OPW, poetry

OPW: “Snow, Aldo”

Since it’s been warm outside recently (at least where I live), what better time is there for a poem about snow? This fun little poem, “Snow, Aldo,” is by Kate DeCamillo.

Once, I was in New York,
in Central Park, and I saw
an old man in a black overcoat walking
a black dog. This was springtime
and the trees were still
bare and the sky was
gray and low and it began, suddenly,
to snow:
big fat flakes
that twirled and landed on the
black of the man’s overcoat and
the black dog’s fur. The dog
lifted his face and stared
up at the sky. The man looked
up, too. “Snow, Aldo,” he said to the dog,
“snow.” And he laughed.
The dog looked
at him and wagged his tail.

If I was in charge of making
snow globes, this is what I would put inside:
the old man in the black overcoat,
the black dog,
two friends with their faces turned up to the sky
as if they were receiving a blessing,
as if they were being blessed together
by something
as simple as snow
in March.

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.)

personal, ruminations

The Lives of Dogs

I will admit it: I am not the world’s best dog owner. In an average week, Lucky probably goes on no more than four walks. Surely this record isn’t atrocious enough to merit calling the local humane society, but it’s not too good either.

And I get the impression from Lucky that it’s abysmal. When it’s been more than 24 hours, he starts to follow me around, getting in my way and generally doing all he can to make sure I notice him. When I walk around the house, he runs ahead of me rather than ambling after me.

Generally, Lucky’s a pretty mellow dog. He doesn’t hate lying around on his giant pillow. But when he knows he’s going for a walk, he is probably the single most excitable dog on earth. I’ve never considered this more than a funny problem, after all, Lucky doesn’t weight much more than 20 pounds fully grown.

Where a bigger dog could pull you down the street with his excitement, Lucky is only able to make it clear that he’d like to go a little faster, or that he’d like a little more time to investigate this smell. If I disagree with his request, we still do what I want.

But it’s his excitement about getting a walk that sometimes makes me wonder. After all, the only other high point in the day of an average dog is when he gets fed. I would guess that he enjoys it when people pet him, but I’ve never been able to shake the possibility that he allows that out some feeling of obligation.

Some would argue that he must enjoy it, after all, he often takes the opportunity to show his appreciation by licking any accessible human flesh. But I can’t shake the feeling that he just likes the taste. Maybe that’s why he lets me pet him, so he can lick my arm or face as I do it.

I find it moderately disturbing, this dependence. The dog’s whole life depends on me. He has few joys that I don’t bring him, few disappointments that I don’t cause–usually by accidentally saying the world “walk” when I don’t mean it.

This dependence is even stranger in its reflection not on the dogs, but on dog owners. After all, we owners of animals chose to get them, from the Humane Society or the pet store; these animals make no choice of us.

So what is it? Why do we own dogs? Have cats? I can’t avoid the feeling that we like to be depended upon. After all, even when no one seems to care where you are, your pet has to. His or her existence depends upon yours. And the contingent nature of his existence helps to make your life more important.

I suppose this is why we fear the “cat lady,” why we fear becoming her. She has to reassure herself of her worth because no other human would. No one called to check up on her. Wondered where she had gone.

Or maybe she just likes cats. Maybe I just like my dog.