Our Pet Memory Garden: Honoring Furry Muses

Those who follow this blog know about our rose garden tribulations. We live on 13 acres, with lots of area to landscape. It remains a work in progress, and I had several ideas for pet remembrance and plants to honor pets like my Bravo, Magic, Seren and others. Finally, I chose a location for our pet memory garden. I’m sure it will evolve in the coming months and years.

Our Pet Memory Garden: Pet Remembrance Ideas

When I shared pictures on Facebook, several folks posted their own pet memorial flower gardens. What you choose depends on the pets you honor, what plants thrive (or don’t) in your neck of the woods, and individual preferences.

I wanted something small and manageable. A couple of years ago, I created an enclosed flower bed beneath one of our oak trees at the front of the house. It originally held tulips–but in North Texas, tulips don’t repeat bloom well. Although I collected the bulbs, chilled them per instructions, and planted the following spring, nothing grew. My husband suggested roses, but we already have those everywhere else. Also, roses thrive in full sun, not in the shade.

And I wanted our pet garden filled with colorful blossoms that attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and all the critter delights that so enraptured Seren-Kitty and her canine buddies.

Pet Memory Garden Ideas

You can find beautiful pet memory garden stones and monuments. I wanted something more representative–and I’m also an Ebay junkie, browsing far too long over garden decorations. I found garden spinners, a cast metal tree surround seat, wind chimes, and many other treasures. This cast cement garden cat works purr-fectly as a tribute to Seren.

So I hunted for appropriate canine statues. Bravo didn’t look exactly like his Bullmastiff mom, and we could only guess about his dad (maybe Dane?). So I found a cast fiber-stone statue, not too heavy, that came as close as possible to represent Bravo. I don’t think he’d mind.

Honoring the Memory: For All the German Shepherds

One friend commented she’d had many cats over the years and wouldn’t have space for individual stones or statues. Maybe a rock garden, with a name inscribed for each–or a single monument with a place to include each precious name? Those of us who love multiple pets feel the same–but a single representation works for me. One kitty statue for past and future felines, and one German Shepherd to represent all our shepherd buddies.

Plants to Remember Pets

Choose the plants you love. If your current pets have access to the pet memory garden, choose pet-safe varieties. You can find tips to shoo neighbor cats away from gardens in this post.

Our Shadow-Pup doesn’t visit this area, and stays in the fenced back garden, and Karma-Kat only ventures out in his Karma Kart stroller. So I chose plants for color.

There are Asian lilies (toxic to pets!) for orange, and yellow daffodils. Bunches of blue and pink hydrangea bloom in clusters. Dahlia in yellow, orange, and red surround the outer edge. And plumbago, those clusters of blue at the center, grow tall into shrubs that will shelter my spirit pets and shower with color in the heat of Texas summers.

So do you have a pet memory garden? How do you pay tribute to the pets of your past? Do tell!

Future Garden Plans

FCC noticeOur back garden area currently looks like a forest with lots of volunteered native trees. We plan to thin that out, keeping three beautiful oak trees, and showcasing some islands of flowers and color (mostly roses).

Since Texas summers scorch us, and our pets, we may include misters to help cool the area. And also possibly some fun gazebos for future outdoor entertaining. I found these, with great sales and discounts, and love them. Click on the “clearance sale” banner for more info.



 

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The Perennial in my Garden of Life: An Angel Blooms

I rarely host guest bloggers, but had to make an exception for my CWA member colleague, Tracy Ahrens. Like me, she shares a love of all-things-critter. And like me, she believes sometimes the RIGHT animal companion finds us.

They never stay long enough. But they prepare us for love to come.

I’m in the process of finalizing my “Memory Garden” to honor my pets who have gone on to that great unknown. They continue to share my heart–and so this piece spoke to me. I think you’ll enjoy this, too, because even when we lose a beloved companion, they never really leave us.

Tracy Ahrens and Angel

Angel, when Tracy met her in 2017, sad and broken…

My Garden of Life…

In the spring I watch green sprouts of perennials burst through soil in my gardens. I look forward to the beautiful displays they will show me throughout the growing season.

Sometimes one of my perennials doesn’t return. It falls victim to nature, a force nobody can fight forever.

This year an exquisite perennial in the garden of my life will not return. That spectacular hybrid is my dog, Angel.

On March 15, my husky-shepherd mix was overpowered by nature, and lost her fight against severe arthritis that had handicapped her since I adopted her at age 11. She passed just three days before her adoption anniversary and 16th birthday.

