I don’t like to say I’m “lucky” that I live on an acreage, because I worked hard to get here and I sacrificed a lot for my home AND I’lll be paying off my mortgage till I’m an old(er) fart so it’s really not luck- but I am very grateful to have the space I have for my dogs and myself to enjoy.
*This page contains affiliate links.*
We originally moved out here because we had a dog-reactive dog named Dante. We couldn’t walk him, or exercise him properly and his quality of life was declining by the minute. In Calgary we have private off leash parks now, but we didn’t when we had Dante.
So, we saved up and we got Dante a place to run before he passed away at 13 years of age. We named our 3 acre haven, BrindleBerry Acres.
The dogs we have now have never lived anywhere else, and with a steady stream of wildlife roaming through our yard on a daily basis, they always have something new to track and sniff.
Although our place is pretty sweet, we do have a challenge in that our dogs would actually like to be outdoors more, but I don’t feel comfortable giving them full run of the yard without my supervision for a few reasons:
- Our fence is only four feet high, and it’s classic wood horse fencing with page wire attached. If a dog was left unattended and was tempted by wildlife or wandering dogs, they could likely get out.
- Our neighbours have two very large dogs that are fenced in only by barbed wire with no gate in their driveway and multiple points of broken fence. If they were to come over without me there, there would most likely be a fight that would not end well.
- The dogs could easily be led out by a stranger if I wasn’t around.
- Grizz has a bad leg, and a car chasing obsession and I worry he’ll hurt himself – he’s done it before. On top of that, Kingsley hates it when Grizz chases cars and will go after him. It can cause a fight.
- Letting our dogs out in the yard at night is always a bit risky as they’ve come back skunked several times, and we’ve even had a mother moose and her babies in the yard before. We check with a flashlight each time we let them out, but we’ve missed visitors before.
There’s also the challenge of me being able to relax and read or mow the lawn with them in the yard. If they’re constantly chasing cars or getting barked at by neighboring dogs, I have to stop what I’m doing and intervene.
Up until now the solution to all of this in my head has been to find a new place to live where cars won’t drive by and we won’t have dogs attacking our fence. The problem is, it’s highly unlikely that this magical place exists, and even more unlikely we can afford it. Especially right now with inflation and high interest rates.
So, I got to daydreaming one day…
“What if I fenced off a smaller area of the yard, attached to the house so we could just let the dogs out the backdoor to pee, or let them hang out and sun bathe by themselves?”
This space would have a six foot high, chain link fence that is highly unlikely to be escapable. There would be very little chance that a deer or moose could get in, and although skunks can squeeze into tight spaces, a quick check out the backdoor would likely highly reduce the chance of getting skunked by smelly visitors.
And because my brain is full of “what ifs” ALL THE TIME, I thought that this space might be pretty boring, so what could I do about that?
“AH HA! I’d build a sensory garden!”
What is a Sensory Garden?
A sensory garden is a space with unique sights, sounds, textures and smells that a dog can enjoy and explore at their leisure. They may include scented flowers and dog safe plants and berries, a pool, a sandbox, a water feature – the possibilities are endless!
My plan is over the next few years to create a little oasis for the dogs, and myself, free from prying neighbours’ eyes.
For my garden, that I will affectionately call “Grizzy’s Garden”, I will include all of those things.
For the side of the fence that looks onto the neighbour’s yard I’ll install privacy slats so the dogs don’t see and bark at every single movement the neighbours make because rain, snow, wind or storm – they’re ALWAYS outside.
I am REALLY excited about this, but I am aware that the process is going to be lengthy and will likely take a few years. I hope to bring you along on my journey, because I’d like to inspire you to create a space for your dog too!
And you don’t need a huge space! Even a patio or balcony will work! If you don’t have a yard, try creating a space inside your home.
After emailing several fence builders with no response (welcome to 2022 where nobody wants your business), I finally got a response from a local fence builder.
The fence will likely be the only step I take this year due to budget, but it’s a great start! Perhaps I’ll plant a few bushes in the fall when plants go on sale!
I set up a ticket with Alberta One Call who are the folks that come out and survey the dig area to ensure we won’t be digging into phone, water or gas lines. They took longer than expected to come by, but the site is marked and ready to go!
The fence builder is scheduled to come by this week to install the poles. EEEPS!
My goal for step two was to find the dogs comfortable, outdoor beds for their garden. I’ve actually already completed this step and have the beds on the way!
I chose the Kuranda, Standard, Almond PVC Dog Bed with outdoor mesh. I also had them monogrammed with their names! I can’t wait to see them in person!
I chose these beds mostly because if it’s hot outside the air can circulate around them. Also, Pebbles is sensitive to bug bites, so keeping her elevated and away from ants is my preference.
Either this fall, or next spring, it’ll be time to consider planting some greenery!
The greenery will have several purposes, but the main one will be to give the space that private, oasis feeling.
I’d like to plant bushes along the fence to hide the chain link which, let’s face it, is pretty unattractive. But the bonus is that it will also create more privacy.
Some bushes on the list will be:
- Saskatoon Berries
- Honey Berries
We already have saskatoon and honey berry bushes on the property and they do well. The dogs pick berries when they’re ripe – right off the bush giving them a unique taste experience! The bushes are also very full and lush!
Lilacs smell amazing, and they’re beautiful so their scent will be a welcome addition to the sensory garden.
I’m not sure yet if I’ll be planting flowers as I am pretty low maintenance when it comes to flowers, but we may include some raised beds for veggies. Setting up raised planters inside the fence will also protect the garden from hungry deer.
There are several dog-safe flowers and herbs that bugs hate, so those would be on the list!
- Lemon Balm
Chain link also just screams for vine-like plants. I may have to look into finding something that would work! Maybe I’ll just plant beans or peas!
UPDATE: A Facebook follower suggested Climbing Nasturtiums for fence coverage, so I’ll be looking into that for sure, and adding any other suggestions I get from followers/listeners/readers!
I anticipate the fence will be installed by the end of July at which time I’ll post the next chapter of this story: Sensory Garden – Part Two – The Fence. Stay tuned!