Composting with Critters

If you read my posts on composting, you might think: “So, you have a big pile of food in your backyard, and a smaller pile of dog shit?” Yes, I do. I have seen some passerby look at it, too. But I don’t care. Call the city. I would fight them on this. I would even throw food in my yard right in front of you, if it came to it. Also, the piles are separate. There are so many good reasons to compost, but I don’t get paid to do research, so I won’t list them here.

The dog shit pile is getting much smaller because we only have one dog now. This dog, our thirteen-year-old Westie, is a crazy dog, and I wouldn’t recommend the breed to first-time dog owners.

He barks incessantly, especially if we aren’t following the “rules” of the house. It’s my house, but my mom lives here and so, in the mind of her faithful companion, her rules are to govern. (He WILL bite you for horseplay, even me, his favorite).

He, his name is Joey, disappears occasionally, to be found on the front doorstep. “What a good boy!” we exclaim. We praise his achievement, only to find later that he was gone for hours. Much later we find that he was playing at a local football practice, wandering around the vet’s office, or (about two years ago) impregnating the female dog of a neighbor. We had a good laugh with Roger (the neighbor) and good homes were found for the puppies.

Joey also has a problem with…overeating and throwing up? I don’t think it’s bloat related (something that I have researched, and that you can find here on the AKC website) because he has done it throughout his life and survives. We always fed our dogs separately, as a way to combat this, but he continues to do it. We joke that he is bulimic, but it’s really not funny (for either species). Well, since I started the pile of food in the backyard, Joey has had a problem.

Joey won’t stay out of that damn, rotting food. I don’t care what it is, he’s out there in it. He, like most dogs, stays away from the dog poop, but he just can’t help himself with the leftovers and has had several tummy aches over the last few years. It really worries us, as it probably should. I rub Joey’s stomach, pat his back, and try to get him to burp before he vomits. This has helped in the past, but doesn’t always.

Also, I noticed a small skunk rounding the corner of our shed the other night. Joey and I were on the screened porch, the door locked. Joey didn’t see it, so there was no problem. I love skunks and leave them to their own devices. Joey loves them too, but they’re not allowed to fraternize.

My point is this: dogs and compost don’t mix. In addition, expect other animals around the pile. The birds love compost, as well as chipmunks, squirrels, skunks apparently, and who knows what else? I suspect a coyote has come around once or twice and I don’t even want to mess with the raccoons. I need an inventive solution and I suspect some chicken wire will do the trick. I don’t want to keep the birds from their feast, however. The raccoons will probably be able to tear down whatever I devise, and the coyotes can just stay away. My main priority is Joey, who is aging and eats just fine inside.

Watch your dogs around piles of rotting food. They shouldn’t eat it for the same reasons we shouldn’t. And fights around the pile aren’t safe either (I didn’t even talk about wild cats, one of which injured Joey’s eye a couple years ago). Dogs are pretty tough, but if you do suspect something off-limits has been eaten, take a list (mental or physical) of recent compost items to the vet with you. Check out the information from the AKC website about bloat, a serious condition that I have never witnessed but have often heard stories. Watch for bloat in all of your bigger dogs, as the AKC article states, and in dogs that tend to eat quickly. Please don’t allow your dogs to eat items that are not compostable: such as plastic bags, candy wrappers, other trash that ends up in the pile, or anything containing residues of chemicals or poison.

IMPORTANT: COOKED BONES DO NOT GO IN THE COMPOST PILE. Cooked bones can shatter within the body of the animal that ate them. Please dispose of these in the garbage. Other than supervising your dog around unsuitable food waste, composting with dogs and other animals around should go off without a hitch.