Tracy Ahrens and Angel

Angel, dressed for Christmas 2021

A Perennial Garden Hosts Many Plants

She was like perennials I have planted in my gardens for years. I have always selected clearance sale plants in garden centers. They include plants that have drooping foliage, dead stalks and just a few green sprigs. I am drawn to them, knowing that if someone doesn’t give them a chance, they will meet their demise in a compost heap.

I smile if I can plant them in the right place in my yard, coddle them into getting stronger, and watch them flourish, bloom and spread over the years.

Angel was one of those clearance table perennials. She was a senior who ended up on death row and nobody claimed. She had no name and no behavioral or health history on record. When I adopted her, she was given to me for free. The shelter knew I would give her love she needed in the remaining few years of her life.

There is an adage about the growth stages of perennials if planted in the right location. The first year they sleep, the second year they creep and the third year they leap. Angel did the same.

Tracy Ahrens and AngelWe Shared a Brokenness

I was attracted to Angel’s brokenness when we met, a brokenness we shared. She was abandoned, frightened, depressed and struggling with senior health issues. I was single, still fighting breast cancer, worried and rarely able to smile. I had also just lost my previous dog to cancer.

Angel’s health issues included common senior ailments to more severe ones. Among them were: fatty tumors, hearing loss, cataracts, skin tags and moles, broken and worn down teeth from years of chewing her way out of somewhere, a large scar on her left front shoulder joint associated with an injury that made her swing her leg slightly in front of her when she walked, a paralyzed larynx that made her cough and I had to elevate her food and water bowls to assist her with digestion, severe arthritis in most every joint including fused vertebrae in her neck and middle back, a slow acting thyroid for which she took a pill daily, early stage renal failure (in the last year or so of her life), and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (diagnosed two years after I adopted her).

Despite all of this, she was perfect and priceless to me. Frequently telling her so seemed to boost her zest to live.

Angel Conquers the World

When I met Angel, I stood her up, groomed her, fed her quality food and supplements, treated her ailments, protected her from harm, showered her with love and she exploded with growth and beauty that touched people around the world through images and stories of her journey. Children and adults who met her always smiled. Other creatures were drawn to her. When we walked together, her beauty stopped people in their tracks.

Angel lifted me up, fed me joy and showered me with her love. I did the same for her. Together we flourished.

As her health faltered, I adapted to supporting her and she accepted my care with grace and absolute trust. I carried her up and down stairs, made her bedroom in the downstairs living room in the last few months of her life and slept with her there from time to time, and I found a groomer who could still make her feel beautiful by allowing her to lie down for a bath and support her with a sling. We continued to take walks around the block at a pace she set for us. I proudly walked with baby steps beside her. She stayed with a neighbor when I worked. She was always surrounded by love.

I discussed her health needs at length with her veterinarian and provided different pain and joint medications to keep her comfortable and mobile.

In the end, she went lame. She kept fighting to stand and stay beside me. Her eyes told me she couldn’t fight anymore and that I had to take the lead. I carried her and held her through the ultimate final act of love. I told her “I love you” directly into her upright ear so I was sure she heard me. I pray that she understood why I had to leave her side for the first time in our lives together.

Angel shared five years with me. Likewise, that is the lifetime of an average short-lived perennial. The reality is, even perennials die.

Tracy Ahrens and AngelAngel’s Best Years

There is a bare spot now in my garden of life. I look for her every day. Nothing can replace her.

A friend told me that the best years of Angel’s life were spent with me. I was told that she was happier because I was beside her. In my life, the atmosphere was just the right growth medium to help her thrive.

Because of me, seeds of her love, in the form of a stuffed duck toy she grew to adore, continue to fly and land in the homes of other pet owners around the world. This magical toy, given to us by a stranger, brought her such comfort and joy that I wanted to carry on her legacy, spreading joy to other pets and their owners.

Images of her beauty, displaying her notorious smile and wearing costumes for major holidays (some images appeared in calendars worldwide) will continue to be shared with a purpose of bringing joy and raising funds for animal rescues.

She has social media pages that I will continue so people can see just how amazing she was.

Despite heartache that still randomly brings me to tears, I will keep saving more perennials like Angel because the clearance table of discarded dogs is never empty. My faith in possibilities and desire to surround myself with similar beauty like Angel never dies.

It’s up to us to sow the broken ones and help them thrive. They are wise fighters with lessons to teach us if we watch and listen.

I love you, Angel. I always will. Thank you for loving me.

