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Barking Up the Right Tree: A Doggone Good Time!

By Matthew Van Donsel, Community Engagement Manager

October 13, 2017

It was a sunny summer morning in mid-July. As I rubbed the evening’s sleep from my eyes and poured boiling water into my French press, I fired up my computer to see what was going on in the world. Checking my email, I found a message from the Sacramento SPCA. They were well underway with a transformational project – turning their “back 40” into a Doggie Oasis – but they needed more help filling the space with trees and shrubs. “Nice,” I thought, “It’s no secret that a vibrant, robust tree canopy is crucial to the physical and emotional well-being of dogs and people. This seems like a worthwhile undertaking.”

Being a huge fan of pups, I knew that Sac Tree needed to be involved with the project. I decided that I’d reach out to the SSPCA as soon as I got into the office. After finishing a few emails, I logged on to Facebook. “Ten notifications?” That’s odd. It turns out that many community members had the same idea. “Can’t Sac Tree help by providing the trees needed for the Doggie Oasis?” they asked.

Within the week, Community Forester Kuldeep Singh and I had a meeting with Linda Back and Linda Salle of the SSPCA to learn more. On any given day, the SSPCA has well over 100 dogs in their shelter and every one of them gets walked in the “Back 40” area. For years, their volunteers and dogs have braved the unrelenting heat during the summer and the flooded walkways during the winter. Thanks to a couple of generous donors, new pathways with decomposed granite, irrigation, and fencing were installed. Now the space really needed drought-tolerant trees and shrubs that will grow shade, making it a beautiful, natural landscape.

Kuldeep, a tree-siting extraordinaire, quickly created a plan for planting 36 trees, which included ensuring species diversity and that the right tree gets planted in the right place for the right reasons. Unfortunately, the SSPCA’s project didn’t really fit into our Community Shade program's requirements since the area being transformed wouldn’t regularly be open to the public. Enter our friends from SMUD. Understanding the important role that the SSPCA plays in our community and always willing to grow Sacramento’s urban forest, SMUD enthusiastically agreed to sponsor the trees.

With a site plan approved and the date scheduled, it was time to recruit people to help with the planting. Honestly, this was the easy part. Volunteers from the SSPCA and Sac Tree as well as a handful of employees from SMUD jumped at the chance to plant for the pups! 59 folks joined us bright and early on Saturday, October 7th eager to get to work.

After a morning snack and a brief opening introduction, the stage was set. Volunteers spread across the lot planting and mulching their hearts out, giving their all to make sure that the new trees were set up for success. SSPCA's CEO, Kenn Altine, was a Master of the Mulch, filling wheelbarrows non-stop for the entirety of the event. Our volunteers were having a hard time keeping up!

Thanks to the awesome work of everybody involved, all the trees were planted, mulched, and watered an hour earlier than planned! We were tired from all of the work, yet filled with pride knowing that we had a hand in building a pawsh doggie oasis for the pups at the SSPCA to enjoy as they await their forever-homes.

Special thanks to SMUD, the staff of the Sacramento SPCA, and the Growing Company for contributing. We had a doggone good time planting trees with you and we’re looking forward to a joint pruning workshop/dog care class in the future!