What’s With All the Dog Poop?
This morning, as I headed out my front door for a brisk walk, I found a giant pile of dog poop in my yard. You know the kind. A big pile similar to what a small pony might produce. Not chihuahua size which could possibly be overlooked by the dog owner, but a pile so big that you’d question whether your neighbor had taken a squat in your yard.
I looked at my husband with the familiar expression on my face common among women of a certain age, a mix of disgust, and then made a decree.
God dammit! Good citizenry is a thing of the past.
Because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the person who left that pile of poop in my yard did it deliberately. Maybe not out of malice. More likely out of sheer laziness. But there’s no doubt in my mind that they watched their pooch poop and nonchalantly walked away.
I also knew that neither my husband nor I would’ve have been so glaringly uncooperative.
Because we understand that living in an association neighborhood with shared parks, sidewalks, walking trails, and tennis courts, involves a promise to our neighbors. We promised to help maintain our shared grounds. Why? Because when you live together in such close proximity, cooperation is necessary to keep things looking nice. The value of our individual properties remain stable. If we all do our fair share, everyone benefits.
It’s a win win situation.
I’ve noticed for quite some time that fewer and fewer people understand shared responsibility and good citizenry. My neighborhood has become the norm. For example, the city collects our leaves in the fall. In fact, they make two separate stops to do so. We rake our leaves into piles and the city makes scheduled stops to collect the leaves and dispose of them. They have several requirements, however. One is that we rake our leaves up to the side of the street but stop short of leaving them IN the street.
Why? Because if it rains the leaves might end up in our storm drains causing our streets to flood.
On our walk, I counted only a few piles of leaves that met the city’s guidelines. Yep! You got it. Most people had dumped their leaves curbside IN the street. I looked at my husband once again and scowled.
What the heck is the matter with people?
He had no answer except that perhaps we were just better citizens than many. And here’s the culmination of these random thoughts about random behaviors of random people.
It’s almost impossible to get people to cooperate.
No matter how small the request. No matter if they signed their names on a document promising to follow the rules. No matter if following rules would keep them safe at best or save them a future mess at the very least.
Some people, a surprising number, simply can’t or won’t help out.
They won’t wear masks to protect their neighbors during a pandemic. They drink and then drive. They love vehicles that create massive noise pollution. They won’t pick up after themselves. They leave trash in our parks. They have a total disregard for a social contract of any kind. Everything is about them. And, when their carelessness spills over and floods my street, they get mad if I get mad and hold them accountable for the mess.
That’s if I can even find them, because chances are it’s the good citizens who are cleaning up the mess not the guilty culprit that created the mess.
Why does this matter besides the noise, flooding, drunk-driving accidents, and dog poop, that is. Because none of us live on an island. I often wish I could, but I can’t afford my own island. My tiny yard backs up to someone else’s tiny yard. My fence is a mere symbol of my pretend sovereignty.
Yet, my actions count on this planet teeming with other people.
My actions can flood streets or keep streets passable, kill people on the highway or allow them to get safely home at the end of day, and keep the spread of a virus from becoming a pandemic.
A giant pile of dog poop is merely a symptom of a culture without much regard for good citizenship.
If we see no value in working together to create a safe, clean environment, then slowly but surely the quality of life decreases within our families, communities, country, and the world at large.
Humans choose whether to be good stewards of this planet or not.
We choose to either pollute, destroy, and neglect or create, protect, and provide. We determine outcomes by how much we’re willing to invest in improving life on this planet for everyone. It’s that commitment to share resources and care for each other that makes us civilized. We are no longer the barbarians who plunder, leaving a trail of destruction wherever we go.
We are the caretakers, the grownups who accept our responsibilities.
We not only pick up our dog’s poop and put it the little bag we remembered to bring on the walk with us, but we understand that if EVERYONE left giant piles of poop, we’d be buried alive in poop. And, it won’t be the dog’s fault. We already knew that.
We know what we’re doing when we’re doing it and just don’t care. It’s that simple and that hard.
In a sense, they’re right when they say that rules, even laws, are made for the law abiding. It’s probably easier for some of us to do what’s right. We’re wired to do what’s needed even if it inconveniences us. And, it’s those of us who care that make a difference, so no matter how tired we get of cleaning up other people’s messes, we can’t stop.
It’s too bad that another person’s actions can actually have such a huge impact on me — and you. Isn’t it?
But then that has always been the #1 dilemma facing humanity.
Teresa Roberts is a retired educator, author, world traveler and professional myth buster. You can find her books on Amazon.