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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.