In Spring several years ago, we adopted a big black dog. He was a Belgian Shepherd mix about six months old with pointy ears and a pointy nose, the largest dog my husband and I had ever owned. I’m 5’6” and he came up to my mid-thigh. Since all of our dogs have had or have names that start with vowels, Arrow, Iris, Olive, we named him Ezekiel. With a brassy bark and sharp brown eyes, he looked more like a Zeke so we started calling him Zeke.
Zeke liked to roam the perimeter of our yard, woofing at crows that flew overhead, chasing squirrels that ran up trees. He also liked to bark at our neighbors behind the fence as they got out of their car. Inside, he followed me everywhere, convinced I needed guarding. It was how he earned his second nickname, “The Sheriff.” And on nights when his body dissolved into the darkness of the front yard, I’d call for him, saying, “Are you Shadow, the Direwolf?”
A Pet Den of Smells
In our bedroom, Olive slept on her bed beside me, our cat Maddie between our pillows, and Zeke in the corner near my husband. (Our other cat, Aleksy, likes to sleep with my daughter.) Unlike Olive, Zeke didn’t snore like a buzzsaw or whimper like Maddie. He just plunked into sleep every night, breathing deeply and solidly, probably relieved to have found a “forever home” after being returned to the shelter more than once.
A few weeks into our slumber ritual, I noticed a trend. With warm spring nights and three pets and two humans breathing in the same room for eight hours, the room stunk in the morning. Like dog. Strong dog. Oftentimes, like wet dog. I’d wake up to damp air and animal musk smells. It was not fun. I considered buying an air cleaner but I wasn’t sure it could truly help me. An air cleaner pulls particles out of the air like dust. I wasn’t sure it could process scents. Then it hit me: a plant could clean this musky indoor air.
Plants, Nature’s Purifier
I had always grown houseplants but I’d never put any in our bedroom. Aleksy liked to chew on the stems in the early hours. So, I bought some metal screening. With tin snips, I made a circular fortress to keep the cat out. Afterward, I was unsure which plant to choose. I already owned several to clean indoor air: devil’s ivy, dracaena, snake plant, ferns, etc. I wanted something I hadn’t grown before.
A few days later, as I was roaming through a local nursery, I found a lush plant of dark green leaves. Its wands of white flowers faintly resembled calla lilies. The blooms held a tall oval bract around a spadix. It was a Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum). I bought it and a new ceramic container and potted it up. Peace Lilies like shady conditions so in the bedroom I set it atop my husband’s dresser, about four feet from the window. I watered it and set the metal fortress around the pot, hoping it could clear the air in a few weeks.
Well, it didn’t take a few weeks, it took all of three days. It worked its magic at night until one morning, I woke up and inhaled neutral clean air. I thought, “Gosh, it doesn’t smell in here. Why?” The plant had taken in the foul air through the miniscule holes in its leaves and had exhaled fresh oxygen. I’d solved the dog musk issue.
Peace Lily Profile
Peace Lilies are ideal houseplants because they take low light and aren’t fussy about soil. When happy, they bloom for six or more months. They like watering and require a drink twice a week. Big rooms need more than one plant. Their air-cleaning talents only cover about a six-foot square space. But tucked among other houseplants of various textures and sizes, they can be part of a peaceful green sanctuary. Then at night, with or without a big black dog, one can sleep well and breathe easy.
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