It’s a beautiful, sunny day. The heath is covered with people delightedly expanding their lungs in the sunshine they’ve longed for through a very wet, dreary winter. “Come on,” they call out to their friendly, hairy, tail-wagging companion. “Come on, this way.” But Bonzo is oblivious, circling ominously, looking as though his brain has been commandeered by something he cannot control, which, in fact, it has. Bonzo needs to poo. His owner retraces his steps, fiddling determinedly with a little plastic bag that he can’t quite open and isn’t quite big enough. He puts his hand in it and waits. Bonzo finishes his business with a back-leg scritchy-scratch in the earth that does everything to upheave all the leaves nearby but nothing to cover the shit. Bless. His owner steps forward and scoops up the crap, making a little involuntary moue of distaste as his fingers encounter the warmth of the animal’s excrement through the thin plastic. He ties a knot in the top of the bag using the useful little handles and steps away, leaving the bag neatly at the base of a tree, by the side of a bench, hanging on a bush or occasionally, in desperation, just out in the open. “Come on, Bonzo,” he calls again, breathing deeply in the refreshing country air and they walk on – man and his best friend.
I picked up five plastic bags of other people’s dogs’ poo this afternoon. That’s five people who should have known better. Five people who adopted or bought a dog but think that their dog’s poo isn’t their responsibility. That it just gets magicked away by the fairies overnight so that they can walk in unspoiled countryside again whenever it suits them. Five people who didn’t give
a shit their actions another thought.
As far as I’m concerned, I have fed my dog and what she has eaten needs to come out the other end. Not the most awful thing that could happen. Believe me, some of the things Nora has found on our walks (used condoms, dead sheep) have been worse. Actually, I may have borrowed the used condom experience from a friend but it’s still relevant. So, Nora’s poo is pretty ok to me. It’s just kibble processed by her digestive system. Fine. So long as I behave sensibly and wash my hands afterwards there’s nothing to be afraid of. But there seem to be quite a few people who feel that their dogs’ poo isn’t their responsibility. They take their beloved pooch for a walk – in the city, in the country – bagging up the poo… and then leave it on the spot instead of taking it home to flush away.
I literally don’t understand this. I boggle. My understanding comes to a screeching, sparking, teeth-on-edge, chalk screaming on the blackboard kind of halt.
Isn’t your dog’s shit yours to look after? Who made others the crap wardens? And, if you walk your dog in the countryside and can’t be bothered with the whole taking it home or binning it thing, isn’t it better to leave the poo au naturel than to bag it and hang the ‘baggie’ on a bush where it weathers (the plastic usually being biodegradable), eventually letting the excrement fall to the ground, where it will eventually decompose, in the meantime decorating the environment with blotches of unnatural colour and, eventually, shreds of plastic that can make birds and small animals gag, and spoil the views of other walkers in the meantime. Wow, long sentence! Actually, that’s what I’d give them: a long sentence.
In the more far-flung countryside, on bridle paths and public footpaths, bag dropping actually happens relatively rarely. Dog owners generally tend to kick the faeces into the bushes, just leave it, or take it home in a bag. It’s popular walking spots in the country with few or no bins, within easy reach of towns, where people might have to walk for an hour carrying – oh my god – a little bag of their own pet’s poo, that this happens most.
And in towns and cities, well, I just don’t get it at all. I just want to give all these people a toddler on a scooter and leave them to clear up the mess when he scoots over a doggie bag that bursts. I want them to be the person whose doorway these bags get left in almost every day.
So please, if this is you on a dog walk, just take that little warm bag back with you. There you go.