I think that I shall never see
a tree unscathed by doggie pee
– Not Joyce Kilmer
Maybe there are some out there — a tree or two that, in their lifetimes, have somehow avoided ever being annointed by dog.
But, sharing the country with 75 million dogs, as both trees and we do, that is unlikely — and even more so in paved-over urban areas, where dogs sometimes outnumber trees, the living things they seem to most like to pee on.
For centuries, there seems to have been an unwritten agreement — a pee-ful coexistence — between dogs and trees. But, at least for half a century or so, there have been worries expressed about the cumulative effect of the continual sprinkling that some trees undergo, especially those in densely populated urban areas.
Some were recently voiced by a Philadelphia woman with an interesting perspective. Carrie Maria owns Monster Minders, a Philadelphia dog-walking service, and she’s a graduate of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Tree Tenders program.
“Urine is highly acidic,” Maria wrote on the The Monster Minders blog. “Simply put, dogs’ urine ‘burns’ the tree’s trunk to the point that the tree becomes susceptible to diseases, pests, dehydration and nutrient loss.”
Maria’s report drew the attention of The Atlantic, which ran a lengthy piece on its blog, Atlantic Cities, complete with photos she had taken of disfigured trees in her neighborhood she says are likely victims of pee-blight.
We can’t confirm that the damaged trees she photographed (pictured here) are solely victims of dog pee — and neither could experts. But we give her credit for speaking up for the underdog, which in this particular case is trees.
“Your dog ‘marks’ the tree, then another dog walks by 10 minutes later, smells your dog’s scent and hits it again, 15 minutes later and another dog walks by, hits it again. This goes on day in and day out … One dog’s scent ends up on a tree and others just keep marking it, over and over until the tree is compromised.”
Where I live — not in a real big city, not downtown — the yard in front of my apartment has huge oak trees, planted probably a good half century ago, or more. Ace pees on his favorite one regularly, but it’s so well-established it doesn’t seem to mind, and show no signs of damage.
About this time of year, the oak trees start raining acorns, and every once in a while one drops and hits Ace in the head. He jumps up and looks around, unaware he has been the victim of poetic justice.
Impervious as the big oaks in my yard may be, saplings in cities — the ones growing in a few square feet of dirt, the ones that have become potty stops for dozens of dogs daily — are another story.
“Repeated hits with urine basically causes an ‘open wound’ right on the base on the tree. Since the bombardment from pee is semi-constant in an urban environment, the trees never have a chance to heal from past damage. These wounds open the trees up to a slew of diseases that they just can’t fight off.” Maria wrote.
Her solution: Curb your dog.
It’s an old phrase, and one that – outside of places like New York — lots of people don’t even understand. It means to pee where the street meets the curb. And while that may lead to gutters running yellow, and car tires taking on a pee-scent, thereby attracting more to dogs to take aim on them, Maria finds that preferable to the tree assault.
“It’s simple. Redirect your dog when he/she is headed for a tree,” Maria says. ”Teach your dog to ‘curb it.’”
How big a factor is dog pee, compared to all the other hazards urban trees face — like road salt, car doors, poor soil, limited room to grow and youths with pen knives? As the Atlantic Cities blog points out, experts aren’t sure:
“Whether pee hurts trees is a question that’s attracted virtually no research attention since its earliest mention in the academic literature …”
The post mentions one presentation, way back in 1959, in which a plant pathologist named Pascal Pirone warned of the dangers. In ‘Why shade trees die along city streets,’ a presentation given at the International Shade Tree Conference, he said ‘dog canker’ could kill trees up to 6 inches in diameter.”
But the Atlantic post also quoted a staff member at the Smithsonian Institution’s horticulture department as saying the trunk damage shown in Maria’s photos could have come from a number of causes, “including mechanical damage [i.e. mowers, car doors, pedestrians], southwest injury, disease [cankers], and insects [borers].”
While the extent of the harm caused by dog urine remains untallied, most experts agree it can’t be helping trees.
“We deal with it in the sense that I imagine trees get added stress or maybe anxiety” from dogs, says John Thomas, associate director at Washington, D.C.’s Urban Forestry Administration. “I don’t know how much dog urine you need to kill a tree. But there’s definitely something there…. Somebody could definitely get a masters or Ph.D. out of studying it.”
(Photos: Top photo by John Woestendiek; tree photos by Carrie Maria / Monster Minders)
Posted by jwoestendiek September 11th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: acid, animals, atlantic cities, blogs, carrie maria, curb, curb your dog, damage, dog, dogs, downtown, health, horticulture, marking, monster minders, pee, pets, philadelphia, saplings, scent, trees, urban, urination, urine
Humans had been searching more than 10 days for the monkey that escaped from Wake Forest University’s Primate Center, but it was a dog who finally spotted her.
