When I’m on the phone, I usually walk around. I say it’s because I like to keep moving. My wife contends I walk and talk because if I’m not moving or doing something, I’ll fall asleep. But I digress. Anyway, on this particular day, I’m working from home and I’m on the phone with my Dogster colleagues for our midweek staff meeting. We’re discussing a variety of community and technical issues when I happen to find myself at the sliding-glass door of our balcony just as a young woman walks by with her dog (breed unknown).
The dog begins making the usual movements associated with “I have to go and I need to find a spot to do my thing.” The woman stops and patiently waits while her dog does its thing — on the sidewalk! I’m thinking the nearby grass would have been a more logical place for the activity, but maybe the woman thinks it’s easier to pick up from the sidewalk.
Except she doesn’t pick up (see accompanying photographic evidence), choosing instead to continue on her way to something obviously more important, like getting her mail, paying the rent, or checking on the laundry.
The irony of what I have just witnessed is not lost on me. Here I am, an employee of Dogster, in the middle of a staff meeting, discussing ways to make the lives of pets and their owners more enjoyable and rewarding, while witnessing a classic case of an IDP (Irresponsible Dog Person) with the evidence of her irresponsibility literally steaming on the sidewalk.
A few minutes later the woman reappears and I begin to feel a little remorseful. Maybe I was too quick to judgment. She just needed to get one of the pet waste disposal bags from one of the several dispensers spread throughout the apartment complex. “Shame on me,” I’m thinking, “for jumping to conclusions” until the young woman and her dog stroll past the evidence without picking it up. They don’t even break stride.
At the conclusion of our meeting, I went outside and cleaned up the mess. It occurs to me that I had been doing a lot of this over the past couple of years as more and more IDPs began moving into our section of the apartment complex. When we first moved here, there were a lot of dogs in the area, which we loved, particularly my daughter, who is crazy about dogs. Despite our love of dogs, we have made what we feel is a responsible choice regarding pets. We don’t feel we have enough room for a dog and we’ve learned, the hard way, when we lived in a house in Kentucky, that cats that live both inside and outside lead riskier lives. So we moved into our present apartment sans pets and have remained that way for the past four years, unless you count Jackie the Guinea Pig. But I digress again.
For two years we enjoyed the company of several neighbor dogs and their responsible owners, who cared for them and loved them and cleaned up after them! Over the past couple of years, however, the grassy areas around our building have become the repository of prodigious amounts of dog waste.
One neighbor, who thankfully moved away, had two large and very aggressive dogs that they never cleaned up after. The larger of the two dogs was of the growling, snarling, lunging-at-the-end-of-the-leash variety. My daughter, who loves every pup in the complex, big or small, was terrified of this dog. Every resident on our side of the building ended up complaining about the dogs to the neighbor and management. Had we chosen to celebrate them moving, it would have been a well-attended party.
Partly as a consequence of the IDP in the above story, management banned large dog breeds, although the ban hasn’t stopped IDPs from moving in with puppies that grow into huge dogs, or who bring dogs in without telling anyone. This is the part of the article where I’m supposed to quote statistics and interview experts and provide calm analysis of those stats. Guess what? I don’t care about statistics. They don’t mean squat for our situation.
We like where we live. We don’t want to move. Most of our neighbors are quality people, and some have really terrific pets that we enjoy being around. The staff is top-notch and management has taken steps to address the problem, limiting larger breeds (yes, this is unfair to responsible dog owners with large breeds, but with so many problems caused by IDPs with large dogs, can you blame them?), supplying plenty of pet waste disposal stations, and having staff do waste pickup daily. They have not renewed the leases of people who break the rules, but the problem persists.
Our apartment manager, who has decades of experience, says the attitude of “some” pet owners is beyond the pale and that the problem gets worse every year. There are simply more and more people who choose to ignore rules and believe that cleaning up after their dog is someone else’s job.
(For a look at this issue from the “other side,” read Yes, I Pretend to Pick Up My Dog’s Poop on our sister site, xojane.)
Is it just me who believes the rise in IDPs is consistent with an overly indulgent culture that is too lax on personal responsibility? Isn’t there a chapter in The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire covering the dramatic pet waste problem in Rome just prior to Nero setting the city on fire?
Okay, I’m being silly, but to make a point. I will gladly pick up after any dogs. They might have produced the poop, but they are not responsible for where it was deposited or that it wasn’t properly cleaned up. The dogs didn’t ask for IDPs as their humans or choose where they are living.
I clean up after these dogs because I love my neighbors who are responsible and I want them to continue to have the privilege of living in our apartment complex with their fur babies. That being said, where does this stop? Are IDPs winning the war of pet ownership, which is causing bans and restrictions and breed-specific legislation affecting all dog owners?
What’s your experience? Statistics aside, are you seeing a rise of IDPs in your neighborhood? Do you or your kids have to be careful where you step or play? Have you found yourself falling into the role of the “neighborhood watchdog” because some people just aren’t willing to be responsible? Perhaps more importantly, what are you doing to advance the cause of being an RDP — responsible dog person?
Next week I’ll share a story that gives me cause for hope in the battle against IDPs. Until then, post your battlefront stories, because knowledge and shared vision is the core of any successful fight to make a difference.