Americans love our dogs, but their poo? It's the cause of neighborhood fights, city ordinances and health issues. A veteran dog owner writes about her own clean-up conversion.
- story by Denise Jacobs
Editor's note: for artwork with this story, we've included some of the more humorous pick-up reminder signs we found during an Internet search.
A 2006 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that owners pick-up after their dogs slightly more than 60 percent of the time. But this study is based on self-reporting and you know about the human tendency to exaggerate.
Why don’t some people pick up after their dog?
Bags - people forget to carry poo bags; some people can’t see at night; some people don’t like to carry around a bag of poo; some of us can’t bend down easily.
Some of us mistakenly think that excrement breaks down quickly and is absorbed by the earth; and for some of us - runners in particular - it’s a matter of stopping (or not stopping).
Regardless, the people at Cuteness.com say, no matter what the reason, “the poop must be scooped.” In fact, a little internet research reveals a work-around for all the issues listed above, including the obvious (like bag dispensers that attach to a dog’s leash and flashlights, for example).
My friend David thinks people who don’t pick up after their dogs deserve to step in dog poop as a kind of karmic justice. I remind David that he once sat in a pile of dog poo at my mother’s farm long before he even owned a dog. Karma had little to do with David’s plop down on the grass, without so much as a look around.
It was more a consequence of country living. Back in the day, if you owned 350 acres and raised cattle, you weren’t inclined to pick up after your dog. Truth be told, David should be happy it was dog doo and not a cow pie.
A colleague once complained to me about the many dog owners who failed to pick up after their dogs and the subsequent stinky piles deposited on her well-cared-for lawn.
I casually remarked that I was among the guilty. While I did not live in my colleague’s neighborhood, I did not pick up after the 62-pound pit/chow I inherited post-Katrina.
By the way, according to the Pet Poo Skiddoo Dog Waste Calculator, at 62 pounds, my dog had the potential to produce a hefty 424.31 pounds of poop a year. The bigger the animal, the more prodigious the output.
Based on my colleague’s horrified reaction, an explanation seemed in order. I said, “You must understand that dogs are forever pooping on my lawn, too, and their owners don’t pick up after them.”
I wanted my colleague to understand that I was a victim of sorts. I, too, had been shat upon. I wanted her to see the logic in my argument, even the karma of my actions, if you will.
Alas, it was not to be. My highly-rational colleague countered my faulty logic by practically blurting out her response: “But, Denise! They’re not my dogs! I don’t even own a dog!”
Ah! Logic. And thus began my awakening.
Now, all these years later — another city, another dog — I really wish dog owners would pick up after their pets. When they don’t, all dog owners get a bad rap. Mothers whose children have run barefoot through dog doo scream at us indiscriminately. We get chased out of parks. People at outside cafés cast suspicious looks our way.
But this is all secondary to the real issue of dog waste, which supersedes stigma and stench and has more to do with health and sanitation. Dog waste carries the potential for disease.
Foster and Smith, a vet-owned pet care company, lists five important reasons to clean up after your dog, and chief among them is disease control. A quick Google search of companies specializing in the removal of dog waste (Doody Calls or Dr. Dog Poop, for example) reveals that pet waste is an environmental pollutant. Dog feces can carry a host of bacteria and parasites, including whipworms, hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, and giardiasis.
And did you know that simply walking in a fecal-contaminated yard with shoes on and then wearing those shoes into your house has the potential to create infection in humans?
If that isn’t enough, be aware that many cities have pooper-scooper laws in place. In Bay St. Louis, for example, neighborhood signs indicate a hefty fine associated with failure to pick up after Fido.
Remember, picking up after your dog is not about the weather; dog doo has a longer shelf life than you might expect, rain or not. It isn’t about karma, which sometimes flies in the face of logic, at least as we mortals understand it. And it’s not about whether anyone can see us.
Remember the John Wooden quote? “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”
It isn’t even about the fines! It is about responsible dog ownership and doing the right thing, not 60 percent of the time, but all the time.
Note to self: just do it!