Tag Archives: poop

Poodle problems

My dog looks young and perky. She is still lean and bouncy. However she is 14, deaf, and foolish.

Once upon a time I could let her out in the back yard when we woke up in the morning and she would do her business and come back inside.  My yard covers a third of an acre, which seemed to satisfy her need for exploration. She stayed within its bounds, even though it’s only partially fenced.

Lately she’s taken to wandering. Bored after years of the same damn dogfood every day, perhaps she seeks some hapless workman’s lunch? Bored after years of the same damn yard, perhaps she seeks new vistas? Bored after years of the same damn owner, perhaps she seeks fresh love?

Today she went too far.  Dangerously too far – like all the way to the main drag a couple of blocks away, where she was trotting up the middle of the road.  A neighbor chased her home and rang my doorbell at 7 a.m. with Molly in tow.

Whatever her reasons, I have to put a stop to it.  Legally speaking, we have a leash law and she’s not on one during these early morning meanders. But mainly she needs to be protected from cars, and cars need to be protected from her. She doesn’t hear warning honks so she just muddles merrily along.

I’m beginning to see the writing on the wall. Either I stagger out with her at dawn (in the dark…and in the winter in the rain) or I get a long lead and tie her up in the back yard while I come to consciousness.  (I could just stand there with her but it often takes her up to ten minutes to find the perfect poop place – you could say she’s a picky pooper and as I’ve said, patience is not my strong suit.)

One of the challenges of owning a dog…

Piles of Poop

Until recently I thought little about what happens when my dog poops. We live outside the city so when she poops by a pasture I let it sit there. What’s one little pile o’ poop in the grand natural scheme?

Then I did the math. If my dog’s daily pile is multiplied by the daily piles generated by the 72 million other dogs in America (= 274 pounds per pooch annually) that’s 19.7 BILLION steaming pounds of poop a year.

If we don’t scoop, it gets into our streams, ponds and rivers, causing sickening levels of fecal coliform bacteria, feeding weeds and algae that choke the waterways and deprive the water of oxygen.

Dog poop carries a variety of other pathogens and parasites that can live on in our lawns for years and infect children who play there and adults who cultivate it. And these pathogens and parasites won’t die in your compost pile.

So now I’m a believer – I scoop.

For now I collect it in the plastic bag my newspaper comes in, then flush it down the toilet where it will be joined at a treatment plant with I hate to think how much people poop. (Cat poop and disposable diapers are a topic for another day…)

But whether or not you’ve got a pooping pet, there’s a much larger lesson here.

We think of ourselves as single players whose actions and inactions are just drops in the national, global or universal bucket. Until we do the multiplication we are unaware of how our individual acts add up.

Even then, we don’t want to conserve at our end if everyone else isn’t also doing their part… why should we suffer alone?

Garrett Hardin wrote a famous essay for the journal Science back in 1968 called the “Tragedy of the Commons” to describe this phenomenon.

The commons is a resource shared by a group or society – like rivers, oceans, the atmosphere, fish stocks, the national parks. In Britain, shepherds often shared local pastureland, which is the example Hardin used. Each shepherd wants to get the most out of this shared resource so he will add sheep if he has the means to do so. Each herder notes that the other herders are adding sheep, so why shouldn’t he? But with each sheep added, the quality of the pasture for all is reduced. No ONE takes responsibility. Ultimately, this leads to overgrazing and the degradation of the resource.

It’s time for each of us to do our part. Our children’s future depends on it.