Cassidy Garwood, 14, told WGHP/Fox 8 that her dog, Keeley, saw the monkey Tuesday afternoon in some trees outside their house on Frye Bridge Road.
When the family went to see what Keeley was barking at, they saw the 8-pound, one-foot-tall macaque jumping from tree to tree.
The family called authorities and officials from the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, Lexington Police and Wake Forest soon arrived on the Garwoods’ property, where the monkey was brought down with three tranquilizing darts and returned to the research facility.
Richard Young, who heads the animal resources program for Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, told the Winston-Salem Journal that the monkey is doing fine and will be quarantined for six weeks.
After that, he added (in a word choice he probably regrets) she’ll be placed “back with her other cage mates, inmates, back in her family.”
The monkey outsmarted two barriers at the center on June 29 and fled into the woods, prompting a search in which law enforcement, university officials and animal control officers set traps with apples and bananas and even used recordings of a baby monkey in their efforts to capture her.
The 16-year-old macaque is a breeder, producing offspring that are used for medical testing. She came to the primate center in 2008 after being captured in Indonesia.
According to the website for Wake Forest’s Primate Center, staff “use nonhuman primates to study six of the 10 major causes of death in the United States.”
The monkey’s escape led to criticism from some animal welfare groups, including PETA, which filed a formal complaint July 4 with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The group urged the agency to investigate Wake Forest for possible violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including failure to ensure that the primate housing is safe and secure.
Young said that Wake Forest has beefed up security at the primate center.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 11th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animal rights, animal welfare, animals, barking, captured, cassidy garwood, davidson county, dog, escaped, healthy, keeley, laboratory, loose, macaque, medical tests, monkey, monkeys, peta, pets, primate center, quarantined, research, richard young, trees, veterinarian, wake forest, wake forest university, winston-salem
The quietude of our sleepy little neighborhood has been shattered.
We are under attack.
I mean hundreds every hour, and that’s just counting the ones that pelt my roof. It started about a week ago, and has been gaining intensity ever since, as if working up to some nutty grand finale.
Ace, who doesn’t like loud noises — and believe me, it’s very loud — is starting to get used it. Only during the worst, like when 50 or so bombard us over the course of, say, 10 seconds, does he look up, wondering what’s going on.
But it’s a daily and day-long event — thousands of acorns, both green and brown, falling from the sky, pelting the top of my car, rattling the roof of my house, pinging off my grill and air conditioner and slamming onto the sidewalk.
In almost every case, they lose their cute little hats in the process.
I’ve lived among oak trees before, but I don’t remember ever seeing an acorn fall, and definitely not anything like the barrage underway on my street.
Huge oak trees line the whole block, and their limbs hang over the housing units. But none of them seem to be raining acorns like the ones hanging over my place.
When I was planting my pansies Saturday, at least five acorns –and usually you can hear them coming, ripping through the leaves on the way down — smashed to the ground at my feet.
I’m hoping it won’t still be raining acorns on Halloween — because given the distance they are falling from, and their hardness, they could do some damage to young heads. Or old heads for that matter.
I haven’t been hit by one directly yet. I’ve had a few bounce off my grill and hit me, and many land at my feet. Ace has also escaped thus far, even though he spends a lot of time laying under the trees in the front yard.
The acorns pose a double threat. In addition to the possibility of getting beaned by one on the way down, there’s the hazard of sliding on those that have already fallen, especially when they’re hidden under leaves.
Most often they just crunch underfoot, but every once in a while there’s a group that are particularly hard and stubborn, and it’s like trying to walk on marbles.
There are those who believe that an abundance of acorns is a sign that the coming winter will be severe — that somehow nature is able to figure out how many acorns squirrels will need to get through the season and, accordingly, instructs the trees on how many they should grow and drop, so that there’s always enough for everyone.
That’s a little too neat and tidy, trickle-down and happily ever after for me to believe.
We can’t and shouldn’t try to dictate and control it. We shouldn’t ask it to change the song. And when we do cut in, we should do it gently and with respect. After all, we we’re lucky just to be invited.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 13th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abundance, ace, acorns, america, animals, autumn, bombarded, control, danger, dogs, fall, falling, hazard, nature, noisy, north carolina, nuts, oak, pets, road trip, squirrels, travel with ace, trees, winston-salem, winter
Willow’s Wily Ways
Flowing tresses writhe
Seductively in the wind
You don’t weep, you flirt
(Highway Haikus are
featured in Travels With Ace
To see all, click here.)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 16th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, haiku, highway, highway haiku, pets, photography, poetry, road, road trip, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, trees, weeping willow
Ace and I did some of that. We sat silently among the giant trees, craning our necks back, as if looking up to the heavens.
