Of Dog Owners, Dog Lovers and Dog Poop – an ANGRY citizen
I like dogs. I like people. I am a really nice person. Sweet tempered and non confrontational – This is a fact even if it sounds like I am boasting. But I have been pushed to say this – I don’t like people who like dogs but don’t like people. I wish they would live on another planet.
You can make these “types” out from their actions. When you visit them, they will say, ”Timmy won’t do anything to you, he will just come and smell you, lick you, jump on you in a friendly manner and go away”. That is “doing something” – it’s NOT “doing nothing”. In any case, this is pardonable – in part, because I can choose to not visit these people in their homes , leaving them to their interpretation of simple English words such as “nothing”.
However, as a citizen, I cannot escape from them on the streets of Chennai, especially Valmiki Nagar, where I live. I am sure it is not very different in other parts of the city. Their utter disregard for everyone except their canines (and disregard for where it poops) has stunned me into utter disbelief and anger. My easy going demeanour has been challenged time and again to breaking point
Walk down (actually you can’t do that so easily) on any of the seaward roads and you will find, at every few steps on the pavement and on the edge of the pavement, mounds of poop in all stages of degradation. From cakey to squishy, from dark red/maroon to yellow, from a few small pellets to large mounds of it. And yes, I want you to squirm in disgust. If you are not, then stop reading here – you need to move to the other planet.
Several times I have stopped and requested dog walkers/owners to clean up after their dogs. Often the responses I have got make me wonder if I need brain replacement! Or if they do. Here are some gems:
Response: “ Shaun (the dog) is like my son and therefore I don’t find it dirty. Just as you won’t find your own child’s poop dirty. I will get him to poop a bit away from where you are – is that OK?”
FACT : I always found my son’s poop dirty and therefore trained him as early as I could to do his business where I won’t need to see it. “Coffee (the dog) only eats vegetarian food- his poop is like cow dung – almost as pure- won’t smell or look as bad- don’t worry!”
FACT : “Pure “ cow dung is also smelly and dirty. Anything that comes out of the rear of a living thing is. I would not want it on my dining table for sure“Its summer now. The poop will dry up in one hour- in fact it’s food for some of the birds”
FACT: Which bird makes a feast of this? I checked on National Geographic and did not find an answer. And, if it will dry up, can it not do the same on the balconies of the dog owner. “I can’t train him to poop anywhere else- this is his favourite place ”
FACT: Liar Liar – you did train him to not do his business in your living room or the kitchen, didn’t you?
So why am I incensed by this?
- Pavements and streets are PUBLIC spaces, not “private toilets” for people or their dogs. It is really funny how many of these citizens will be up in arms against wrong doing in civic spaces but are forgiving of themselves and their canines when they encroach.
- Many people use these spaces for work- the vegetable vendor, the flower seller, the tailor, the autorickshaw driver. Imagine what it is like for them – Imagine if the dog owner had to work with poop around her/his chair and table at work.
- The conservancy worker is a human being – just as the dog owner is. Is it fair to expect her to pick up the pet’s poop?
- Children wait on these pavements for their vans and buses, to be picked up to go to school. Often there is NO space where they can stand comfortably. the elderly who want to take an easy stroll are busier dodging these mounds of poop rather than focusing on their steps.
- Lastly, stepping on dog poop is NOT a sign of good luck. It is actually a health hazard! Not to mention the long-lasting stink of the shoes…
How is any of the above fair?
As a citizen, I want to raise this issue and have a conversation with dog owners about the business of “business” – if they are willing to engage in one sensibly and will be sympathetic to others and pick up after their dogs . Else, I am angry enough to invite volunteers who will be willing to poop in front of the homes of these dog owners just so they can see that poop is poop and is dirty, smelly and horrible, whether it is from the backside of a 4 legged creature or a 2 legged one.
(This article is written as part of ‘Citizen Voices’ by Aarti Madhusudan. An alumnus of Stella Maris College and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, she is the founder of Governance Counts , an initiative that helps strengthen Boards of NGOs. She also volunteers to promote Daan Utsav – India’s festival of giving. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)