The Phenomenon of Bagging What Your Dog Leaves Behind

Yesterday, I did something I thought I would never, ever do. I took my dog on a mile-and -a-half walk along a trail through the woods of Deerfield, and when my dog pooped, I took out a plastic bag, scooped it up, tied the bag in a small knot and waited until I was able to find a garbage can.

I apologized to my dog when I did this. I spoke to him and begged his forgiveness. But, as you know, we don’t talk the same language, so he probably was figuring he had done something wrong that needed attention. He’d fix it whatever it was. He would do better next time.

I also apologize to you, dear reader, to have to report that this is what it has all come to in the “fabulous” Hamptons, formerly known as just the Hamptons. My world of dog poop picking up is complete. It’s been a 30-year process. I’ve gone from never picking it up (in the days when nobody picked anything up), to picking it up when I was just in New York City and he was on a leash, to picking it up in the Hamptons when I was downtown and he was now on a leash, to picking it up nearly all the time.

By the way, did you know that dogs used to run around free in the Hamptons? Hard to believe today. But they did. I recall one particular dog, a Wheaton, would show up every morning at the Southampton Post Office on Nugent Street to follow a particular postman, his favorite postman, on his route along the sidewalks and through town giving out the mail to one store after another. This dog worked full-time, five days a week and half a day on Saturday. On his route, running free, merchants would have a treat for this dog.

It was a happy occasion when the mail would arrive. And when this dog died, the town mourned. Many people didn’t even know who owned this dog, but at the time of his death, that couple tearfully presented themselves to the media for interviews. He was a fine dog, he was.

Anyway, so I dressed in the morning to go on this hike. I hadn’t hiked since last year, and in a way I cannot fully understand, my attitude about what comes out of the back of a dog (and everybody else) has changed.

Used to be we had farmland in Sagaponack for miles and miles, the views of the horizon were unencumbered by anything other than the dunes guarding the ocean beach. Now it’s one McMansion after another, all boxed in with hedgerows and sidewalks, and if you walk your dog there, you better have him on a leash so he doesn’t run onto the people’s properties. And you better have that little unused blue bag in your pocket.

I put on a sun hat, laced up my walking shoes and windbreaker, and when I dropped my keys into the windbreaker’s pocket after I put it on, I felt the folded-up blue bag. And I thought, he’s going to run off and tramp around and come running back but I will never find it.

So I got his leash. Can’t use the bag if the dog poops where I can’t find it. I couldn’t believe I was doing this. Then a disheartening surprise. The dog sees the leash and begins running around happily in little circles. He’s going in the car.

So this is what we’ve come to. We have people who do windows. We have landscapers and pool maintenance people and fancy cars that go to the car wash, and on frequent occasions we attend fashionable summer party clothes and we drink water from France or Italy brought over on container ships that spew into the sky the lowest and dirtiest diesel fuel imaginable as they cross the ocean. Of course, if nobody sees that, it really is okay. Right?

And now I walk my dog in the woods on a leash.

Hasn’t it ever occurred to anyone that the entire earth is just stuff that creatures consume in the front and poop out the back? Think of pigeons. Think of the fact that you have to clean the fish tank. Think of horses and the shovelers that walk behind them. Think of the sea and the wild surf, washing in up the sand to the back of the dunes and back out into the sea all that the crabs do, the piping plovers do, the foxes and seals do, even what we do, if we did but we don’t, because there in the back is the comfort station.

Nature recycles.

And this is the earth. Old poop held together in a ball, spinning around the warm sun, causing everything to grow and prosper and die and become fertilizer, or in the vegetable world, compost.

Did it ever occur to anyone that as a result of this relatively recent development, involving dog poop and baggies, that just maybe dog poop is an absolutely vital ingredient in the mix of natural life? Could it be possible that without dog poop in the mix, nature will swing out of balance, the bees will die, the frogs will get sick, huge herds of finback whales will wash up dead on our beaches for lack of some important ingredient, perhaps a form of calcium, that is found in dog poop? Could it be? Have you noticed that there are fewer and fewer songbirds every year?

Well, I concede one thing. There’s a difference between fresh and “it’s been around for a while.” If we are eating outdoors at a clam house and the seagulls are flying around, it’s okay if we see the white guano on the dock pilings, but it’s not okay to get hit with some stuff while you are looking at the menu.

So yes, I guess we need bags to pick up after our dogs. I agree with that. But in addition to that, now that I think about it, doing so is really not part of our job on earth. It should be the dog’s job.

I propose that a smart manufacturer of pet items, say a supplier of Petco, comes up with a dog collar that has wrapped around it a dispenser of blue plastic baggies all folded up. You’d train the dog. The dog would feel the urge coming on and he’d reach around with his teeth and bite on a blue baggie (another blue baggie pops into the ready position), and he’d drop it to the ground and that would be where he would do what he had to do. Then—and the instruction sheet would provide the further training required to make this happen—the dog would dig with his front paws until the baggie was all folded up, he would grab it in his teeth, tie it into a knot, jump up onto the side of a garbage can, drop it in, hop down, run over to your side with his tail wagging, turn around and heel.

It could happen.

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