There are times in any endeavor, be it vocation or hobby, that you wonder why you ever chose to do this. As much as I enjoy gardening, I've had a few of those moments recently.
Three years ago we put a corner island bed in the front yard. It's a challenging spot, bordered on two sides by pavement and in near proximity to a nutrient- and water-hogging maple tree. We removed the sod, then added soil and compost. I planted hardy, sun-loving flowers, and I mulch and weed and water. The result is nothing spectacular and it's certainly not designer perfect, but it's colorful and cheerful.
And most of the time, it smells like a bus stop restroom.
For some reason, local dog owner have no qualms about letting their pets use this flower bed and the grass bordering it as a latrine.
I happened to be pulling into the driveway one afternoon as a man stopped to let his dog lift a leg on my day lilies. I walked over and politely told him that when one dog marks a spot, every other dog that passes by will want to do the same. Over time, the result is dead plants and contaminated soil.
He looked shocked and enlightened, and he promised it wouldn't happen again. I'm not sure whether he was a remarkable actor or someone too clueless about canine behavior to own a dog.
Judging from other online discussions I've read, many dog owners are offended by any suggestion that their pets are not welcome to use other people's lawns. Widespread opinion seems to be that it's no big deal, and that even in places with leash and pick-up laws, such as Barrington, it's not illegal.
Well, actually, it is. It's called tresspassing, and one might also make an argument for vandalism.
The high concentration of nitrates in dog urine burns the lawn and causes brown spots. I've lost a number of flowering plants to leashed dogs with inconsiderate owners. One spot along the side road became so deeply contaminated that nothing would grow there. I finally had to remove and replace the soil.
The other day I came into the house from weeding and told my husband the front bed smelled like an outhouse. He suggested that we tear it up and move the plants away from the road, perhaps along the front walk. We agreed on two things: Neither of us has the time at present to do this, and neither of us would have put in a roadside bed in the first place if we'd factored dog walkers into the equation.
So, yeah. I'm a little discouraged. And I'm definitely scrapping plans to extend the flower bed all along the edge of the front yard.
To dog owners, I strongly urge you to keep your dog in your own yard until it has tended to business. Dogs want to mark territory while you're walking them, but leashed dogs can only tresspass if the people on the other end of the leash allow them to do so.
You might not think it's a big deal, but then, neither does the next person who lets their dog check for pee-mail and hit Reply. Or the next, or the next.