Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Dog Poop

If you told a person who was looking to get a dog that for the next 12 to 16 years they would be picking up feces one to four times daily, most people would not get one. Most children are potty trained by three. That means that by the time your child is in high school you will still be bending over with a plastic shopping bag to pick up your dog’s poop. Even with a conservative estimate of two doggie bowel movements per day you are looking at bending at the waist to pick up dog waste around 8700 times over the course of the next decade or so. Too bad the dog was not a goose and those 8700 canine bowel movements weren’t golden eggs. As it stands the stuff is not even recyclable by weight, even by this measurement a dog owner might break even over the costs incurred during the animal’s lifetime.

No matter how you look at the task it is not a very welcome idea. The thought of a massive pile of dog excreta warming your hands through a thin plastic shopping bag on a cold winter day as you watch the steam rise from the hot overflowing mass in the early morning sunlight is not as welcoming per-se as, say a good steaming cup of coffee.

It is a disgusting thought knowing that a part of dog ownership is about feces. Dog owners are not preoccupied with the fact, but is does actually occupy a position of notable importance in their relationships.

Most dog owners are keen to changes in their dog’s excreta. Changes in consistency, color and smell are important seeing as it can be a direct indication of the dog’s immediate well being. Many a dog owner has spent their evenings over a stove, cooking rice and turkey meat so their dog can recover from diarrhea. Others can find items that were once thought as missing such as crayons, chalk, plastic and a host of other interesting things that make their way around the second time.

If the stomach pumping imagery of a pile of soupy dog feces creates in your mind is not vile enough, smell adds an incredibly wondrous dimension to it. Depending on the diet of the dog, the waste can be repugnant and rank, full bodied with a hint of meaty effervescence.

Tales form the Dung Zone - The Four Horrors
You see a person coming towards you as you travel with bag in hand down the street. Despite a slick effort to hide the treasure in your bag from view, you still manage to offend as its contents waft invisibly and penetrate the nostrils of passersby who wince at the rankness as if exposed to a smelling salt.

You wrap your hands around a wet gigantor of a dog log only to discover that there are multiple holes in the bag. You must now walk home or to the car with your hand coated in poop juice. Despite the distance whether short or long this quite possibly is the longest walk of your life.

You are mortified to discover that you left your house without any dog bags as your dog is squatting on the sidewalk in front of a high-class eatery with many onlookers.

You come home after work to discover that your dog has giardiasis after you slip and fall in one of the 27 puddles of dog diarrhea that are on the walls, furniture and floors.

Let he who has not sinned throw the first pile
On high average, dog owners are responsible, caring people. They care about their neighborhoods, the areas that they travel with their pets, and just as importantly, how they are perceived buy the non-dog owning public.

Dog scat is a major point of contention amongst non-dog owners and the dog-phobics in general. It seems as if, in their minds, dogs should not relieve themselves in public.

It is this general consensus that has manifested into some of the strongest anti-dog legislature on the books in California. In the city of Santa Monica for example you can be cited for walking your dog if your dog bags are not openly visible. Even if you had several thousand bags stuffed on various places on your body and you looked like Bibendum, the Michelin Man, you would still be imposed a fine of no less than $50 for not having 1 plastic baggie visibly flapping in the wind.

The deed itself carries a deep social stigma in the public eye, even if a dog owner follows the rules of good courtesy and the city laws. The dog is not allowed to go on a lawn if the owner is watching. God forbid that a dog were to crap on a lawn even if the dog owner picks it up. A dog owner can have a bag in hand and appear to be as vigilant as a Yankee catcher on a pop foul ball in the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series. Even then, it is a losing situation. As the dog is relieving himself, the owner will bolt come out of his doorway screaming as if someone were about to set fire to his house.
Another obstacle is where to discard the indiscretion. Despite litter laws and high fines, public trash cans are hard to come by. In most parks trashcans are placed close to the picnic tables. If the picnic table is being used a look of horror can be seen on the picnicers faces as a dog owner approaches the can with a plastic baggie of odiferous brown mushy waste.

Even in residential areas, owners find it difficult to find a place to discard the refuse. You would think that on trash day, when the street is filled with cans that have been emptied earlier that morning, it would be easy to toss out your treasure. But this is not so. If you attempt to throw away rovers gift in one of them you’ll have to make sure that the owner is not around. If they are out picking up the morning paper or getting into their car for their morning commute, you’ll often hear a very adamant, “Not in my trash can, take that someplace else.”

One dog’s pile is another man’s poison
It is an amazing thought to see that dogs and their owners in this society are ostracized despite their earnest efforts to clean up after their dogs and keep their neighborhoods clean. Your dog defecating outside is equal to smoking in public, even though the scientific community has never proven that cancer can be caused through breathing second hand dog poop.

Because we consider ourselves a modern society we have managed to separate ourselves from the natural world. Our transportation has evolved from animal to soulless machine whose insidious invisible waste ruins our lives and quite possibly our future. As we “evolve” we try to distance ourselves from nature. The dog is perhaps one of the last connections that we have with nature and our primitive past. Now that we can start fire without flint, have food without hunting, and try to distance ourselves from the cave are we trying to separate from one of the best symbiotic relationships in our existence? Dog owners realize that the fleas come with the dog, and so does his dung.


Mr. Middlebrow said...

Great post. The last 'graph sums it up perfectly.

I must confess, though that, as I was reading, I couldn't help remembering those laminated placemats at Kabuki, the ones that translated Japanese sushi names into English: Mirugai = "Giant Steamer."

After nine years picking up after a 90-lb. Lab--it hardly fazes me anymore. Especially now that there's a baby in the house. Pregnancy, birth and infancy have a way of completely recalibrating your attitude toward all bodily functions.

That said, I'd rather pick up after a dog for a decade than change cat-litter box once. Eck. I guess the real measure of one's cat- or dog-person-ness is which form of dookie one finds less repellent.

One nice thing about the apartments where we live now: DogsPot stations. Basically, trash cans mounted on poles with a baggie dispenser. Baggies with nice strong seams--and no holes--btw.

As part of our nightly routine, Gordo and I play a kind of golf--I try to see how close to the pin I can get him to go. He's usually about a par-2.

Ed said...

So if you hate cat poop your nightmare would be having a slice of this: