Holey Crap! Don’t Throw That Out!

It’s been a lo-o-o-ng winter here in Portland, Maine.  Now nearly March, snow tickles the windowsills and blackens the streets.  People warned us of the ugliness of this time when we moved here five years ago.  They urged us to look inward, to remember that spring is on its way, to ignore the permafrost on every surface in this salt-lick of a city.  But in truth, the snow itself, the mountainous banks lining every parking lot, even soot-gray, are a novelty.

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Does a dog sh*t in the woods?

I am a city dweller. and I have a 150 lb. dog.

Having such a big dog in the city requires due diligence. I have to keep him leashed. I have to watch him. And I have to pick up his crap WITHOUT FAIL. If my dog Max leaves even the barest trace of doodie on the sidewalk, I address the situation. So no unsuspecting soul will fall afoul. City sidewalks – as I have mentioned before – are busy places. People walk on them. Children play on them. And yes, dogs do their business on them. The city sidewalk may be a dog’s toilet. But everyone needs to flush. So, w/out fail, I curb my dog.

Having a big dog in the city requires additional planning when it comes to exercise. Our virtually nonexistent and unfenced yard is simply insufficient to meet Max’s needs. We joined a local dog park to allow for off-leash playtime. But Max likes to walk. Really WALK. So once or twice a week I take him to a local nature refuge for a 4-mile hike through the woods.

Yesterday morning we went to the refuge.  The walk had barely begun when we encountered an older woman coming toward us on the path.  GOOD MORNING! I exclaimed cheerfully.  HOW ARE YOU?  To which she acidly replied, “I’d be better if you’d pick up your dog’s poop.”

Well. Hold the PHONE.

As detailed above, I am fastidious when it comes to feces. NEVER would I leave crap near an unsuspecting foot! But when I take my dog to the woods, we are not on a public street.  We are on a trail. We are not someplace where an infant may pick up a turd and stick it into his or her mouth.  Where someone’s $500 pumps may be ruined. We are surrounded by the natural world. And I do not allow Max to ever dump on the trail itself. Oh no. But I do not see any problem w/ him pooping on the side in the grass and leaves. After which I take whatever large stick is handy and push/scoop/or fling said poop out into the woods – where it will not harm a soul.

I am not talking about letting my dog poop on a playing field.  Where children or lovers – or anyone – would be meandering.  That is just plain gross. But the only meanderers in this case would in fact be deer.  Or groundhogs.  Foxes, snakes, turtles, rats, birds.  YOU GET MY POINT! And no living soul is picking up their scat in plastic baggies to deposit in the trash. As I responded to the woman yesterday, it is natural. Left there, excrement (my dog’s included) will decompose and return to the earth. It is recycling in its most primitive form. Something beautiful in its perfection and simplicity.

She tried to explain to me that the ecological burden on the wildlife refuge is great enough. I have been visiting this refuge for 11 years. The acres are sandwiched between the city, I-95, and the airport. Oil pipelines run beneath it. The burden is great but the burden is ALL MAN-MADE. I simply fail to see how dog poop is going to push this land over the precipice.

There is nothing natural about bagging poop. Nothing. Though I do it, living in the city, w/out fail or hesitation. WHY? Because it is a matter of courtesy and b/c it is the law. But in the woods? No. I will not pick up poop. I will not. B/c it doesn’t make sense. If left to the air, excrement will decompose naturally w/in weeks or days. It is a matter of natural recycling. What is UNNATURAL is picking it up, sealing it into a bag, and placing it into a trash can. Where it will have to be picked up by a waste truck, carried miles to a landfill, to be dumped and sit festering for years to come. Where it will not easily – if ever, decompose. THAT, to me, is insanity.

I may be the only person thinking this, but I do not care. B/c in my heart it makes sense. In my mind, every dog has a right to take a crap on the soil and not feel like he or she is doing something wrong. I for one have pooped right there in the refuge behind a bush and I didn’t blink twice. WHY? B/c I had to go. And when nature calls, I answer.

The collector.

I joke about being a pack rat. But this morning, after googling “pack rat” for pictures, I can safely say I AM NOT A PACK RAT. Dear Lord. If you can no longer see your floor for the mountain of clothing and debris, you need help. And quick! Before you are swallowed WHOLE.

SO. Instead of saying I am a pack rat – which I AM NOT – I will call myself a selective hoarder. Not quite the same level of commitment. Being a selective hoarder is sort of like being a secret drinker, but as I am open about my drinking, I favor STUFF instead of liquor. I stash it about the house, here and there. Tucked into little crevices, so neat and tidy you’d never suspect it’s lurking there behind that cupboard door. HAHAHAHAH!

Fortunately this hoarding compulsion really only translates to a few things. My kids, for instance. The walls of my office are lined with their drawings. I save school papers, scrawled messages, mementos. Birthday cards, locks of hair, teeth. I even have their umbilical stumps, like two dried-up raisins – why? Because. Boxes of old shoes and clothing line the walls of the attic. Even though I’ve given away a ton of it all, the collection still grows. We want more children!
I will NEED that stained, holey Purple Pony t-shirt some day. For this same reason I still have boxes of baby toys, 2 changing tables, cribs and an enormous plastic racing car bed. I am not sure how many more kids we’ll have, but it’s safe to say they’ll all have somewhere to sleep.

In addition, I retain paperwork. If we bought a small appliance 10 years ago, you can bet I have the manual sitting in a drawer somewhere. I have boxes of notebooks from high school, college, graduate school. Old report cards from junior high, paper awards from Highland Elementary. I have birthday cards I got when I was 15. Really. I’ve saved every letter, postcard, and greeting card I’ve been given the past 20 years. Our closets overflow w/ correspondence. I tell you, if I am ever famous I will be an archivist’s dream.

Against my will, I also collect plastic containers. I do not want to. But they only take #1 or 2 plastic in the recycling, and I feel guilty about tossing the others. On average, I eat two cups of yogurt a day. Our dog Max loves his Beneful meals, which (of course) come in these cute little lidded containers. I cook at home almost every day. Sour cream, cream cheese containers, foam packaging, all non-recyclable. I know the news is blathering on about the price of oil, BUT WHAT THE HELL are these manufacturers doing??! Putting all of this stuff in #5, 6, 7 plastic?? Wake UP AMERICA! This food isn’t coming from overseas. This is our shame, and all this trash is going back into the ground! What a waste. So much garbage. I HATE chucking these plastic things, but dammit my cabinets can only hold so much. I already have closets full of paper, where the hell can I stuff 35 jumbo yogurt tubs a month?? I will be buried in a mountain of plastic Stonyfield Farm containers when I die.

Now that The Daily Dish is on hold, I am spending time organizing my home. It is liberating being able to open up a closet and not have stuff fall down on top of me. And it is fun looking through old pictures. At this rate, my house will be so clean I’ll hardly believe it’s mine. But I know I not the only Collector out there. Tell me your secrets.