Braunholtz: Spring in Vail brings a stinky surprise
Vail CO, Colorado
The receding snows of spring reveal just how far we have to go where environmental responsibility is concerned. Forget polar bears and that whole planet point of view and instead focus on our parking lots, streets, neighborhood parks and local trailheads.
All are covered in dog poop after a winter’s rejection of consideration for others by dog owners. I’m a dog owner and I’d like to believe there are “just a few bad apples” but if so these few owners must be feeding their dogs a lot of Metamucil.
People love their dogs, but not enough to actually inconvenience themselves, it seems. Instead of walking them on early mornings and cold nights, it’s OK to open the door, shove them out and ignore what they’re actually doing out there. This isn’t great for the dog because it misses out on one of its three great joys in life (walks, eating, sleeping) and also puts it at risk of run-ins with cars and animals.
It also isn’t great for the neighborhood because somewhere each dog is leaving two poops a day. Simple mathematics reveals why dog owners can get frowned at.
Your bundle of love is leaving 700 reasons a year to be disliked on a neighbor’s lawn.
The trailhead and bike path poop is even harder to understand. Someone had to walk, watch and then turn a blind eye. It doesn’t take much to realize that if a few other owners act the same way then 700 reasons quickly multiplies to 7,000. At this time of year I brandish my dogs’ poopy bags proudly. They’re like a magic totem used to ward off the evil eye of other park goers and say, “see it’s not me.”
No parent would ever let their toddler poop at will or toss used diapers in the street.
It’s inexcusable, really. This isn’t an unpopulated frontier and outside of your private yard there’s no place where it is OK to leave dog poop. Even in the wilderness ” if for some reason your dog decides to hold it in for the first 5 miles or so ” the Forest Service recommends you pack it out. If you can’t commit to picking up after your dog you shouldn’t have one, you are not ready for the responsibility.
There are many advantages to cleaning up after your dog: More neighbors start talking to you. Local authorities are less likely to ban dogs from places you like to visit. There’s no bundled ball of unused supermarket plastic bags in the bottom corner of your closet. You know which supermarket makes plastic bags with the most structural integrity. You realize what happened to that large block of cheese you thought you had. You know when your dog is getting sick. Identity thieves start to give your Dumpster a miss ” junk mail and babies help here, too as garbage diluted with junk mail and liberally strewn with dog poop and diapers discourages sifting for the old bank statement almost as much as a shredder. You also start to get more exercise and your dog is happier and safer now that you go outside with him.
It’s a pretty small step to making our environment a little better and if we can combine this with getting most of us to hang on to our trash until a garbage can comes along then spring will be a lot prettier in the valley. Both are easy and almost painless sacrifices to make but every year the evidence hidden under the snow says we can’t even do this. I guess we still see the environment as an out-of-sight, out-of-mind place to dump our problems.
When the snow melts the shortsightedness of this viewpoint is revealed, at least where dog poop is concerned. Hopefully we’ll eventually understand the larger ramifications of treating the whole world as a limitless sink for our waste, but until a trailhead in spring looks safe to cycle through I’m not holding my breath.
Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a column for the Daily. Send comments or questions to email@example.com.
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