The Dog-do Incident

You kidding me, you going to write about that?

You kidding me, you going to write about that?

Late getting up today, nearly a sin during summer in Phoenix. Walked with Lexie over the mountain and turned back early since the air was already oven hot and we’d also neglected to bring water!
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?

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3 responses to “The Dog-do Incident

  1. I love this blog. I walk my dog twice a day except in this bloody heat…then only once a day. I carry bags. I use bags. I put them in my trash when I get home….however, many, and I mean many people think their only obligation is to package the poop in a plastic bad and leave it on the sidewalk, trail, or roadside. I have made a study out of one plastic bag of poop on my morning trek, and it has remained untouched and ugly for one year. I would far rather see the beetles, birds, and other creatures harvest the remains which would ultimately disappear….plastic never does…at least in our lifetimes….I vote for the biologist…he is totally right. We forget the power of nature to take care of natural processes. If you walk your dog, clean up after him….meaning pack it our or leave it for natural purposes…Do not leave your plastic bags with a smug smile indicating that you have done your job…you haven’t!
    Great blog, great awareness, great eyeopener.

    • I always feel like the people who have bagged the “do” are planning to pick it up on their way home and then forget. But it does seem to happen rather alot! The sustainablility folks bemoan the Tragedy of the Commons that states that multiple individuals acting independently and rationally consulting their own self interest will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource (trails in this case) even when it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long term interest for this to happen.

  2. I think the guys is a bit crackers…Your come back should have been…we humans also poo but does that means that we should do it in our own yards and be able to deposit rich fertlie soil that we can use to grow our gardens… guess so , if you like don’t mind bouts of diarrhea or worse due to E. coli..Dogs poo are not that much different than humans..they stink and have tons of invisible worms and bacteria.. I am sure irresponsible dog owners would like to use this argument as they are too lazy to pick up their dog’s mess…. it would be nice though , if they train their dogs to poo in their own yards…charity starts at home …lol

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