Trudging back up the far side, I see a man coming and clip the lead on my good dog. The guy is carrying his hat, a floppy brimmed sort. He calls thanks when he sees me put on the leash, and as he comes nearer comments, “Fine beast you have there.” Then, “How’re you this morning?”
Grumpy is how I am. I mutter a greeting and keep walking. He stops though, turns the hat in his hands. “Say, can I talk to you about your dog for a minute?” I pause reluctantly.
“It seems there’s controversy on this hill regarding the dog poop pick up. I left a note back there by a plastic bag. I’m a wildlife biologist and I used to be a park ranger. I’d rather see a pile of poop than a plastic bag on the trail. At least poop is a natural thing.”
I point out that a large number of people with dogs use this trail and that certain areas can really become a mess, with piles everywhere. “It’s not what I like to look at when I’m hiking,” I tell him.
“Oh yes,” he agrees, “The trailheads are the worst. The dogs are all excited and have to poop as soon as they hit the trail. Someone probably needs to come in periodically, a parks employee or a hiker like you, and clean that up.”
A hiker like me? I’ve actually gotten frustrated enough to do mass pick ups. It’s disgusting. “What about all the bacteria from poop left lying around? When it rains all that crap washes down into the storm drains,” I say.
“There are wild animals up here pooping and peeing all day long.” His patronizing smile is super annoying. “Of course in city parks and on sidewalks dog poop needs to be picked up.” He sweeps his arm in an all encompassing gesture. “But out in an area like this poop left on the trail can become food for foxes and coyotes. Try Googling ’coprophagia’. Feces still hold nutrients, you know.”
“I leave notes out here telling people to pick up after their pets,” I say. “I’m very surprised to hear a wildlife biologist advocating the opposite.”
He grins again and says, “Here’s what you do. Carry a bunch of plastic bags in your pocket and people will think you are picking up.”
I set off up the trail. “Have a good one,” I tell him halfheartedly.
“My name’s John,” he calls.
I stop walking and look back. “Do you live around here John?”
“We’re over across Desert Foothills Parkway,” he gestures vaguely. “I think this is the nicest little wildlife area around.”
Lexie and I have gone just a short way up the hill when we find the plastic bag we left earlier, with its poop. Underneath is a note on a page torn from a pocket sized notebook. Scrawled across the sheet are a couple of smiley faces and these words, “Good on You 4 Caring about Our Hill. Dog peeples do a better job. I pick up bottles and cans.”
The guy’s been too long in the sun without wearing his hat, I think. I look back over the conversation, puzzling why he would preach one line after leaving a note saying the opposite. It’s kinda freaky really. People are nuts.
Later, in the middle of morning chores, I realize it was me that was muddled by heat. Before encountering the biologist, we’d passed a woman hiking briskly up the hill. She didn’t slow her pace then, but she must’ve stopped to leave a note when she spotted the plastic bag we’d left. The biologist said he saw a note, not left a note. Things get crazy when it’s so hot.
More importantly, does the ex-ranger’s point of view hold water? Surely not in such a small wild area, surrounded by homes. Most of the dog walkers understand this and it quickly becomes apparent when someone is non-compliant.
But in a truly remote area? I’m discouraged to find wild landscape desecrated by piles of dog-do. What do you think? Is poo only natural? Is it worse to find a plastic bag of the stuff, forgotten and left behind?