“We pooped!” This was enthusiastically said by a friend, eyes shining and face flushed with victory, as if she had just won the National Finals. Turns out her dog is the kind who has trouble doing his business when distracted by the excitement of a sheepdog trial and had finally produced.
If you’re reading this post, you get it. Dogs are mammals, and mammals excrete waste in liquid and solid form. Some mammals, people included, care deeply about when and where this happens. Thus, Jim and I have a twice daily poop report. “Maggie pooped, but Skip didn’t; I’ll take him out later tonight before we go to bed.” No doubt, you have your own versions.
It should also be said that most of us find this topic aversive, and for good reason. But having a dog means dealing with it, so I’m hoping you’ll keep reading. Toward that end, I’m front-loading some positive reinforcement. It turns out that writing about this topic leads to more rabbit holes than imaginable, and while some of them are yucky, some of them are great. Here’s my favorite, which I strongly suggest you listen to while reading the rest. (I did the same while writing this, until I started dancing and then couldn’t write any more . . .)
I was motivated to write after reading about the environmental problems related to dogs and dogs poo. According to some sources, dogs deposit about 10 million tons of poop every year in the U.S., and just a tiny amount of dog poop is capable of closing down a local beach for weeks. The fact is that pet waste is a serious pollutant, not only adding dangerous bacteria to waterways (hello toxoplasmosis and giardiasis), but also decreasing available oxygen and creating dangerous algae blooms, killing fish and, ironically, sometimes dogs. So what do we do?
Every site I found focusing on this issue begged us, to save the environment, to pick up our dog’s poop in plastic bags. Wait, did they say plastic? The stuff that is killing animals everywhere? Okay, taking a breath here.
[If this stresses you as much as it does me, this might be a good time for another hit of Ooh Poo Pah Doo.]
Okay, what are our options? First, it’s clear that we really, really need to pick up poop. No matter where you are, it’s going to work its way into the water system eventually. Of course, some areas are more at risk than others, but I don’t think I need to enroll readers in the importance of taking care of, uh, business. But what is the best way to do that?
One way to help is to pay attention to the bags we use. At minimum, at least we can use bags that are made with recycled plastic. BUT, (I’m not yelling but I am raising my voice here), I couldn’t find out how much is actually recycled, and most importantly, all that plastic is still going to go some where eventually. Not to mention that the Pogi brand, for example, which advertises itself as “earth friendly,” is made in China, and I’m not a fan of shipping something that simple from that far away.
Even better, we can use bags that are not made of plastic at all. I found
Earth Friendly Tips to be the most helpful site in sorting out our options. I just ordered their top choice in bio bags, we’ll see how they work out. Factors to consider include where they are made and what they mean by “biodegradable.” Unless they have a good ASTM rating, it might take years for them to truly biodegrade. Of course, then my mind goes to the question “If the bags degrade, then doesn’t the poop still end up in the water?” Presumably that is why we’re advised to make sure the poop ends up either in a landfill or a toilet that leads to a sewer system, areas designed to keep bad things out of the water system (or should be).
If you’re at home, you have options besides putting poop into bags, no matter what they are made of. We use a scooper here at the farm if the dogs go close to the house, which all goes into a bucket that is then taken to the dump and buried in a land fill eventually. If you’re not on a septic system, you can use bags that you can flush down your toilet that degrade as soon as they hit water. (Check with your local utilities, not all systems can handle dog or cat waste. Anyone used these?)
It turns out that I could write for days about this topic, but there are dogs to work and a garden to weed, so I’m stopping here. I hope this has given you some ideas and some resources, and inspires you to let us know other solutions that you are aware of. I found it’s easy to gather information on line about this topic, including practical information from One Green Planet’s site, that includes ideas about home digesters. Any one ever used one in their own yard? (Note: They apparently don’t work under 40 degrees F, so they are out for winters in Wisconsin.)
If you to continue down this path, I wrote in March of 2015 an “All About Poop” post that talks about teaching dogs to eliminate in a specific area, and the importance of picking up any piles you see when out in public, no matter whether it’s from your dog or not. Jim and I always carry extra bags and pick up droppings when we can. That’s in part because we are trying to be citizen’s of the earth, and in part because we selfishly don’t want others to ruin it for the rest of us and get dogs banned from public areas.
