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Another Portland Blog

Monday, March 10, 2008


The pitfalls of responsible pet ownership

I now return from an unexpected two-week hiatus with a story about poop.

Dog poop.

I don't own a dog. I don't own a cat. I don't own so much as a goldfish or a potted plant. I'm not into the whole "pet thing," mostly due to an incident involving a suicidal turtle I had back in high school (a story for another time).

I have no problem with other people's pets...provided they don't start barking within a square mile of my house between the hours of 2 AM and noon. If a domesticated animal is unable or unwilling to wake me up in the middle of the night, bite my extremities or urinate on my carpet, couch or on my laundry, I'm totally cool with it.

Now then, meet Zoe...

Zoe was adopted by my parents last fall. Don't ask me what she is. I don't know. My parents don't know. And Zoe isn't telling. The previous owner described her as a "shiba inu mix." Personally, I suspect there are more dogs in her than the Humane Society. Simply put, she's a "Zoe."

All in all, she's a pretty great pooch. Sure, she's no Snoopy but, hey, who is? Zoe can fetch, shake, stay...

...and create the most intimidating doggy turds I've ever laid my eyes on.

I've been around dogs all my life. I grew up with a husky named Pokey and later a springer spaniel named Jenny. None of them could create fecal matter larger than that your average full-grown American adult. Zoe, weighing in at a mere 60 pounds, is quite capable though.

I discovered this when I made the mistake of agreeing to go on a walk with her and my mother during a recent trip to my parents' house. During the return trip I noticed that Zoe was slowing down and sniffing everything in sight, a pretty clear sign that a dog is about to cut loose. We were only two blocks from the house though. Surely Zoe could exhibit enough self control to wait until we made it to the yard. The family's previous dogs had always had the common courtesy to do so. Jenny never once took a dump on all the walks I'd taken her on back in the day. Ok, maybe once or twice but still...

Before I knew what was going on, Zoe was crapping all over a stranger's lawn. It was as if she had been saving up for a week. What came out of this dog might be normal for a Saint Bernard or a small horse but not a pooch of her size and stature. What lay before for us amounted to at least a full pound's worth of stinky doggy turds all the color of mustard.

Worse yet, we'd only thought to bring along one tiny poo bag that had already been used. I've since learned that, under normal circumstances, one bag can be reused as necessary. It requires the dog owner to empty the bag and pick up each...

...oh, God. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. Can you believe that the average responsible dog owner will actually pick up their pet's poop with nothing between it and their bare hand than a slim piece of plastic? And then they carry it around with them for miles? A lot of dogs eat poop, making their poop digested poop! We're talking about recycled feces here! Ewwww!

My mom wasn't about to stand around next to the world's biggest canine-produced bowel movement. She volunteered to the return to the house for reinforcements, leaving me to stand guard on the sidewalk with Zoe until she returned. Five minutes felt like five hours. In that time, a small dog across the street with one of those satellite dish protective collars wandered out of a garage and tried to start a turf war. Strutting back and forth, it snarled and yelped, protecting its property like an angry fuzzy troll.

The dog's overzealousness quickly caught the attention of a German Shepard who's lawn Zoe had just besmirched. It lept against a window, barking madly at the satellite-dish pooch. A full-blown border dispute had broken out with myself, Zoe and the turds caught in the middle. Sure, we started it but there's no way we could play diplomats, let alone make a hasty retreat. Instead, we were stuck there. Any second now, the shepard's owner was bound to come to the window and notice the turds. We were headed for full-blown humiliation but Zoe took all this in stride, calmly ignoring all the barking and sniffing the gentle spring air with nary a care in the world.

It's impossible to look casual under these circumstances. Of course, it was also an unusually busy evening for pedestrians. Everyone in the neighborhood was out wandering the streets absorbing as much fresh air and spring-like weather as possible. Then it happened

Along came a guy, somewhere in his sixties. One of those grandfatherly-types that wears tiny glasses, a wool cap and generally tries to look as much like a Welsh sheepherder as possible. He saw Zoe and before I could warn him, he side-stepped the pooch and wandered right into her butt's gift to the world.

He kept walking, somehow not noticing what he had just done to at least one of his leather shoes. What could I do? Chase down and say, "Pardon me, good sir. I just so happened to notice that you stepped in this dog's feces. Is she mine? Goodness gracious no. She belongs to my mother. Both her and said feces have been left in my care while...oh, nevermind. I'd lend you a towel but, much like back-up poo bags, I didn't think to bring one."

I've never believed in the retaliatory forces of karma but it should go without saying that I was assigned the task of picking up each one of Zoe's doodies. The heat off of them still haunts my palms. I know it's a tired cliche but I've gotta break out a "the horror" here.

I suppose there's something to be learned here. As someone I know put it: "there is a lesson in life to be learned from every experience - this one being: take more poo bags. Or maybe, be better prepared to manage the shit that comes your way."

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