us into giving him. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Patti Phillips – Belgian Malinois
American Kennel Club – Bloodhound, German Shepherd, Lab
Wikipedia – Irish Setter