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Straight Poop From A City Dog

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It’s impossible to keep a dog in the city without developing an interest in poop. In the country, it’s not so much of a problem. You can take the dog out to do its business, and nobody cares where it goes as long as it stays off the lawn and out of the garden. But in the city it’s another matter. Even where there is no city ordinance requiring the proper disposal of dog waste, you will find yourself carefully cleaning up after your dog.

When we first got Ladybug, I enjoyed taking her for walks. It gave me a reason to get out and explore the neighborhood. Lately, however, I find myself thinking more and more about poop on these walks. I carry little blue bags with me to pick up her poop and I watch her with morbid interest whenever she pauses or starts to squat. Is it poop or only pee? If it’s poop, I pick it up with a baggie over my hand, turn the baggie inside out, and tie it off. Then I start looking for a garbage can.

I don’t know why, but I just don’t relish the thought of carrying around a little blue bag of poop while I’m out walking the dog. It somehow seems to lessen the spirituality of the activity. After I pick up the poop, all I can think of is where to get rid of it. After doing this for weeks, I now have a detailed and accurate map of all the garbage cans in the neighborhood. This is a knowledge I would rather not have had.

One time I put a little blue bag of poop into a garbage can just as the homeowner drove up and parked. I started walking away, but she called after me, “Excuse me? Did you just put your dog’s poop in my garbage can?”

“Yes, I did,” I promptly acknowledged.

“You have to take it out,” she said. “We don’t want dog poop in our garbage.”

“Sorry,” I mumbled, embarrassed. As I rummaged in her garbage can for the offending poop, I was inwardly wondering what kind of person cares about what goes into their garbage. Was she worried that my dog’s poop would contaminate her other garbage?

So now, in addition to knowing where all my neighbors’ garbage cans are, I now also know (and presumably must keep track of) which ones are off limits.

So walking the dog has become something of an ordeal for me. I’m constantly watching for Ladybug’s “poop posture,” a sure sign that she’s about to go. I watch to make sure she doesn’t take too active an interest in other dogs’ poop, and as I walk I’m always thinking ahead to shortest route to the next garbage can. I’ve also gotten to where I prefer the alleys to the streets and parks. Why? Because the alleys have more garbage cans. Moreover, if I run out of bags, which has happened occasionally, I feel more justified in letting the poop lie where it falls in an alley. This feeling is confirmed by the amount of poop I find there from other dogs.

Walking the dog is no longer the pleasure it once was. I am preoccupied with poop and pee and garbage the whole time, and I can hardly wait to get back home. I used to find something uplifting in seeing the world through Ladybug’s eyes. Her mind is so foreign, so alien. She takes a murderous interest in squirrels. When she encounters a passing school bus, she quivers with fear and indignation and shouts dog curses at it. She trails the scent of nocturnal beasts—mostly feral cats and sewer-dwelling raccoons—that wander the streets just before dawn. But mostly she hunts for places to pee and poop, marking her territory or sending cryptic messages to other dogs whose owners also take them out for walks. This is not an activity with which I choose to empathize.

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Ladybug

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About three weeks ago we got a dog. She is a five-year-old Jack Russell terrier named Ladybug. She was rescued, so we have been told, from a shelter in Ohio, and she came with Ohio dog tags and records from a veterinarian clinic in Cleveland. Or maybe it was Cincinnati. She is full of energy, much too full on mornings when she wants to go out before I’ve had my coffee.

Ladybug
Ladybug

At first she was somewhat subdued. She would go out with me but hardly take an interest in anything except trucks roaring by. These she would bark at fiercely and still does.

Then she discovered squirrels.

I’m not sure what first caught her eye. It seemed pretty plain to me that they were taunting us, staring at us with their glittering, beady eyes and twitching their long tails. Then when we would get close, they would scramble up the nearest tree or telephone pole, well out of reach, and stare at us some more.

I confess: I’ve been tempted to let her off leash just see her catch one.

We’ve taken to going on pretty long walks, not just around the block, but five blocks up the street, down the hill, along the bluff where the nice houses are, and back up the hill to Page. Other times we go up by the school, across the athletic field, up by the cemetery, over where all the houses look like they have always had just one owner, down Kansas to Belvidere, over to Andrew, and back to Page again. Often we walk through Bluff park, taking out time and stopping at every interesting smell.

Ladybug sees with her nose. She pokes it into things I would not poke my finger into. One time we found a dead squirrel in the park. It was stiff with rigormortis, but Ladybug poked it with her nose until it moved. Then she started and backed away as if it were alive indeed. Then she  returned and grabbed it in her teeth and shook it. She tried to treat it as if it were alive. It was odd.

In many ways she is an odd dog, not perhaps odd for her breed, but for my experience with dogs. When I was growing up, we had German shepherds, large, active animals, eager to please and affectionate. Ladybug is nothing like them. She is independent, fastidious in her way, and eager to please herself. None of my experience with German shepherds could possibly prepare me for her.

But I like her. She’s a good dog.

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