(I just finished typing this and realized it's an exceptionally long post. Sorry.)
I don't own a car. I live in a great neighborhood where, frankly, I don't need one. Everything I need -- including public transportation -- is within walking distance. It's a good thing. I walk a lot.
Walking around a lot means that I become somewhat aware of the sidewalk around me.
This is where I start to get disgusting. If you're drinking hot cocoa, or eating something chocolate-y, you may want to read this some other time.
A few months ago, I noticed something disturbing as I walked from my apartment to meet a friend of mine for dinner. On the sidewalk not 20 yards from the front door of my apartment was -- how to put this delicately -- several piles of shit. (Oops. That was not delicate.) They weren't terribly large piles of shit, but let's just say that they were clearly left by something larger than a toy poodle.
Now I have had very limited experience with walking dogs. The most experience I have comes from one time when my friend Jen asked me to dog-sit while she went away for the Fourth of July weekend. It was a great excuse to crash a cool pad and hang with the dogs for a while -- plus, I got to invite friends over for a Fourth party -- so I wanted to do it. While picking up dog poop is not fun, it's a necessary unpleasantry.
But the part of what I learned that's relevant to this blog entry is that when dogs feel they have to go, they go. They dig in, and it's at this point that a 20-pound dog can generate enough strength that tying its leash to a truck wouldn't get him to budge. (I learned this because Jen's dog was ready to go, and I wanted to lead him to a grassy patch rather than the sidewalk itself. He would have none of that, and I ended up just letting him go on the sidewalk.)
So, it is with that background information that I submit that whatever dog succeeded in leaving multiple piles along my sidewalk either (a) had an intestinal problem that desperately needed attention, or (b) was being rather cruelly dragged along as he tried to do his business.
Of course, it also goes without saying that someone should have been picking up this stuff too.
The first time I saw it, I was really grossed out. (Think about that sentence. "The first time I saw it." How wrong is that? There shouldn't be a "second" or "third" time. But alas, there was.) I mean, really, these piles remained for days. I think someone finally cleaned it off, rather than allow the forces of nature to slowly remove the offending mounds in its own due course.
But it resurfaced about a week later, in a different stretch of the street, in a similar pattern: several piles spaced out over about half the block. This time I kinda felt bad for the dog. I know I like to take my time when I'm in the bathroom; I can't imagine this poor dog being dragged along while he's trying to let go of some extra baggage.
But at the same time, of course, I was growing increasingly annoyed at my neighbor, who clearly had no intentions of cleaning up after his dog. Twice now, he had allowed his dog to mess in people's walkways without picking it up. There's a problem here. These things carry diseases and stuff! (At least, that's what it says on those "Please curb your dog" signs.)
So I decided I should start trying to be proactive about it. I started hatching a plan about what I would do to catch this cunning dogowner. I considered calling the police, but I think that the MPD has better things to do than monitor my neighborhood for a serial dog-poop-violator. I thought that I could set up a video camera stealth mission; I discarded that suggestion once I realized that there would be little consistency to where the dog did his thing. I even thought maybe I could take a set of toothpicks, attach nasty notes to them, then stick them into the offending mounds of poop as a signal to the asshole who was leaving them around my neighborhood. But then I decided "ew" and got rid of that idea.
I found myself without reasonable options at this point, so I figured I'd just keep my eyes peeled. Like some junior Hardy Boy, I decided I would note every time I saw a dog being walked in the neighborhood, following them if I had to, just to ensure that they were being properly cleaned up after. I even started carrying plastic bags around with me, so that I could offer one to the offending dogowner if he or she tried to give me some
shit crap stupid line about having run out of bags or something.
I was not prepared for what I actually did find out about my mysterious dog-offender.
As I was on my way to do some grocery shopping one brisk evening, I saw a dog ahead of me, and it all came together. The dog ahead of me was a guide dog. His owner was blind. The mystery of the dog poop had been solved all in one sudden blinding flash of realization. I felt like a cast member of one of those CSI shows. My superior powers of observation and logic had put it all together in one bold stroke.
That and the fact that the dog confirmed that he was the doggy-doo culprit right in front of me, as I watched, horrified into speechlessness.
Yes, as I watched, right in front of me, the dog, saddled with his "DOG AT WORK" harness, attempted to go into squat mode. And yes, its owner basically kept right on walking. Poor Doggie pinched whatever loaf he could, then took a few steps -- half-squatted, mind you! -- as his owner trudged along, only to pinch off more when he could. At this point, yes, I truly felt awful for the poor dog.
(Friends to whom I have told this story raise a good point: Why is a blind man pulling his dog along when the dog stops? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of a guide dog if you're not going to stop when it stops? What if the dog is stopping because you're at an intersection and you don't have the light? Unfortunately, I do not have the answer to this question.)
As awful as I felt for poor Poochie, I didn't know what to say to the blind man. There's that strange delicate line you draw between saying what you have to say, and offending someone, especially when it relates to someone with a disability. I mean, depending on how you approach it, you could come across as rude, insensitive, condescending, or ignorant. You could also cause extreme embarassment. So I said nothing. But I now knew the source of doggy doo problem in my neighborhood.
Undaunted, however, I swore that if I ever saw that again, I would speak up. But I would be prepared for that showdown. For guidance, I called a seeing-eye dog training company for assistance on how to -- politely -- approach a blind man who doesn't realize that his dog is taking a dump over the course of several yards. I also wanted some background. I learned that, indeed, dogs aren't supposed to be taking dumps when they're wearing their harness. Also, dogs must be given "free" or "off
duty work" time when they can answer the call of nature freely. I'm not sure this poor pooch was being given that time. I was advised as to a polite way to tell the man, so off I went, waiting to see this man again so I could now politely tell him of his problem -- or, to the point, his dog's problem.
Alas, I never saw the man again, so I was unable to use my newfound information.
But thankfully, I also have not seen the distinctive Trail of Shit in my neighborhood either. I can only presume that someone with more presence of mind than I finally told this guy about his dog's problem.
Either that or the guy's taking different routes, so I don't see the tracks as often.
EPILOGUE: I believe I saw this man and his dog the other day. I saw them coming out of the church around the corner from my apartment. Thankfully, Poochie did not have to take a dump. However, he did frequently try to divert the man from the straight path along the sidewalk, veering toward various planters placed on the street. He stopped for no reason on many occasions, even though there were no people around us nor was there any imminent danger to either of them. I'm not sure if Poochie was just curious about the local flora, which would make him an exceptionally poorly trained guide dog, or if he wanted to mark his territory, which would also make him an exceptionally poorly trained guide dog. Of maybe he just needed to empty his bladder, in which case we return to the original problem with the owner, not the dog.
At least now I know where I can find the guy, or at least talk to someone who might know him.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
(I just finished typing this and realized it's an exceptionally long post. Sorry.)