And — except for Ace relieving himself on the biggest one he could find – we behaved with all the appropriate decorum, being the types (though I can’t speak for Ace) who believe nature may really be the holiest thing of all, and that man, to satisfy his silly needs, has messed with it far to much.
For a good 30 minutes we sat wordlessly in a redwood grove, admiring their pristine beauty and giving thanks that, in a country that’s grown more environmentally conscious, steps have been taken to ensure these glorious giants won’t be exploited, and will be around when we who are just quickly passing through no longer are.
Call it curiosity, or sacrilege, or reporting — which I’m prone to do even though I’m not a reporter anymore, at least not the newspaper variety – but when we saw a sign in Leggett on Highway 101 inviting us to “Drive Through a Redwood Tree,” we exited.
Leggett is the home of Chandelier Tree, one of four redwoods in northern California that tourists regularly drive through because, well, they can. They’ve been there since the days when exploiting redwoods was something you could get away with.
The commercialization of the redwoods was well under way — and already controversial –when John Steinbeck and Charley passed through 50 years ago.
Around Klamath, for instance, you can find a drive-through redwood, take a cable car ride through the redwoods, and see a nearly 50-foot-tall talking Paul Bunyan, with Babe at his side. We passed on that one.
In Leggett, though, we followed the signs, paid our $5 entry fee and went down a winding dirt road before crunching to a halt in front of Chandelier Tree.
I wasn’t sure my Jeep would fit through, especially with the cargo bag on the roof.
A tourist egged me on, telling me he was pretty sure I’d make it. I inched forward, having visions of my car getting lodged and becoming a permanent part of a roadside attraction that — though it had sucked me in — was against my (slightly flexible) principles.
As I slowly rolled through, both side mirrors began scraping the inside of the tree. Thankfully they were collapsible; thankfully too there was nothing breakable in my rooftop carrier, which was scraping the top of the opening as well.
But we made it, and I felt at once a sense of accomplishment and shame, for although I justified my trip through a tree by telling myself it was for journalistic purposes, the bottom line was I was just another sappy tourist, as gullible to gimmicks as all the rest.
Beyond that, it all seemed so lazily American — so par for the course in a country of people who, when we are able to tear ourselves away from our computers and go outside, commonly drive up to the windows of banks and drug stores, McDonalds and Starbucks to satisfy our thirsts, hungers and needs, all without exiting the vehicle.
What could be more American than a drive-through tree?
Nothing. Except maybe a drive-though tree where you could also get a Big Mac and withdraw some cash.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 22nd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, california, chandelier tree, commercialization, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, drive thru, drive-through, environment, exploitation, leggett, pets, redwood, redwoods, road trip, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, trees
John Steinbeck’s French-born poodle, Charley, had little reaction to the giant redwood trees of southern Oregon and northern California – much to the chagrin of the author whose path we have been following for the past three months.
Based on what he wrote in “Travels with Charley,” seeing his dog make “his devoirs” — “devoirs” being French for “paying respect,” and paying respect being Steinbeck’s euphemism for peeing — was clearly important to him.
Charley urinating on a giant redwood, Steinbeck said, might “set him apart from other dogs — might even be like that Galahad who saw the Grail. The concept is staggering. After this experience he might be translated mystically to another plane of existence, to another dimension, just as the redwoods seem to be out of time and out of our ordinary thinking.”
He made a point of keeping Charley shielded from the trees, in the back of his camper Rocinante, until pulling over at the biggest redwood he could find.
“This was the time I had waited for. I opened the back door and let Charley out and stood silently watching, for this could be dog’s dream of heaven in the highest.” But Charley ignored the tree, Steinbeck wrote. “Look, Charley. It’s the tree of all trees. It’s the end of the quest.”
Then, he wrote, “I dragged him to the trunk and rubbed his nose against it. He looked coldly at me and forgave me and sauntered away to a hazelnut bush.” Not until Steinbeck broke off a willow branch, whittled one end to a point and inserted into the bark of the giant redwood did Charley do what seemed so important to Steinbeck. Devoirs accomplished.
It’s not exactly one of the warmest dog-human moments in the book — and Charley’s aloofness was pretty much the opposite of Ace’s reaction to the magnificent giants.
Ace rose up as we entered our first redwood forest and pressed his nose against the closed window. As always, I motored his window halfway down so he could sniff as well as see as we rode down a winding stretch of two-lane highway, rolling from dark shadows into blinding sunlight.