Tracy Ahrens is a veteran journalist, author, artist and mom to two adopted cats and one adopted dog. See her web site at www.tracyahrens.weebly.com

Pet Poison Alert! 199 Poison Pet Plants & What to Do

This month, we celebrate Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month. Here in Texas, many folks spend this time of year preparing for spring gardens. Two years ago, we dug out old roses (many infected with rose rosetta disease, arg!), and continue to plant new ones, along with other perennials. My jonquils, and other bulb plants now poke shy heads above the mulch, ready for a burst of color.

Shadow-Pup helped! And Karma-Kat will enjoy any cut flowers I bring in later. That’s why I’m so careful about exactly what we plant, and the kinds brought inside for our own and pet enjoyment. I had some lovely patio container plants last fall, and wanted to bring them inside for the winter. Unfortunately, I couldn’t risk plants toxic to pets.

Flowers are gorgeous, and dogs may enjoy them, too–as long as they’re non-toxic!

Poison pet plants can kill cats and dogs any time of year, but spring can be particularly dangerous when new plants pose dangers. While dogs munch, cats more often play and claw plants, and ingest poison when they clean themselves. Check out this post for more about top pet toxins.

That’s why at my house, we love roses, which are edible. Of course, the thorns can be a hazard. 🙂  And if you have neighborhood cats, use these tips to shoo cats away from gardens.

This is a great idea for all public gardens, and perhaps your own. Dogs often enjoy digging in gardens, a problem even if plants are safe.

Poison Pet Plants & What to Do

I received an email from ProFlowers.com a couple of years ago with this great infographic to share. Refer to this helpful poison chart (below) to avoid toxic plants all year long.

Of course, my advice is to keep toxic plants out of the house entirely when you have pets (or toddlers!) eager to taste-test everything. Accidents do happen, though, so this is a handy guide to bookmark (and share!) with other pet parents.

Meanwhile, why not keep an emergency kit on hand? My go-to is the First-Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats not only for poisons but for everything from torn nails to (gasp!) gunshots or snakebite. It’s a good time to “gift” the pet people in your life, too…although my wish for you and your pets is that you’ll NEVER need the emergency advice!

Have your pets ever “snacked” on something toxic? Do tell! What happened? what did you do…and what would you advise others based on your experience?

Poison Pet Plants

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Please Fence Me In: Creating Good Neighbors & Keeping Dogs Safe

Do you have a dog fence? When Magical-Dawg was alive, he’d take off after “critters” every so often, racing around the 13-acre spread (or beyond). We eventually trained him to stay with us, even when off-leash. It would have devastated me if Magic disappeared. He was microchipped, but folks would need to catch him first.Learn how to find lost pets here.

Bravo was a very different dog. He was so good off-leash during most morning rambles and didn’t want to go too far away from us. He’d chase and play with his “big-ball” in the field, and baptize every tree and grass tussock. And once he lost his leg, he couldn’t get out the back fenced area even if he’d wanted to.

 Shadow-Pup, though, takes after Magical-Dawg. He’s so small, not even the fenced back area keeps him contained. He also likes to dig, so we needed to address possible escapes. Refer to this post for more help with digging dogs. Until recently, we had to keep him on a leash anytime we went outside, and that’s no fun for him–or for us. A fence is a dog’s best friend!

Shadow’s Fence Means Freedom

Since the pipe and rail fence couldn’t contain him, we needed something Shadow couldn’t wiggle through that wouldn’t cost us an arm and a leg. We’re also redesigning and simplifying our garden, and eventually plan to have vining roses or other flowers on the perimeter. My husband’s brilliant solution took a bit of time to accomplish, but within three weeks, we had the new fence in place and Shadow foiled!

Fencefence tiesThe back fence measures approximately 100 feet by 100 feet, with three gates. The house serves as the fourth “side” of the enclosure. So we used four-foot tall rolls of welded wire and attached them with plastic zip-ties to the existing fence. These come in various lengths, but we chose the 50-foot rolls (about $50 each) as the most lug-worthy size for us to manage. So the upgrade cost about $350 and installing ourselves, a whole lot better deal than hiring it done or re-installing something like chain link.

In Texas, the 100+ degree summers quickly turns plastic brittle. We’ll eventually replace the plastic zip-ties with metal to more securely and permanently fix the barrier to the existing fence. We also have metal garden “hooks” for pegging the bottom of the wire mesh securely into the ground, as Shadow-Pup also likes to dig. Oh, and just because he has a fence, doesn’t mean we don’t supervise this smart dawg. He’s a thinker, this one!

dog fence

Dog Fence, Leashes & Keeping Canines Confined

I’ve harped and harped on “keep him on leash!” until I’m blue in the face. Unless I had a Frisbee or other irresistible toy or intermittent treat reward to keep Magic’s attention, he’d do what came naturally and go where the sniffing is good.

