I love to walk our dog Maxine at night. Ever since childhood, my favorite time to be out and about in my neighborhood is after dark. The best way to see a neighborhood at night as an adult is to walk a dog. A dog keeps you company, keeps you alert to all the rabbits, and keeps people from thinking you’re skulking around the streets with nefarious intentions.
The dog’s view of the walk is slightly different, it largely being an expedition to smell things new and familiar. Jane once read that a particularly smelly place is to a dog what a beautiful vista is to people, so I’m always joking with Maxine about the many beautiful vistas we encounter on our walks. There is one particular retaining wall we pass that I call Dog Grand Canyon, based on Maxine’s enthusiastic response whenever we pass.
The other main purpose of the walk from the dog’s point of view is the opportunity to attend to toiletry needs in exotic locales. The urination (#1) is all part of some grand conversation the dogs are having, some of them pissing on certain trees only, the others pissing on entirely different trees, but only on odd-numbered days, with all dogs involved auditing the process every time they walk by. The #2, though, not so much. It’s mostly on a need-to-go basis. It’s not a 100% certainty that she’ll do her thing on every walk, but it’s probably 80%, and sometimes she does it twice. So, I always have to have one bag, and usually I take two.
Except sometimes, I don’t take any. It’s not on purpose, I just forget. I understand that’s irresponsible, but it doesn’t happen often, perhaps three times a year. With one exception, each time it has happened I have sworn to come back and clean up the mess. That one exception was a time the owner of the lawn of Maxine’s choice had a political sign I didn’t agree with. But I figured that makes what I did free speech, right? In total, I have probably only gone back and cleaned up the pile 25% of the time. I either don’t walk her for a few nights and then forget about it, or we take a different route, and there ends up being a small handful of lawns each year that Maxine’s business is not properly removed from.
I have no excuses for this behavior. I understand it means I’m a bad dog owner, bad neighbor, bad citizen, all that. It’s not the end of the world, but still, it’s wrong. Each time it happens I swear I’ll never forget the bags again. Always check for bags! Always check for bags!
Tonight, I forgot the bags. I realized it a couple blocks in and tried to make it all the way back to our yard before it happened, but no luck. When this sort of thing happens, you have two choices. The first choice is to resolve to come back and clean that mess up, and promptly start off for home to get that new bag when your dog is done.
The first choice is the wrong choice.
What’s it going to look like when people see you stop, when everybody knows the only reason a dog walker stops? It’s going to look like your dog’s taking a crap, which it is. So in this case, looks are not deceiving. Anybody who sees you knows your dog is taking a crap. Maybe the people who see you are the type who look away immediately when they see that kind of thing, but maybe the people who see you are the type who linger on such an image, to see whether the owner is going to do the right thing and pick up the poop. And if they are the latter, what is it going to look like when you bolt for home after your dog is done?
That’s right. It’s going to look like you were hightailing it out of there after leaving somebody a brown gift. That’s why you absolutely must make the second choice, which is to reach into your pocket and pretend to pull out a bag. It’s helpful if you do actually pull something out, even if it’s just keys or a cellphone. Then you take two large deliberate steps toward the poop, block the nearest houses from view with your body, and pretend to pick up the poop. Then you turn and briskly walk away.
Obviously, this isn’t a stunt you pull off in the light of day. Remember, it’s dark and people can’t really tell what you are doing. And, of course this goes without saying, but you do have every intention of coming back and picking up that mess even while you are acting like you are picking it up. The fact that that may not always happen is a completely unassociated event.
Thankfully, because I will never forget the bags again, I consider the Dog Poop Pantomime a thing of the past. Never again!