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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 to you the ritual involved in this most tedious of pastimes: Your dog goes to the bathroom. You fish around your pocket or purse for one of your plastic poop bags. Most of the time, you find one. If you’re on the street, you steel yourself, hope it’s not too warm and that the bag doesn’t break, and throw the poop 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 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: 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 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. 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. A wedding invitation (sorry, Paul and Cindy). I’ve even ripped corners off of cardboard boxes in construction sites.
My friend, Caroline, confessed that in a similar situation, she used her pocket knife to cut the top off an old plastic bottle she found 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 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? 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 my dog and the neighborhood’s dignity enough to overcome it. But I wonder if some of those other owners have never gotten used to it either and are only better at suppressing their “oh, gross” face.
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