Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bees and dogs: A garden that's safe for both kinds of creatures

Sinead the Boston terrier looking very tired
Sinead gorked out on antihistamines.
Let me say this upfront: I am a certifiable bee lover. As a pseudo urban farmer, I love the work they do in fertilizing my fruits and flowers, and as an environmentalist, I view bee colony collapse with alarm. In fact, I've been so motivated to help bees in my community that I've planted all sorts of bee-friendly plants, including:
  • Lavender 
  • Sunflowers
  • Dahlias 
  • Marigolds

When I walk through the yard and hear the plants humming with bees, I figure that I've done my part to help the little guys survive.

This week, however, I had a bee-related incident that makes me question my strategy.

Little Sinead is an inveterate sunbather, and at 7 pounds, she can access some stellar spots by crawling beneath flowering plants. These are the spots the chubby outdoor cats and the portly pug just can't reach, so they remain favored spots for a private nap. I've seen Sinead dart beneath these plants hundreds of times, and I've thought nothing of it.

Now that the weather is dipping, however, my flowering plants are shedding their blooms on the ground, meaning that bees are working territory that Sinead uses for travel. This week, she happened to step on a bee that wasn't too fond of the attention, and she got stung. Within 15 minutes of that sting, her front foot had swelled up to three times its normal size, and Sinead was completely unwilling to walk.

Normally, treating a bee sting is pretty simple:
Step 1: Remove the stinger with a credit card or the edge of your fingernail
Step 2: Keep the pet calm
Step 3: Provide ice and/or Benadryl

I've done this with Liam in the past, and he had no ill effects whatsoever. But Sinead wouldn't let me even look at her foot, and the dramatic swelling made me wonder if something else was going on. Since I didn't see the incident take place, I wasn't 100 percent sure that she hadn't fallen or been in a fight of some sort, so I wasn't completely sure that she didn't have a broken bone. So off to the veterinarian we went.

An emergency visit for a bee sting is a pretty routine affair. The vet muzzled Sinead and did a complete exam, and then provided shots of painkilling and anti-swelling medications. In a day or two, she was back to normal.

But I am on a mission to keep this sort of thing from taking place in the future. That might mean fencing, as well as raking of downed blossoms. Sinead might also need supervision when she's in the yard, just so I can ensure she doesn't head down a dangerous path.

Bees and dogs can coexist, and I think they do need to live with one another if we are to grow any kind of food or flower, but it will take a little planning and vigilance. That's the next step I need to take.


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