I have a confession to make. I am obsessed with dog poop. At times with my dog walking clients, I feel like I’m the guy driving the golf cart at the tail end of the horse parade with the shovel and barrel in back. I’ve developed a sixth sense where I know when a dog has to poop before he knows himself.
I scoop up the little gems into translucent green bags and tie them off with a knot while avoiding getting any whiff of the stink. The bags come on rolls and are sold in packs of six. Though I buy them in bulk, I’m still checking myself for bags. When I get down to one roll, I restock my vest with four more. Maybe I’m obsessed with these green bags too.
I can tell when an owner has changed their dog’s brand of food. I can tell if it’s a cheap brand too. Cheap food smells sort of fruity. I had one client long ago who was a vegetarian and by default, so was their dog. I had never smelled poop like that before or since, like rotting fruit. Makes me wonder what cheap food and vegetarian dog food have in common. I’d never met a more lethargic dog either. I had to coax him out of the apartment building with treats just to get him to the sidewalk where he’d lie down until he felt like pooping. At least he got up to poop.
Sometimes if Rover poops in just the right spot, I cut corners and nudge the little bugger under a shrub and leave it there. That’s one less turd vacuum packed in a bag for the landfill, I tell myself. When future generations excavate our garbage, those millions of stinky baggies are going to puzzle them. But even though I tell myself it’s nonsense to pick up every poop, that some are perfectly fine left where they land, I feel guilty when I leave one behind, as if it somehow makes me a bad person. Whenever I do this, I’m certain someone is peering out of their picture window, watching me shirk my poop responsibilities and thinking, What an evil man, he didn’t pick up his dog’s poop.
If I’m in the woods, I leave it where it lands, but I admit to looking over my shoulder to make sure Rover and I are alone. I’ve had a park ranger spring out of the bushes once when I had a dog off leash and it left me paranoid. I was working on recalls and teaching the dog to come to the sound of a whistle. The dog learned it well, but so did the park ranger. Another time I looked over my shoulder only to see a cluster of school children crouched down in the trees, hiding, all of their gazes fixed on Rover and his falling poop. It gave me the chills, like something out of Children of the Damned.
I’m the first to think of the poop joke, and I’m glad I can still find humor in the stuff after the heavy exposure to poop that I’ve experienced. If it was toxic, I’d be the Toxic Avenger. Bags break, they leak, or there’s not enough bag left to get a good knot. If I’m dealing with more than one leash, I’ll tuck the top of the knotted bag in my back pocket to free up my hands, only to forget it’s there when hopping in the car.
I feed the Rovers and Fluffies a lot of treats, so my hands are continuously being touched by their mouths. I don’t mind this, in fact I find it oddly reassuring as long as they don’t have too hard of a bite, but if Rover is a poop eater, at the first gobble of stool he quickly learns that his treats fall from the sky. I know one Rover that when he poops will on occasion spin right around and eat it, like he’s a perpetual motion machine. I wish I could connect a hose to my car’s tailpipe and stick it into the gas tank and never have to fill up again.
The same Rover has a group of gardeners that tend to his yard, and occasionally poop in it too, always in the same spot behind a big Douglas fir tree. Whenever they’ve been to visit, upon my arrival Rover beelines it for the backdoor where I forgetfully let him out and he runs to the big fir to see if they’ve left him anything. I know they have when he peeks around from behind the trunk of the fir with toilet paper dangling from his mouth. You would think the gardeners could carry some rolls of translucent green bags too. I’ve thought of leaving them a note pinned to the tree, but what would I say? Maybe I should pin a baggy to the tree instead.
At first I thought my obsession with poop stemmed from simply having to scoop up so much of it, but on further thought I realized it started when I was six years old on a specific walk home from preschool. It was five blocks from school to my house and after I finished walking the first block I realized I had to go number two. That was what I’d been taught to call it, number two. I was passing a big fir tree where a couple of dogs had gone and it struck me that I could go right there next to the tree like the dogs had. If they could, why couldn’t I?
So I pulled down my shorts and underwear and went, but there’s a big difference between dogs and a six-year-old when they poop. Dogs aren’t encumbered by tighty-whities which was just where my poop landed. There was nothing I could do. I certainly wasn’t going to touch it, and even if I did get it out of my shorts, they were now contaminated.
Some friends drove by and asked what I was doing while I tried to hide myself behind the trunk of the tree. I asked them for a fresh pair of underwear but they didn’t fully understand my situation and nothing came of it, so I ended up walking the remaining blocks home, baby-stepping with my shorts and underwear wrapped around my ankles.
I passed a nice lady who asked if I needed help, but I told her I was okay and almost home. I can still remember my mom’s laughing when she opened the door to my knock. I had just walked a long ways for a six year old, with a poop in my shorts, and was pretty upset about the whole ordeal. I stepped right in it when I anticipated sympathy and help, and instead got laughter. Which is how a dog must feel when they bark to warn us of something and we jerk their leash because we want quiet. Now if that poop had landed at the foot of that tree like every other dogs’ did, I might have sidestepped this dog poop obsession altogether.