When we finally pulled over alongside a grove of redwoods, Ace was eager to get out, and tugged me into the forest.
He sniffed it, peed on it, and jumped up on it to sniff some more.
I won’t even try to describe the awe the redwoods inspire. Photos can’t do them justice. Word can’t do them justice, though Steinbeck came as close as anyone to getting across the “remote and cloistered feeling” one has when among them.
“One holds back speech for fear of disturbing something … for these are the last remaining members of a race that flourished over four continents as far back in geologic time as the upper Jurassic period.”
As the author noted, they have a way of making us realize how insignificant we are: “Can it be that we do not love to be reminded that we are very young and callow in a world that was old when we came into it?”
Posted by jwoestendiek November 21st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, book, california, charley, dogs, forest, giants, grove, john steinbeck, oregon, peeing on redwoods, pets, redwood, redwoods, road trip, steinbeck, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley, tree, trees
Posted by jwoestendiek November 7th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, conifer, diversi-tree, diversity, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, driving, evergreens, golden, haiku, highway, highway haiku, pets, poetry, road, road trip, tamarack, travel, travels with ace, tree, trees
When I finally pulled out of Fargo, I was certain any visions of fall colors were over. No way, I figured, could any leaves still be clinging to their trees. Those winds, like a heartless gang of thieves, surely stripped them bare.
But, as Ace and I traveled west across the state, there were a few bright exceptions: groves of yellow-leafed trees — birch or aspen — that, by virtue of being tightly grouped together, still sported their fall colors.
The only way I can figure it, they were saved by the copse.
By being huddled together in a group, they – at least those not on the periphery — were able to keep their leaves a little longer. They, like early American settlers, bees in a hive and the huddled masses everywhere found safety in numbers.
You don’t hear the word “copse” that much anymore. In “Travels with Charley,” it shows up a few times. When John Steinbeck camped, it was usually in a copse, alongside a river, which is where you’ll generally find the copse — despite what you might have heard about donut shops.
Driving along, I wondered if the copse might hold some lessons for us humans, or at least remind us of some.
When pioneers set forth across America, they did so in groups, depending on each other, and each other’s skills, for their survival. When Indians attacked, pioneers circled the wagons, recognizing that forming, in effect, a copse, was the best defense. They established towns for the same reason — so neighbors would be close, so that help would never be too far away.
And long before that, cavemen and cavewomen learned — apparently from sources other than reality TV — that, by forming alliances, they could better protect themselves from the elements, evil-doers and scary creatures.
For long time Americans lived a copse-like existence. We established a home. We dropped our seed. We watched it grow. Once it did, it stayed around, mingled with other hometown trees and dropped its own seed. Children lived where parents lived. The apple didn’t fall, or roll, far from the tree; it stayed in its parent’s shadow, at least until it ended up in a pie.
Somewhere along the line, that went by the wayside. Children grew up and ventured off, carving their own paths. Mom and dad, once on the periphery of the copse, shielding us from the nasty winds, were relocated to places they can get some assistance with living.
The copse-like closeness has diminished not just in the family, but in the family of man. We’re less inclined, I think, to help each other out. Rather than thinking we’re all in this together, rather than the stronger helping the weaker, the richer helping the poorer, the franchised helping the disenfranchised, we look out for No. 1.
And the more insular we’ve become, the more we fail to stake up those in need of support, the more we turn away from those stuck out in the cold, the more robbers we produce.
In the 21st Century, when it comes to protection, we rely on the cops.
But maybe the real answer is the copse.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 30th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aspen, assistance, autumn, birch, colors, compassion, cops, copse, crime, criminal, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, fall, foliage, groups, grove, help, insular, john steinbeck, leaves, north dakota, numbers, pioneers, robbers, safety, security, shelter, society, thicket, travels with ace, travels with charley, trees, winds
This Xena’s not a warrior princess, but she is a rescued Rottweiler. We met her over the unseasonably warm weekend at a dog park in Carrboro, N.C. She was in a full run when I took this photo. Hence the flapping tongue.
As dog parks go, Carrboro’s is a good-sized one — four fenced-in acres within the 55-acre Hank Anderson Park. Its biggest shortcoming is a complete lack of shade. Only one small tree is within its boundaries, and it looks dead.
So Xena, after a little running around, sought out the only spot that came close to being shaded, under the park bench.
And, being a gentle soul, she was more than happy to share it with Ace.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 5th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, carrboro, dog park, dog parks, dogs, hank anderson park, n.c., north carolina, rescue, rescued, rottweiler, shade, trees, xena