Saturday, September 02, 2006

Doggy Dookie

Dogs shit. That's one of the reasons I don't have a dog. We had dogs when I was a kid, a goose, too. They crapped all over the place. I didn't care too much for cleaning up the dog turds. I cleaned up a lot of dog poop as a kid. My parents insisted it was 'one of the responsibilities of having a pet.'



My little brother and I with our first dogs, Omar and Khayyam. 1956



Later in life, when I was a very young adult, I lived with 11 other so-called adults of various ages ... and 17 dogs. We all lived a large lovely rented home with a swimming pool on Santa Cruz Avenue near Stanford University. I didn't own a dog, but several of my roommate had more than one, ranging in size from little Lucifer, a tiny wire-haired pound refugee, to two giant grey wolfhounds, each weighing well over 100 pounds.
None of the so-called adults ever cleaned up after their dog(s). Basically they pretending their dogs didn't crap. Eventually the neighbors called the Health Department and the house was declared a public nuisance. A weekend flurry of cleaning kept us in our home for the short term but not long after that incident the landlord decided to sell the property.

If you're getting the sense I'm not a dog lover, you're wrong. I like dogs.
I like other people's dogs. Let other people clean up the crap.

Back in the day, if you had a dog and your dog needed to go, most folks just looked the other way while the dog did it's duty. Hopefully the dog had the good sense to leave its gift somewhere besides the middle of the sidewalk.
If you were a good guardian of your canine friend you would 'curb' your dog -- that means you'd drag the dog by its leash over to the gutter and encourage the dumb creature to use the street as a toilet. (Dumb meaning can't speak, can't complain about its idiot owner, not stupid.)

All in all, it wasn't so terrible. The sun and the wind and the rain did their part and in a short while the dog droppings were dried up and turned to dust or washed away.

Sometime in the last ten or fifteen years it became unacceptable to leave your pet's excrement in the public view. Now dog owners tote little plastic bags in which to enounce the organic material in a soft and flexible but impermeable and nearly permanent covering, sort of gift-wrap for the ages if you will. I'm sure Coprologists of the future will be quite pleased at the care with which we preserved the record of our pet's digestive processes but in the here and now I am not sure it's a good thing.

See, people didn't actually change. The average dog owner makes a great show of doing the right thing and scooping up the fresh laid piles, but no one likes to carry around a warm, squishy, transparent bag of crap. Too frequently at the first opportunity they just hurl the loaded bag into a place they think can't be seen -- under the bushes, over the fence, into the river or bay. But now it's in a vessel for the ages. Plastic encased crap, a memorial for our times.

A few days ago I took my kayak out around the Berkeley Marina for an evening paddle with my wife. The rocky shores were absolutely littered with little plastic bags.


By the by, one of the most frequently used euphemisms for fecal material is caca. It comes from Greek and it just means No, No. Cacophony, meaning discordance or dissonance, has a similar prefix root.

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