In closing, I’ll leave you with a question that has bugged me for decades: What do dogs think we do with all that poop? Stash it away to eat in the hard times?
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: We spent most of last weekend at the Cedar Stone Sheepdog Trial, joining, for the first time, the line of campers that migrate around to trials. That’s our little Sunlite 18″ camper in the foreground, sitting like a Bichon puppy beside the grown up Great Danes and Bullmastiff’s lining up behind us.
It was our first real trip in the camper, and it was both weird and wonderful. Weird because my brain is still trying to wrap around feeling like we’re camping, (cuz you really are in many ways), and yet with a microwave, oven and indoor shower. Does not compute yet. Wonderful because it was such a relief to take a break on the bed during a hot part of the day, and to later wake up the next day in the dark at the trial site, watching it come to life as the sun crept up and the birds began to sing. We were especially grateful to be in our camper with so many others who know what they are doing. The camper learning curve is ridiculously steep; it seems we are all bonded by the trauma of figuring how to use them. (No manual, honestly.) Massive thanks to all the people who gave us advice and encouragement. (Especially you, Paul!)
Maggie thought sleeping on the bed instead of being in the crate was the best thing ever. Skip initially lept up onto the bed and then flattened himself on top of me like a barnacle while panting as if terrified. He isn’t allowed up on the couch at home with me, Jim and Maggie (no room, Maggie gets squatter’s rights) and I think he wanted to be there but was afraid he shouldn’t be. I gently suggested he get down back onto the floor, not easy since I was well and truly flattened, and he curled up on the floor and slept like a baby.
I have few photos of the trial, and we didn’t get a video of the relatively good run that Skip and I had. His first run was mediocre at best (43/90) and unlike him–he over ran at the top and then was slow and hesitant around the entire course. His second run was gorgeous, except that I gave him the wrong flank at a critical time, and then compounded it by giving him two more because I was so rattled. He absolutely had to know I was messing up, and yet he forgave me (doesn’t always happen with many dogs), kept responding, and finished up with a beautiful rest of the run. He got a total of 67/90 (18/20 outrun, 9/10 lift, 17/20 fetch and only 13/30 on the drive, all my fault of course, and 10/10 on the pen.) My biggest challenge is keeping my old brain together when under pressure and not giving a wrong flank. Sigh, working on it.
Unlike the last trial in which Maggie had a brilliant run and placed fourth, Maggie struggled at this trial. I called her off during the first run because she seemed so confused or unwilling to keep pushing the sheep in the correct direction. She did better, much better in the second run, but we got DQ’d because I didn’t go far enough past the second set of gates. But she still seemed so unsure and hesitant, partly no doubt because although she adores flighty sheep, she finds it just too hard to move sheep who need more push. I am also wondering if she is beginning to have trouble hearing. She is 8 and a half, and that’s when a lot of dogs start struggling both with the mental and physical challenge and their ability to hear. I have pulled her from some of the upcoming trials, but will keep her in a few that will be easier for her, and see how she does. I’ve always known, as you’ve known if you’ve followed this blog long enough, that Maggie probably was never the dog to run in the “advanced” class (Open), but I wanted to give it our best shot. But I won’t keep it up if she tells me she’s done. That’s her call. I should say here that whatever happens, I have no regrets. Maggie is one of the dearest dogs I have ever had, and I can’t believe my luck in getting her.
I did get a few shots of other dogs, including this stunning profile of the beautiful Sile (“Sheila), owned by Nancy F. What a face. She and I had a face licking session (just her, I promise I did not lick her face with my tongue) that was as much fun as a person can have. I adored her.
Here’s more fun from trial: A scene not often seen on the course, when a dog runs out onto the course during another’s run. Janet H’s Jess was in the middle of fetching the sheep when another dog appeared from behind her (I’m talking to you John W) and interrupted with lust on his mind. Check out Jess’s face and ears, she was literally in the middle of a run, and the only possible translation here is, my apologies, “WTF”.
I’ll end with some favorites from the garden: The Hibiscus are in full bloom and the adorable tree frog below took over the cat’s water bowl a few days ago. I gently picked him up, placed him in a safer area and gave the cats fresh water.
May your week be full of your own good stories, good friends and a place to put your dog’s poop that is good to the earth. Let’s hear it for Ooh poo pah doo.