Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Getting it out of my system, Case No. 1

You have been warned.
File this under the law of unintended consequences.

I see this little monument every day, while driving to wherever. It sits in front of a house near the corner of a busy street. It's a lovely house, I'm sure. But I wouldn't know, because the only thing I see — the only thing anybody really sees — is this curmudgeonly tribute.

Your guess is as good as mine, which is probably this: The man of the house (why oh why would I think a man is behind this?) found dog poop on his lawn once, twice, maybe three times.

Maybe he berated a dog owner he caught letting his/her dog do his/her business there the second time, and the dog owner delivered the dog a third time out of revenge.

More likely an untethered dog pooped there once, decided it was a safe place for pooping, bothering neither man nor beast, and did so again.

The bothered man posted this sign as passive-aggressive protest, thereby stamping out a pooping pandemic. Maybe he made the sign, working from a template he got online. It's an accurate silhouette in thin plywood, capturing a pooch in the pose of necessary evil, its hind legs well clear of its butt, tail stiffly cantilevered, to enable a clean evacuation.

Dogs don't like this reality any more than we do. My dog gives me that look right before, that sad "Avert your eyes, I beg you, for this thing I must do." Without being taught, dogs instinctively perform this move in every effort to avoid their own waste.

The sign, painted a pale shade of poop, has topped this little knoll at least 10 years, the lawn around it always carefully shorn … except the tall stalks of grass here suggest even the homeowner tires of it. Details have been added, just in case; the dog is happy. "NO!" is carefully stenciled. (The other side has a faded admonition, meaning maybe the neighbors down the street are off the hook for this violation.) Weather and water has dogeared its edges.

It is a monument to the exact act the home dweller detests — a dog at its most awkward, frozen in squat.
The years have managed to subsume this image in dark memory, until I drove by another home in town with its own similar sign. The questions arose anew:
  • Is this for dogs to read?
  • Does it denounce pooping as a function? Dogs of the world, lock up your bowels?
  • Is it a joke? If so, it's funny, especially since the home dweller doesn't let on.
  • Is it a grave marker, for a dog buried in that knoll, the last dog that pooped there? A burial mound, a devotion to the god of dogs at their most vulnerable? Is it holy ground?
  • Does it deter? Apparently so, since the lawn is always immaculate. Of course, I never see anybody walking, let alone walking dogs, or even being out of their homes on that street. Maybe dogs and their owners live in fear there, holding it in.
But the most intriguing question:
  • Why?
Really, how big a deal is it to pick up dog poop, even if the lawn became a dump site, which it didn't? At first I used to recoil at the coil of dog poop our dog produced, preferring she do so in secret. But as soon as she was ready to go for walks, I realized that's the main point of her twice-daily constitutional.

I've got the poop pickup down to one smooth motion.

Sure, it's a grievance to pick up someone else's dog's poop, but as long as you're out there, carefully trimming the turf at the base of the statue erected to anti-defecation, how long can it take?

It reminds me of another sign a few years back in a nearby neighborhood, this one packing-taped sturdily to a sidewalk. Long ago the homeowner had built the short walk on the property, creating a little section on the street corner for ornamental plants.

The sign warned, in all caps, "THIS IS NOT A SIDEWALK!"

The sign maker had given Magritte one more twist. It is in fact a sidewalk, which is hard to dispute. The warning meant, more likely, "Private property. Do not enter," which is reasonable, though I can't imagine the harm from walking on a concrete sidewalk, since hardly anyone around that neighborhood goes outside either. The sidewalk is safe from trammel.

That sign, and this, are the same: Futile. Funny, but futile.

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