Gardens R Us
As Gardener's World on BBC2 has already embarked on the flower show circuit, I found myself wondering how a dog would design the prefect garden. It would be interesting amid the wire daisies and softly splashing water features, I thought, to create the ultimate in canine cool. Perhaps the Dogs' Trust would like to sponsor it for Chelsea next year? I consulted the experts...
It begins with an enclosed space – any self-respecting dog has got to have something to defend. The girls reckon a mailbox at the gate is ideal, you can both shout at the postman not to come in and wag at him approvingly for obeying instructions. A 5-bar farm gate is perfect, by the way, convenient bars for resting the front paws on combined with good visibility. A mixed boundary is handy – hedges make good habitats for various creatures as well as handy gaps for quick and unpredictable exit, while fences can be jumped or tunnelled under. Continuous walls are far from ideal unless you are very athletic, but can encourage ivy, which is good for snuffling about in. The next priority is a good big lawn. This mustn't be too tidy, you want your people to throw lots of balls about, and overlong grass is excellent for cooling tummies in hot weather, and for a good roll in any weather.
For the male dog an ornamental conifer bed is always a plus, plenty of uprights for widdling on, while for any dog a nice dense shrubbery comes in useful when brushes or flea powder are mentioned. The Bolter, who likes a little privacy at certain moments, advocates hedges within gardens. Senior Dog doesn't care, she'd rather it was obvious that she's ready to come back in now, especially in wet weather (when gravel is the surface of choice).
Planting within the garden may be largely left to the whim of humans, provided they realise that wilderness and trees are preferable to the manicured look. A little control is necessary though - nettles, for instance, should be controlled, since they cause itchy paws, but a nice patch of long grass can provide cover for rodents, and offer hours of gentle exercise. For a work out first thing in the morning, a patch of catnip should be considered, while a well-dug vegetable bed, or even a child's sandpit, provides the ideal repository for bones. An accessible water feature, if there is space, is desirable, but Senior Dog advises that a boggy patch will do at a pinch, especially when you are hot at the end of a game (mud sticks well to the undercarriage and offers better cooling properties).
Finally, both dogs recommend that fashionable accessory, an area of decking: wooden planks warm up quickly in the sun and are reasonable comfortable to lie on for long periods. If you are very fortunate, your people may regard deck railings as a handy place to air bedspreads and similar items, in which case they can be readily pulled down for extra comfort. They point out that the dog-designed garden is low-maintenance (most of the work can easily be done with one hand while throwing a ball with the other), wildlife-friendly (did you know that woodpeckers like bones, too?) and organic (the only garden pests are cats and squirrels and they are FUN). In short, why would a human want any other kind of garden? You haven't got a dog? How sad for you, but we can soon sort that out...