personal, ruminations

On Dog Poop, Again

memespringDog Poop in Water

About seven months ago–wow, has it really been that long?–I instructed:

So next time you’re walking your dog, and someone asks you if you’re going to pick that up, do the right thing. Say yes and walk away. Leave the excrement where it falls.

And even when I wrote that, I wasn’t nearly so certain as it sounds. I expect I was mostly just excusing the fact that I didn’t pick up dog poop at the time.

Soon after that I had a change of heart. Though it would be useful to have a nice transformational moment when I realized how foolish my old logic had been–how I accidentally stumbled into a large pile of dog feces while walking in shiny new shoes–there is not one.

The simple reality is that at the time I was proudly declaring that one shouldn’t pick up dog poop, I was really just scared of the stuff. And reasonably so. Excrement of all kinds carries more bacteria than just about anything else we regularly encounter. And it’s certainly the most unsafe thing our bodies–and dog’s bodies–regularly expel.

But, I realized one day, it’s safer for everyone if I pick that stuff up with a layer of plastic between me and it, and then wash my hand before it goes anywhere near my mouth. It’s safer there than on a third grader’s shoe. Or a 67 year old’s. Safer too than having a mistaken toddler play with it. Safer than it having it leach into the water supply–an odd claim I’d never heard until I saw the above picture.

I still have reservations about the whole thing. Mostly it’s this: I’m sealing biodegradable waste inside a painfully-slow-to-erode plastic bag, where it will take up landfill space for hundreds of years. Now the plastic bag may have well ended up in the landfill anyway, but the poop could be, as I suggested last time, reasonably good fertilizer.

Were there to be a reason to leave those feces where they fall, that would certainly be it. But forced to choose, as a dog-walker regularly is, between leaving it and sealing it, I’ll now choose sealing nine times out of ten. (And that tenth time is probably hidden in high grass where it’s rather unlikely that anyone will walk within the next three months.)


On Dog Poop

I have a dog. His name is Lucky and he’s the size that strangers consistently say “what a cute puppy” when they see him. He’s at least seven people-years old. That’s 49 in dog years. To the extent that he understands the strangers, he doesn’t seem to care.

You may be thinking that this is the story of how that charming dog came to live with me. This is not that story. This is instead the story of dog poop.

I am, in this area, incredibly inconsiderate. Just ask anyone who’s walking through the park when they see a dog arch it’s back in that certain way that makes it clear that they couldn’t really be doing anything else but what they are. And then they’ll yell, “I hope you’re going to pick that up!”

To which I give the only reasonable response, nothing. And as they walk away, I do too. Without a bag of warm excrement in my hand.

I realize that leaving my dog’s turds in public is not appropriate. But sometimes I just can’t stoop down to pick it up. Especially when it looks like Lucky had a little too much to drink last night. Or especially when someone reminds me of my ‘responsibility.’

It’s not that I never pick up the dog poop. If the conditions are right, and a bag is close at hand, I’ll do it. But even then I can’t escape the feeling that it’s a rather silly thing to do.

There a number of reasons that picking up dog poop is absurd. For one, horses, whose poop is much larger and much more solid, are allowed to leave turds wherever they want. Their owners seem to feel no need to clean it up, even if it was lain in the middle of a perfectly good hiking or biking trail.

Further, dogs are, to my knowledge, the only animals that poop outside that we are required to clean up after. Surely inside-pooping cats get their poop cleaned up, as do gerbils, rabbits, and guinea pigs, but this is because they’re pooping in our homes.

The where and how of dog poop is much more like the where and how of squirrel or wild/feral rabbit poop. And it’s not as if dog poop is a danger to the environment. All they eat is grain and some rare meat proteins, nothing terribly foreign or worrisome. In fact, it probably makes pretty good fertilizer for all the foreign substances (like grass) that we plant everywhere.

So next time you’re walking your dog, and someone asks you if you’re going to pick that up, do the right thing. Say yes and walk away. Leave the excrement where it falls.