Testing Your Yard!

Sparkles, here! 

The trees are budding, the crocuses are blooming, and all over Milwaukee yards are beginning to turn green! This kind of weather gives a dog a lot more energy.

This can mean only one thing: It's time to get back to work!

Now, I love my yard just as much as any dog. And I even love doing yard work. (Well actually, I love getting in the way of my humans while they work outdoors. But what's the difference, really?) What I don't love about yard care are the chemicals that often get used on lawns and gardens in the spring and fall. Don't get me wrong, fertilizing your yard is often the fastest way to get that green glow that begs to be rolled around in. But using excess pesticides and fertilizers means that most of them will run straight off of your lawn with the first sign of rain and flow straight into our lakes and rivers. These chemicals pollute our water resources and create unbalanced ecosystems that are unsafe for fishing and swimming.

So before you fertilize this spring, test your yard (test kits are available at most hardware stores) and try not to over apply. The best way to keep from over-fertilizing is to resist the urge entirely, but if you do have to feed your grass, do so carefully. 

Most importantly, don't forget to get outside this spring. The more time you spend enjoying our lakes and rivers, the easier it is to love them and treat them with respect. 

Don't forget your training!

I'm melting (and carrying gross runoff into your rivers and lakes)!!

Hello, dear humans! Sparkles, here!

If you've stepped your paws into the outside world lately you'll know that it feels like spring may actually be around the corner (knock on wood).

This is good news! The coming warmth means that I can go on long walks without needing to put on booties and a sweater (let's keep that tidbit between us, shall we?). More importantly, with all the melting that's going on in our beloved city, there's a lot of trash magically appearing from underneath the snow along streets and sidewalks and in yards. There's also a lot of melted snow running off straight into our sewers and out into our rivers and lakes.

Now is the time to check your yard and curb to make sure that no debris, trash, pet waste, or excessive amounts of rock salt get swept along into your neighborhood storm drain.

Do your part to keep our rivers and lakes clean and sustainable! But don't forget to enjoy the sun while you do it!

Winter Blues

Every year around this time, I start to get a little blue. I know what you're thinking, my dear humans. 'How could Sparkles be blue? He's a dog! He doesn't have to shovel snow and he probably doesn't even notice the shortening days and the lack of sunlight?'. Well, you couldn't be more wrong.

However, that does not mean I'm going to give up and waste the season hibernating like some common wild animal.

When I start to get blue, I try to remember all the beautiful things about winter. I know it sounds uncharacteristically cheesy, but let me remind you:

  • The cold kills bugs. It kills mosquitoes. Mosquitoes love me. I hate mosquitoes.
  • The white color of snow contrasts very well with my dark coat. Not trying to be vain, but I do photograph best in winter environments.
  • Lake and river ice create unique habitats (excuse me while I let my nerd flag fly for a moment) and create economic and recreational opportunities. Hard freezes and long winters have sculpted Wisconsin's ecology for a long time. It's part of our history!
  • There is nothing better than feeling the wind fly through my fur as I gallop through snow drifts.
  • No matter how many winters I have seen in all my dog-years, its always entertaining to watch tiny chihuahuas and tall humans alike slip and slide all over sidewalks for a few months.

Don't forget your training! See you out there!


Sparkles, here. You might notice that I'm missing a bit of my usual snarkiness today. I have learned about the passing of my friend Steve Eichenbaum and the news has made this pup a bit contemplative. Steve inspired us all and touched so many lives with his creative, hilarious, and brilliant ideas. He stuck up for the little guy and encouraged us all to do the right thing. Click here to read more about Steve and to read the full obituary.

It's time for a little yard appreciation!

Sparkles the Water Spaniel, here! Have you thanked your yard today?

If not, be sure to give it a little thought this Fall. Your yard does a lot more than give your home curb appeal. Your yard and garden are the first line of defense for improving the water quality in our lakes and streams. Rainwater that lands on grassy or plant-dense areas (especially rain gardens) filter through the soil before entering the water table or heading into our rivers and beyond. This means fewer chemicals running off and polluting our watershed.

To help your outdoor spaces be the most effective, remember to test your soil before you add pesticides or fertilizer and to consider leaving the rake in the garage this Fall and mulching your leaves instead! Think about it and spread the word. Friends tell friends about how to Respect our Waters!