At the neighborhood dog park the other day, one of the other regulars noticed something about me that made him laugh: “You make a face every time you have to pick up dog poop.”
No way that could be true, I thought. I’ve been a dog owner for eight years. But sure enough, when I next had to pick up after my dog, Pelle, I caught myself involuntarily grimacing. To be honest, I’ve never gotten used to one of the most fundamental and grossest parts of dog walking: poop.
I’m sure I don’t have to describe it to you, the ritual involved in this most tedious of pastimes: Your dog goes to the bathroom. You fish around your pocket or your purse for one of your plastic poop bags. Most of the time, you find one. If you’re on the street, you merely steel yourself, hope it’s not too warm and the bag doesn’t break, and throw the poo in the nearest garbage can. (If you’re in Brooklyn, like I am, you might find the nearest garbage can is several blocks away, which means that you often have to carry a bag of hot poop for many long minutes while running into every attractive opposite-sex acquaintance you have.)
If you’re at the park and your dog scampers off before you can mark where he relieved himself, you get the added bonus of having to find your dog’s waste somewhere inside a few hundred square feet of wet wood chips, dirt, and other, forgotten dog poop. This is a fun test: Do you find the poop by making a mental grid and visually scanning every virtual box until you find your disgusting goal? Can you spot the poop by watching where the flies gravitate? Can you close your eyes and smell your way toward the scent that’s more familiar than you’d ever want to admit? If you can, congratulations. You are accomplished in ways I’m sure you’re never imagined before you owned a dog.
Worse still is when Pelle poops and I’ve run out of bags. In a public place like my neighborhood, this is a bona fide disaster. There’s no hiding. Sometimes I quickly run to a corner bodega, pulling Pelle all the way, to ask for an unused plastic bag. If I’m on a stretch of street with no businesses whatsoever, I can get lucky in one of two ways: A fellow dog owner comes by, notices my distress, and offers me an extra baggie; or I find a plastic bag that used to contain someone’s Chinese food lunch but is now serendipitously empty and lying on the ground. Yes, this is the height of luck, this old, dirty bag.
Here are some things I’ve used when I can’t find a bag and have to rifle through my purse: An especially long grocery store receipt. A pay stub (sorry, meticulous record-keeping). A wedding invitation (sorry, Paul and Cindy). I’ve ripped corners off of cardboard boxes in construction sites.
My friend Caroline confessed that in a similar situation, she cut the top off an old plastic bottle she found with her pocket knife and used it as a scooper, much to the revulsion of some nearby children. All of this is better than just leaving the poop in the street — which is rude and of course carries a large fine — but only marginally better. It can take me several hours to recover from having to carry a turd sandwiched between two torn cardboard box tabs from one neighborhood to the next while searching for a public trash can.
A wuss, you call me? Prissy, princessy, and overreacting? Hey, you don’t have to tell me. There’s nothing I’d like more than to pick up Pelle’s butt presents with the sangfroid I’ve seen in other owners. At least I love the dog and the neighborhood’s dignity enough to overcome it. But I often wonder if some of those other owners have never gotten used to it either and are only better at suppressing their “Oh, gross” face. Have you?
Read more about dog poop on Dogster:
About the author: Lauren Zimmer lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend and dog. She is a children’s and young adult book reviewer and licensed social worker. Her dream is to become an animal-assisted therapist for children, and she hopes to someday own a farm where she can house many more adopted pets.