Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dogs in the Times: Poop Patrol

It's going to take me a little longer than I thought to get up the next article on the upcoming changes to Fort Washington Park, and how they might affect us. Have to process the data and arrange my thoughts a little longer. Plus do the job I actually get paid for. That too.

But in the meantime, here's a just-published New York Times article on an all-too-familiar subject. The writer of the piece went on patrol with a Sanitation Department officer in an unmarked car, looking for people who don't pick up after their dogs.

It looks like the fine for not picking up is going to be increased substantially. And I am just fine with that. Nobody steps in dog poop more often than dog owners. It just comes with the territory. And those of us who do pick up are often briefly possessed with insensate rage towards those who do not, in the course of a single walk. And then we look around for something to scrape our shoes against.

I know that some people come to this city from rural areas, with much lower population densities of people and pets, and it takes them a little time to get used to the notion that they have to pick up. But they need to get with the program, ASAP. It is not remotely hard to do. It does not take a lot of time. It is not disgusting--I mean, it's your dog. It makes everyone's lives so much easier, and again, nobody more than dog owners, because we all have to deal with the bad attitude towards dogs that results from people having to scrub the soles of their shoes with old toothbrushes on a weekly basis, while muttering obscenities under their breath.

And in Washington Heights (and many other urban neighborhoods) there are scores of highly suitable plastic bags lying all over the streets and sidewalks, waiting to be reused, never to be recycled. So even if you avoid getting plastic bags at the supermarket or bodega (as well you should), and even if you don't see the point of buying 'doggie bags' made out of corn or whatever at the pet store (and I mainly don't), there's your answer--pick up one mess by picking up another.

But this is a pointless lecture, isn't it? Because if you're interested enough in the dog owner subculture to be reading this blog, you're probably already picking up after your dog.

As I just said, I'm fine with the fines going up--but fines aren't what make people pick up--the odds of getting caught are negligible, and any reasonably observant person could spot the tail, and elude the bust.

The more people get into the dog subculture, the more likely they are to pick up. They get the habit drummed into them, at dog runs, during offleash hours. They get it from other dog owners. We let each other know if one of our dogs squats while we're doing the offleash thing in some grassy field. It's a point of pride for us. It also makes for a lot less shoe-scrubbing at home.

Out on the sidewalk, I have to constantly watch where I step. In areas where there are a lot of dog owners who only have the time for short inadequate little walks, the poop is everywhere--though not in anything resembling the quantities that would occur if most dog owners weren't picking up. People should realize that if most dog owners weren't already picking up, we'd be knee deep in the stuff. Max excretes on an average of 3-5 times a day. That's just one dog out of thousands in Washington Heights.

In the dog runs and the parks, I can't remember stepping in any poop for some time now. I never see any orphan poop in Fort Washington Park. It's a very narrow park, and if the people who came there didn't mainly pick up, there'd be dog poop everywhere. Of course, nobody could possibly pick up all the goose poop.

So I think the real solution to this problem is for the dog subculture to be encouraged. Offleash hours and dog runs civilize us--make us more than solitary people with solitary dogs. When we feel like part of a community, we act like part of a community.

And that's enough about dog poop for now. I'll try to get you the poop on the park situation tomorrow. The straight kind of poop. Have I typed poop often enough for one day? I think so, yes.

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