See more in Charles Freger’s book Wilder Mann
I’m walking down the street with a dog on a leash tightly held by one hand and a small bag of warm dog poo in the other hand and I’m experiencing acute dissonance. I should be proud that I have been a ‘responsible’ dog owner and demonstrated my civic pride. But I’m also carrying a bag of shit.
Now I have the bag, what am I to do with it? It’s a long walk and I’d like to be rid of this odorous package. I see somebody’s wheelie bin and head toward it. I have a friend who is appalled by the idea of putting a small bag of dog turd in somebody else’s bin. He sees it as an outrageous assault on private property, akin to leaving it in a letter box. But … but it’s a waste bin. It’s not mine, yes, but the offending item is wrapped and cannot pollute the bin, and I would never place it in a recycling bin. But I find the bin has just been emptied so would I saddle my neighbour with a weeks worth of smelly dog poo? No, perhaps a step too far.
I travel on and look for a public bin, but the lids only open an inch and I don’t want to push the package through with a stick in case I break said package. I could leave it behind a shrub or a tree. A cop out … but as a cop out it has merit. There are worse evasions of civic responsibility, like when your dog decides it’s time to have another go and you have already filled your one and only bag. What do you do? Walk on, after covering the deposit with soil and leaves?
What else can you do? Wave down the nearest car and ask if they have a plastic bag handy? Call home and ask if someone can drive up with a bag? Take off my shirt and wrap the turd up and carry it home? Put it in my pocket? And what if I’m seen walking away from the offensive substance? Hell hath no fury like another law abiding dog owner witnessing another shirking their responsibilities. The stench of self righteousness is so overpowering I prefer my little bag of shit.
By this stage I’m really not enjoying my walk.
Human and dog interactions can be fraught, particularly when there are multiples of each. Some dog owners don’t seem to understand their dogs are dogs and have their own codes and practices and telling them to ‘play nicely’ is not going to cut it. But dog owners can and do police other dog owners and often conflate dog with owner. I have a German Shepherd so I have an inner longing to chase innocent Jews through the forests of Poland. The owner of the small white yappy thing wants to be a Hollywood movie starlet, the lad with the Staffy is a fascist brute when not throwing balls at the dog park.
Ahhh …the dog park. There is a large oval down the hill near my home which has been designated a lead free dog zone. The council provide black waste bags and everybody knows the drill. Nobody wants to lose open space for their dog so picking up after them is scrupulously monitored. One day I was the only person there with my dog, she’s running around having a fine old time and I’m strolling after her, enjoying the moment when I see an older man walking toward me holding up a black plastic bag, a full one by the looks of it.
‘It’s still warm,’ he shouts.
I really don’t know what to say to this. ‘Great!’ or ‘what a lucky find!’ He repeats himself and then I understand. He’s accusing me of leaving my plastic bag full of my dog’s business for somebody else to deal with. Outraged, I hold up the bag of poo I am already carrying. I dare not speak as I quiver with injured civic pride. When I think of all the mental anguish and brain time wasted on the topic of what to do with my dog waste I feel like jamming this bag into his hand and saying, ‘there, now you have two.’
But I don’t. He apologises. I’ve seen him around the place. Has two lovely old standard poodles. Now he wants to show me a picture on his phone. It’s of his dog mounting another dog. He’s chuckling about something to do with his dog. But I wondered at his grasp of etiquette. Lone man in isolated park approaches lone woman at sunset and shows her a picture of his dog shagging another dog. There’s a whiff of wrong to this and so after a lifetime of Female Safety Drill I head toward my car a little faster than usual. He no doubt meant nothing more than to share a dog joke. He certainly knows the dog defecation code backwards, but maybe he should brush up on the etiquette of dog owner conversations.
I’ve taken to avoiding all the social and physical complexities of dog exercising by simply letting somebody else walk the dog. Or I take her lead free in the bush where she can crap where she likes, when she likes and I’m not left holding the bag.