Dale Smith: Lesson learned on the trail
At first glance, the use of blue plastic bags to dispose of dog excrement deposited along the trail seems like a good idea.
Who doesn’t want a trail free of doggie-do?
But lately I’ve been wondering, with each blue bag I pass along the trail, why we bother to bag up our dog’s poop at all.
After all, to put an object in a bag suggests value. Our groceries are put in bags. Gifts are put in bags. Stuff we want to keep goes in bags. But dog poop?
I’ve used these blue bags a few times. The first time I picked up my terrier’s turd I was struck by how warm and, in this case, firm the steaming excrement was.
With a mere 12 micron plastic membrane separating my skin from the actual turd, the blue bag of fresh poop was the perfect hand-warmer for a crisp fall day.
So, after enjoying a moment of radiating warmth, I knotted the bag, placed it at the trail’s edge, and went on my way, hoping I would remember to pick it up on my way back to the trail head.
I’m one of the lucky ones. My dog usually downloads his business within the first few minutes of starting our walk.
This means that on the return trip I don’t have to carry the bag of dog poop very far. My chances of running into someone I know, or being introduced to someone I don’t know by someone I do know while holding a bag of fresh dog poop, are mercifully slim.
No one wants to shake the hand of a person holding a bag of poop.
At the trail head, I open the lid of the blue bag depository and notice maybe five or 10 bags of doggie-do down in the shadows.
I drop my dog’s contribution into the mix, there it goes, not my problem anymore.
I wonder why the metal container has to be so strong. Is there concern that bears will destroy it in their frenzy to get at the bags of poop? “Hey, Bruno, look at all these bags of poop! Sweet!”
I wonder what happens to these blue bags of poop once they are picked up. Maybe they are taken to the transfer station out on McCourtney and eventually carted off to some landfill. I mean, what else could happen to them? I doubt someone burns them in a 50-gallon drum in their backyard. How gross would that be? Not to mention environmentally unfriendly.
In the landfill these plastic bags of poop will still be plastic bags of poop in 10 years. In 100 years. In 1,000 years.
For eternity. Can you imagine some archaeologist of the future sifting through the ruins of our civilization and discovering a vein of these plastic bags of poop?
“Man, these folks were into some weird stuff, Bob … what were they thinking, bagging up all this? No wonder their civilization collapsed.”
I am no longer in the poop-bagging business. No, it just doesn’t make sense to me, anymore. What I do is kick poop. I’m a s— kicker and proud of it. Through trial and some pretty disgusting error, I’ve developed dependable techniques that allow me to launch my terrier’s turds 10 or 15 feet into the forest using nothing but the sole of my shoe and the pendulum swing of my leg.
What’s the point, you might ask? I challenge anyone to bring me a dog turd found in the vicinity of the trail that is more than a year old.
When a turd is kicked into the forest in its natural, organic state, it becomes part of the forest. It decays. Organisms that help break it down attack it.
The kicked poop becomes one with the ecosystem, while bagged turds don’t change at all, they remain just another bag of poop in a landfill.
So, the next time you bend over to pick up a warm turd with your plastic-wrapped hand, ask yourself: “Is this really necessary? Am I doing the right thing? Or does it just seem like I’m doing the right thing?”
Dale Smith, a writer and photographer, lives in Nevada City.
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