When Laura Adkins, commissioned Deputy Sheriff and supervisor at the animal shelter, went to work, she used to worry about how to stay on top of all the weeding. "How are we going to manage this?" she asked herself.

Susan Dyer Preston, Master Gardener, wondered how to educate people about pet-friendly gardens.

The two met, and with the help of a grant from the Oregon Master Gardener Association, a solution will begin to take shape at the shelter in April: A pet-friendly education garden will wrap around the shelter's southwest side.

"The goals of the shelter and the Master Gardeners are to provide education to the public," said Dyer Preston. The two are a perfect fit.

"We're concerned about pet safety here, and we're concerned about garden safety," said Dyer Preston. "This was a real opportunity." Hundreds of people take animals home from the shelter every year. Soon, they will walk past a pet-friendly garden to do so.

There are two elements to a pet-friendly garden. One is that the garden is safe for the animal. Many common garden plants are toxic to dogs or cats and a puppy who likes to chew needs to be kept safe. "When you think about designing a yard for pets or when you're bringing a pet home to your yard, you're going to want to identify the plants in your yard and choose plants that are pet-friendly," said Dyer Preston.

The other element is the gardener's peace of mind.

When Dyer Preston brought her second dog home, she let the dogs run around the yard to figure out where their natural paths would be. "I designed around them," she said.

Being aware of garden designs and elements enhanced her relationships with her pets.

Hercules, in the arms of shelter volunteer Dee Carson, is ready to leave the cage and enter the free world of lawns and laps with his future adoptive parents.For dogs, it is important to provide dog zones. "Breed and temperament have a lot to do with how you might design that," she said. A German shepherd will want to run the perimeter of the fence to guard the territory. Planting anything along his path is futile: The plants will just be overrun. "Terriers have to dig," said Dyer Preston. Providing them with a digging pit may keep them from uprooting precious plants. The dog zones Dyer Preston recommends include shelter, shade, water, a play area and a potty area.

Adkins also wants future pet parents to realize that when getting a dog, people should make sure they get an animal they can handle - and an animal their yard can handle. A frail old lady can't walk a Rottweiler, and the lovely roses along the fence won't be so lovely after regular encounters with the shepherd.

"We want to provide research-based information to the public," said Dyer Preston. "I'm not advocating people going and digging up their gardens." She wants gardeners to know what plants in the garden may be toxic (lilies and cats don't mix, for example) and that there are ways to make pet and parent happier. "Animals can be creative," she said. It's our job to keep them out of trouble.


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