The rites and wrongs of spring |

The rites and wrongs of spring

Alan Braunholtz

Springtime is not a dog owner’s finest hour. The dogs may be bouncing around letting their noses enjoy the plethora of new scents and growth, but no owner can help but grimace at the piles of decaying dog poop emerging from the snow. It’s embarrassing walking a dog right now. I flamboyantly flap my plastic poop bags as if to say “hey it’s not me, sorry!” Holding a grocery bag full of your dog’s poop is a cool thing for a dog owner to do right now.Walking your dog is a prerequisite for cleaning up after it. You’re right there, and the “out of sight, out of mind” ignorance defense is harder to apply – especially when other senses apart from sight tell you what beloved Fido is doing on your neighbors lawn.What better purpose is there for all those grocery bags stuffed into the closet next to the sink? If you ever volunteer (or get “volunteered”) for a highway cleanup, you’ll discover how ubiquitous that damn smiling Wal-Mart bag is. Why not kill two birds with one stone by filling it with canine post-consumer crap and throwing both away?I’m not sure what they do in Ireland. The country now bans disposable grocery bags, so everyone now takes their own bag to the store, leaving the countryside free from fluttering plastic litter. It’s a bigger deal in that famous dairy nation, as an ingested plastic bag can kill a cow. There’s probably a market for specific designed poop-picking-up bags. Not a bad idea, as in my hand-washing experience, not all grocery bags are created with equal structural integrity.Poop picking up is a skill you rapidly progress in – like diaper changing. There’s a warped satisfaction in overcoming your dog’s attempts to outwit you as they try to leave proof of their existence and informational signposts to the other dogs on the block. The surprise two-poop walk can leave you in a testing bind. The advanced test, which perhaps all dog owners should pass before getting a dog license: two dogs, one old tattered bag and a windy day on a nice street where suddenly everyone is out getting the mail or playing with their children. They should cheer when you pull it off and celebrate with the 20-yard slingshot into the omnipresent builder’s dumpster.Perhaps I’ll feel guilty about using the builder’s dumpster when building sites cease being breeding grounds for fast-food wrappers, cigarette butts, tire tracks, snow dumping, gravel etc. on any neighbors’ property.OK, so picking up poop isn’t a pleasant activity – unless it’s a very cold day and you’ve forgotten your gloves – but the alternative of raking up a season’s worth of disintegrating debris from your back lawn is worse. Of course, the best option from the selfish point of view is to open the front door and adopt the “out of sight, out of mind approach.”Simple arithmetic can tell you why some neighbors give you the stink eye. One dog x 2 poops a day x 150 days in the season = 300 piles on someone’s lawn, sand box, golf course, sidewalk, gutter, etc. Spring melt reveals the cumulative effect of the small amounts garbage we constantly drop. A trip to the landfill is quite an eye opener in how much other stuff we’re throwing away, much of it needless packaging. Our efficient garbage service helps condense the damage but there’s also an “out of sight out of mind ” element to it.Recent complaints about piles of road kill deer and elk also fall into this category. Yes they’re unpleasant but I’m half with the CDOT guy on this who said, “If you don’t like to see them, slow down.”Maybe we should extend that idea to road wrecks. Nothing slows motorists down on an icy road than a prominently crushed SUV sitting on its roof with debris all over the place. Pushing every crashed car off to the side may make Vail Pass and Dowd Junction resemble some post-apocalyptic Mad Max highway, but people would drive more safely. Cleaning things up does make the world a nicer place to live in, but it’s usually easier to prevent or reduce the mess in the first place. An “out of sight out of mind” approach is an irresponsible luxury that sooner or later someone pays for. Just ask the guy raking his lawn when the snow melts.Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a weekly column for the Daily. Vail, Colorado

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