Leslie May, co-author of the book Raise a Green Dog and of the blog by the same name (http://blog.raiseagreendog.com/), gave us a bit of her time to discuss what it really means to “raise a green dog.” In her self-effacing manner, she emphasized that she is neither a scientist nor a vet and is just choosing to share what she has learned in life. She also clarified that her blog is not only about environmental impact but also the overall health of the dog and owner.
First of all, it seems that dogs leave a much smaller environmental “paw print” than humans and we really need to focus on human over consumption. So, why is making a dog more “green” important to dog owners?
“Dogs do impact the environment. We buy items with packaging and drive them to dog training. This adds to the carbon paw print, so to speak. Also, they are meat eaters and there is a major environmental impact in the process of creating dog food. And one of the largest contributors to landfills is dog waste. An average dog excretes ¾ pound of waste per day. That’s 274 pounds a year! Some people think using a biodegradable bag or reusing a plastic bag for waste is helpful. But these end up in landfills and even those biodegradable bags get buried under tons of trash and then it takes centuries for it to degrade since this requires sunlight and air.”
So, what can we do if even biodegradable bags are problematic?
“You can do little things like build a dog compost system in your yard. Or if you’re in the city, the best thing is to just flush it. Also, some parts of dog food bags can be recycled and some can’t. There are generally two parts-a paper layer and a plastic layer. The plastic layers are generally not recyclable so you pull them apart and recycle the paper layers. Then reuse the plastic layers for repacking things or as work cloths if you paint.”
Are many products also bad for a dog’s health? I noticed on your site that you clean without using chemicals. Is this just as effective?
“Definitely! I believe lawn chemicals are one of the biggest contributors to dog health problems. There are many studies beginning to connect lymphoma to lawn chemicals. And I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. Organic lawn care is so important and keeping your dog out of chemical laden areas.”
“And yes, cleaning supplies are full of chemicals. I have cleaned with vinegar and water all my life. I am a living example of how effective they are. I can count on one hand the times that I have had to be on antibiotics. Also, off the shelf chemical cleaners can get in the water system and are bad for everyone’s health.”
Which organic lawn care do you recommend?
“I tested out several products. I switched to fish emulsion spray and it is amazing! Dead fish is a great fertilizer. Some people worry it smells bad but the ones on the market now you really only smell while spraying and then 15 minutes later, the smell is gone.
For weeds, you can put down a corn gluten product and it will deter weeds. I also spent 10 minutes a day pulling weeds and over seeded, which helps a lot. If you need to kill grass or weeds around a fence or bricks, just pour boiling water or use burnout-a concentrated vinegar solution. Burnout requires use in temperatures over 80 degrees, though.”
What do you do about preventing ticks and fleas? These products are often pretty strong but also necessary.
“I have always been able to use natural products except when we moved to Tennessee. Where we lived was full of chiggers and fleas and ticks. For the first time, I had to look into something stronger. The least invasive was Frontline spray and you don’t have to use it as often. But it is a pesticide and I just felt sick about it. But I felt my dogs’ lives were in danger and I had to do something. So, I have taken antibiotics 4 times and drugs do have their place. Just don’t overdo it.
One week later, I found 150 little seed tick nymphs dead! Johann must have gotten into a recently hatched nest and they had swarmed all over him. I decided I had to move because I didn’t want to use the pesticides all the time and ticks could transfer diseases.
Now that we moved to Georgia, I rake all the leaf matter out and built a fence and no leaf matter is allowed in the fenced in area. I also trim back the trees. I sometimes tell people to bring out the big guns and use food grade diatomaceous earth and spread all around the fence area and even in closets and corners.
Also, we had a long conversation with a vet who is a tick expert recently and are now using neem. It smells horrible but it is safe and natural. And it’s the only thing that really works! I found this is actually repelling them more than anything. We don’t have a large infestation like in Tennessee but it’s working here.”
What would you recommend to those with a limited budget? Often it seems the healthier, more eco-friendly products are also more expensive.
“I think it used to be more expensive. I actually think it doesn’t need to be anymore. You just have to see the bigger picture. A gallon of vinegar is a lot less than commercial cleaners. Healthier, organic food is more expensive but cleaning is cheaper, so it’s a balance. “
So, how would you define a true “green dog?”
“A green dog is one that is healthy, lives a healthy, organic lifestyle and limits their impact on the environment.”
You can check out more about raising a “green dog” on Leslie’s blog, Raise a Green Dog