Bravo stays next to us when we’re out with him (and he’s NEVER outside by himself). But several years ago, the American Bulldog next door decided to get out of his fence and teach Magic a lesson. Both dogs were fine, but Magic did end up with a red, swollen eye for several days. Even if your dog is well behaved, you can’t count on the others to be good.

Don’t Blame the Dog

Dogs do what comes naturally so you really can’t blame the dog. While some dogs would never consider leaving home and suffer separation anxiety if you go, others love the lure of outside sniffs. If I were the neighbor I’d be aggravated that another dog pooped on my fence-line, effectively taunting my own pets. Usually, quite frankly, it’s the human’s fault.

With Magic, my husband had the best intentions. But every time Magic “went AWOL” to visit when he was off-leash, he got fun sniffs, a game of chase with my husband, AND a car ride. Can you say, “self rewards?” Yep, honking the car horn brought him running back home whereupon Magic got a car ride for being a “good dog” and coming home.

Do you see where this is going? *s* Magic got to practice the behavior, knew what to do to get everything he wanted. SMART doggy! Did I ever mention it’s easier to train dogs than humans? (ahem) Did I mention it’s easier to train dogs than humans (or husbands? double-ahem).

PLEASE FENCE ME IN!

A good dog fence make good neighbors and safe pets. You may think you’re indulging your new puppy by allowing her to roam. But not only can roaming pets turn into pests or worse (coyote bait comes to mind), they can become lost, contract disease or spread illness to other beloved pets.

You wouldn’t let your four-year-old human toddler roam outside unsupervised, and let him “learn the hard way” if something goes wrong. The cost of safe fencing is offset by saved emergency room bills and lost sleep.

dog chain

WHY A DOG CHAIN IS BAD

Avoid tethering or chaining your dog. Some localities have laws against a dog chain, unless it’s for very short periods of time while under your supervision.

When I was a kid, our dog was typically chained outside to his dog house. He ended up towing the house all over the yard and frequently broke the dog chain. What was done in the “good old days” today is known to cause additional problems, though, so we need to be smart as our dogs and learn from experience.

Today, behaviorists warn AGAINST tethering dogs. That’s because a dog chain prevents dogs from escaping perceived threats, so a chain or tether can make dogs more defensive and more likely to bite and attack those within reach. Physical barriers are the safest and most reliable options.

dog fence

Match Dog Fence To Adult Dog Needs

You’ll need to figure out if your dog is a jumper or a digger before investing and planning the dog fence. What contains a Border Collie puppy may not do the job once he’s an adult. The tiny paws of a Miniature Dachshund or other terrier digging terrors probably won’t manage tunneling until he reaches adult size, but plan now for excavations.

A privacy dog fence made of wood may work for the vaulting maniacs, as they won’t be as easy to climb out. They’ll need to be six to nine feet high to stop the leaps. Chainlink fencing works well for most dogs. Some athletic dogs also can climb out, in which case a top may be needed.

Digging Dogs

For the diggers, sink the dog fence into the ground—frankly, that doesn’t work so well—or install a “lip” of fencing flat against the ground all around the perimeter. Install at the bottoms of privacy or other barrier fences to keep the dog from digging out.

Landscape (vine roses, for example) help camouflage any unsightly fences. The thorns also help persuade dogs from either side of the fence to keep their distance. Grass grows up through the lip of fencing and can be mowed with ease.

Electronic Dog Fence & SHOCK Collars

Sometimes housing developments won’t allow physical fences. “Electronic fences” may be popular but I cannot recommend them. According to experts including the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, shock training devices can cause “ . . . potential adverse effects which include but are not limited to: inhibition of learning, increased fear-related and aggressive behaviors, and injury to animals and people interacting with animals.” Read more about the AVSAB position statement on “punishment” in dog training.

Training Matters!

Electronic fences are only as good as the training, and they are not magical or foolproof. Some companies are better than others in offering training advice. “Do it yourself” products work only as well as the expertise of the trainer (you!). Chasing a stray cat or squirrel can tempt dogs to run through the electronic barrier, and then the shock can keep them from returning home. Besides, there are more humane and equally effective alternatives to electronic containment.

