A dog-doo afternoon


Amsterdam dog doo sidewalk photo Laura K Gibb https://flic.kr/p/3sbQLJ

So I’m walking the dog in unfamiliar territory – Brisbane bayside suburbs. I have my little black plastic dog doo bag tucked into the hip pocket of my jeans, as one should. But it seems many people in this particular suburb don’t give a shit about dog shit, if you’ll pardon my Flemish. If you’d taken a plastic supermarket bag and a trowel on this walk and could be bothered, you’d end up with a good five kilos of dog doo just from this one suburban street and a small park.

The words (above) on an Amsterdam sidewalk translate to ‘dog in the gutter,’ but the city’s tolerance has been stretched. Dog owners must now carry a plastic bag or a trowel and inspectors can issue a €50 fine. There was also a suggestion that owners be traced (and fined) through DNA tests on dog doo, according to the English language NL Times.

Some responsible Australian dog owners have somehow trained their pets to back their arses under a tree or shrub to do their number twos. If you don’t have a bag you can just throw a bit of mowed grass over it.

In one of the episodes of the Stan series Billions, Public Prosecutor Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), bullies and shames a guy into picking up after his dog. It’s a gratuitous and outlandish scene in a series known for gratuitousness and outlandishness.

My favourite line is (guy) “Why don’t you mind your business?” Chuck replies “This is my business.”

(Actually it’s the dog’s business, if you want to be pedantic).

If you are a dog owner, this YouTube video of the dog doo scene will hopefully remind you to ‘do the right thing’.

There are many other examples of TV writers (Family Guy) and others taking up the dog doo theme.

Songwriter Loudon Wainwright III works the dilemma into a song (Man and Dog from his 2014 album Ain’t Got the Blues (Yet).

Here’s the appropriate verse:

“When a man has to carry a plastic bag
on his person at all times
when a dog dumps on a side walk
walking away is a crime, living in the city…

(this will lift your mood, maybe)

Loudon sings about walking your dog as being a good way to meet a woman, although one would suggest that carrying a (full) plastic bag on your person would not be alluring.

Walking a dog in a strange neighbourhood means people don’t call out hello to the dog by name (even if they don’t know yours). Also, you don’t know which yard has a dog that will bark and snarl or if the gate is open or shut. Some people, on seeing a large dog with jaws approach, will pick up their little squealing ball of fluff, which, while seemingly prudent, is apparently not the best way to socialise animals.

On my walk last Saturday I did meet a woman who came out of her driveway to sook over the normally sooky dog but he was too intent upon, as my friend Mr Loophole calls it, “reading the P-mail”.

I told She Who Sometimes Scoffs I was thinking about writing a column with the dog as narrator, which she said had probably been done. She was right.

Here’s a reading list which is probably by no means exhaustive:

So after flirting with that idea: “Why do you want me to come? There are so many far more interesting things over here.” Or “Why do you want me to put my lipstick away? Call a spade a spade, you stupid human.”

So I decided on a different approach, and that was to use the failure of dog owners to clean up after their animals as a clumsy yet probably accurate political analogy.

Let’s use the current Queensland Labor government as an example. The party has been in a tenuous state of power since January 2015 and will contest an election sometime in the next 12 months.

In the interim, the government is supporting Indian company Adani’s controversial plan to develop a new coal mine near Alpha in western Queensland. This would require the building of a railway line to the Abbot Point coal terminal north of Bowen to export coal from the (expanded) port. This proposal has sparked a broad protest movement with former Greens leader Bob Brown weighing in.

“In 40 years’ time people will be talking about the campaign to stop Adani like they now talk about the Franklin (Dam). “Where were you and what did you do?” they will ask.

“This is the environmental issue of our times and, for one, the Great Barrier Reef is at stake,” Brown wrote in the Guardian Weekly on March 24.

The Queensland Labor government wants this project to happen. Promised employment, it seems, is the government’s main reason for risking environmental damage to the Great Barrier Reef and incurring the wrath of many loyal Labor voters.

My point, if clumsily made, is that if and when the Queensland government is toppled, it will be a replaced by another regime. When protestors make their valid points about the risks of environmental damage, the next government can always say, “It’s not our mess”.

One could make the same case for offshore detention centres, the proposal to drug test welfare recipients or the cashless welfare debit card being trialled in South Australia and the Northern Territory.

The potential for the latter to become a big mess is that a cashless welfare card system could be extended to all welfare recipients, even pensioners. Now that’s not a mess I’d want to clean up.

Returning to the original rant, people should pick up their dog doos. If you forgot a plastic bag (and we have all done this), as Chuck Rhoades suggests, “pick it up with your hands”.

Paul Giamatti’s character says to the shamed guy as he’s walking away:

“Sir, still some over here.”

“That’s not (dog’s name), man!

“It is now,” says Chuck, while talking on his mobile about his nemesis, the crafty funds manager, Bobby Axelrod (Damien Lewis).

The scene ends with Chuck thanking the guy for doing his civic duty. “Feels good, doesn’t it.”

One could extend this analogy to the real estate development company which mistakenly sent an email to its entire database thanking recipients for supporting their Sunshine Coast development. Mine was addressed, ‘Dear Bob’ and thanked me for supporting Sekisui’s development application for Yaroomba Beach. At some point I must have signed a petition against the proposal so I was one of unknown numbers of people who got the email from the developer thanking them for supporting the project. We got an apologetic email from Sekisui about the same time we read the story in the Sunshine Coast Daily.

To me, the second email was like the guy who walks his dog without a plastic bag and has a citizen shame him into picking up dog doo with his hands.

It’s called doing the right thing.

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