I like the “Virtual Fence” type products that use the same sort of technology with a buried cable around the perimeter of the property. But instead of an electric shock, the collar first emits a warning beep and only later emits a burst of citronella spray. Cornell University studies showed that citronella (an aversive scent) collars were much more effective than electric shock collars to train. They’re also more humane.

Keeping Other Pests Out With A Dog Fence

A major downside to these non-physical fences is they won’t prevent other animals or people from coming into the pet’s yard. A goofy puppy intent on the exciting chase could follow a squirrel and cross the boundary—and then the collar’s shock or scent prevents him from coming home. People may not recognize the fence and this could invite strangers to pet the puppy or tempt people to steal him.

A dog fence does more than keep pets safely inside. They keep temptations and dangers out and reduce our liability as pet owners. When you have a clueless puppy that attracts trouble like a magnet, it’s even more important to supervise, even when you have a fence. And that’s peace of mind for us and our beloved animal friends.

Do YOU have a safe area for your doggy wonders and “wanderers”? I’m preaching to the choir but feel free to share the link to this blog with those who need the help.



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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Rosemont: A Rose Garden Reborn

Once upon a time, over 20 years ago now, I traveled to England on a pet food press tour. In between lectures, we visited many historic sites, and I fell in love with English garden designs and especially the roses. After seeing pictures, my husband wanted to recreate the delightful and impressive landscaping in our own rose garden here in North Texas. We even included roses in our front gate and stained glass designs and named our 13-acre home Rosemont. Those who read my fiction may now understand why roses are a big part of some stories.

Rosemont: An Ambitious (Unrealistic?) Dream

We purchased 750 antique roses that thrive in our area from Tyler, Texas. And for 20 years, we fought armadillos uprooting new plants, spider mites and fungus afflicting the blooms, and weeds overtaking the bushes. At least we didn’t have stray cats in the garden (although Seren-Kitty did enjoy leash walks there). Gardening morphed into a full-time job, time neither of us had, and after about ten years, we gave up trying.

The slide show, above, from about 2006 shows the garden in its prime. The video below seven years later offers a glimpse of past overgrown glory. Since then, natural attrition and more recently rose rosette disease infected most of our roses. The horrible 2021 February cold spell (which delayed this post) killed the rest.

We’d already planned to redesign the garden. But we need help.

New Roses, New Garden Plan

We’re reevaluating, simplifying design, and planning for less work and more enjoyment. And making sure plants are pet safe and not toxic. We improved the back garden fence to keep Shadow-Pup from great escapes, and a safe area for Bravo-Dawg to lounge. I’m planning a memory garden for Bravo, Magic, Seren and my very first furry muse. And Shadow can “help” us as we continue to clear away dead roses and volunteer trees.

Removing multitudes of 20+-year-old dead rose roots proved daunting. The rosette disease, though, lives on in the dead parts of the rose (it’s a virus spread by mites) so I had to eliminate them before planting new bushes. I found a solution and purchased a Mister Honeysuckle “shrub buster.” With leverage, it pops even stubborn roots out of the ground.

Because our favorite rose nursery disappeared, I’ve started a wish list at Antique Rose Emporium. But before new roses arrive, we need to kill the weeds and prepare the soil for new plants. Enter PetraTools.

Thank you to Petra Tools for sending me a free HD4000 unit to review. I am not being compensated to share this information. BLING, BITCHES & BLOOD only shares information that applies to my readers. (Some images provided by Petra Tools, copyright as noted)

Battery Backpack Sprayer for Less Back-Breaking Labor!

Over the years, my husband lugged, hand-pumped, and sprayed gallons of various concoctions to keep weeds and bugs at bay. So I jumped at the chance to receive a battery-powered 4-gallon backpack sprayer from PetraTools.com to use in our new rose garden.

Charging the battery is easy to do. You can also purchase and replace the battery in the future if needed.

Petra Tools sent us the HD4000. The unit comes with SIX (6) spray nozzles so you can choose the best options for your use — fogger, spray, high pressure, and more. The rechargeable battery, (charger and battery included), lasts for 5-6 hours or over 200 gallons of solution sprayed.

PetraTools.com also includes an excellent how-to video to get started, and a helpline to call for additional advice. You can purchase the sprayer from Amazon here.

I’m eager to use the sprayer as I know it will make gardening easier and more enjoyable.  So expect additional follow-ups on using the HD4000 from Petra Tools as we bring Rosemont and our rose garden back to glory.

When a garden dies, you can always replant. It’s a new season, and time to revise the dream.

What have you planted lately? Do tell!

Image copr. Petra Tools, used with permission.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!