Home » Eve Pearlman

Eve Pearlman: A question, Alamedan to Alamedan

Submitted by on 1, February 5, 2010 – 6:00 am18 Comments
Photo by Jan Watten

Photo by Jan Watten

The Internet is a good place to seek guidance and wisdom. You can find out all manner of things – how to best cultivate peas, for example — or opinions on the absorbency of diapers, Huggies v. Pampers.

So here’s today’s question: Say – hypothetically, of course – you or someone you know has a neighbor who has a pet. Let’s say the pet is a dog. And let’s say the dog that is allowed to do ‘its business’ at off-hours (wee hours of the morning, after dusk) all around the neighborhood – usually on someone’s lawn. And say (still hypothetically) you or someone you know has already raised the issue politely with the neighbor. Say more than one neighbor has done so. And say the behavior gets better for a few days and then it regresses – and, once again, there are deposits of poop on neighboring lawns.

How to handle this? Options:

    1. Return all dog waste found to the front porch where the dog lives
    2. Return it to the dog owners’ yard
    3. Knock on the door and show the dog waste to the owners

Reflections on solutions 1-3: All these procedures require a lot of effort, uncomfortable confrontation, as well as the transport of dog poop, and the awkwardness of returning a ‘product’ that you can’t, in the absence of, say, DNA evidence, be 100 percent certain – though you can be pretty sure – to whom it belongs.

Some other options:

    4. Monitor neighborhood at dusk and dawn. Snap pictures or take video of the culprit on the loose. Show to dog owners. Ask him/her to keep dog fenced.
    5 . Monitor neighborhood. Snap pictures or take video of dog in the act. Bring dog and waste back to owner. Ask that they keep dog fenced.
    6. Monitor neighborhood at dawn and dusk. Return off-leash dog to owner each and every time it is on the loose.

Reflections on solutions 4 – 6: All three require more effort than 1-3 – they all demand uncomfortable, off-hours waiting as well as uncomfortable confrontation. But they do challenge what seems to be a cognitive disconnect in the (hypothetical) dog owners’ minds who say, “He always does ‘it’ in our yard.” Positives: There will be no question that the waste you are returning belongs to the dog in question. Negatives: you are up early and out late watching for a dog so you can catch it in the act. Solutions five and six call for collaring the doggie, which may be difficult.

More options:

    7. Confront the neighbor more aggressively than you have before. Not just, “Please pick up your dog waste!” But get angry. Say, YOU MUST STOP ALLOWING YOUR DOG OUT TO RELIEVE HIMSELF! THIS MUST STOP NOW! Maybe have another neighbor play good cop, “She’s getting really angry!”
    8. Confront the neighbor more aggressively than you had before (as in seven). Cite city code that requires dogs to 1. Be on leash and 2. For their owners to pick up their waste each and every time. Threaten to call the city’s animal control department.
    9. Call the city’s animal control department. Figure out if anyone is available in the early morning hours and late evening hours when the dog is out. Learn about how animal control system works – try to devise a strategy in which an outsider might get the neighbor to stop letting the dog out without a leash.

Reflections on 7-9: All three require a good deal of emotional energy, time and logistical coordination. Seven: Could work. Eight: suddenly you’re a person threatening to call animal control on your neighbor’s free-ranging and pooping (but friendly) dog. Nine: fear that you are on a downward trajectory in a no-win battle.

All options are unseemly, which is how you or someone you know has settled into the status quo. Stepping in poop when raking leaves, picking up poop on the sidewalk or from the lawn, commiserating with neighbors about the poop in their yards.

What I’m asking for here, is help and wisdom. Perhaps it’s just finding a little bit of zen? Making peace with the fact that you or someone you know picks up a neighbor’s dog’s poop a couple times a week. Or is there a solution? Some way to make this, hypothetical of course, neighbor stop letting their dog range freely? Please help.

Eve Pearlman offers her take on Alameda’s stories, big and small, every Friday on The Island. Contact her at eve@theislandofalameda.com.


  • Barbara M says:

    10. I will stomp around the house and then ask my husband in an outraged voice why they do that. He will look at me and ask why he is getting yelled at. Not where we currently live but years ago our similar experience was with a drinking teenager and barf instead of dog and poop. I did the confrontation thing and it made me crazy. I like a good debate just like the next guy but when it is the people who you can't help but have a bit TMI about, it gets really uncomfortable.

    Might I suggest that the next time you take over a plate of neighborly cookies substitute it for some homemade dog treats and a box of poop bags with a nice note asking once more that it stop. Guilt works better than anger.

  • Denise Shelton says:

    Either accept it as one of life's little annoyances or be prepared to make an enemy for life. One that lives near you, that will glare at you every time you encounter them and possibly worse. Pick your battles. I'd report it to animal control with a letter signed by as many other neighbors as I can muster and then let it go. Life is too short to blow your stack over a pile.

  • Ken Arneson says:

    Another alternative: you can mail them a copy of this page:


    With the appropriate sections highlighted.

  • Mark Hersman says:

    Next offense, pick it up with a poop bag and leave on the front porch with a roll of bags for future use. Next offense after that, pick up poop with a shovel and drop it on their lawn un-bagged.

  • I J says:

    Other solution used by friends that live near one of the city's parks:

    Their lawn irrigation system has a motion sensor. When dogs, cats, raccoons, possums, seagulls, geese (much worse deposits than any dog, and they always waddle along in flocks!) or other wildlife come onto the lawn, all the front yard's sprayers come on and spray. Surprised, wet animal quickly runs away.

    The sprayed water also breaks up animal deposits from their own dog, making liquid fertilizer that nourishes their lawn, as part of their normal irrigation schedule.

    Bonus: When they turn off the motion control sensor during the day (I think a timer actually does this), they still have a remote control that can turn on the irrigation system anytime 24 hours. Annoying salesmen? Frisbee teenagers who think the front yard has become an extension of the public park space?

    One click and they're gone. And the property owners never even have to leave the house.

    Much less confrontational. Worst case, you'd have to say, "Oh sorry, I guess the gardener made a mistake programming it. I had no idea."

  • Dennis Green says:

    Eve, here's the Zen thing. Imagine for a moment that living in a community, living with neighbors closer than a mile away, requires some degree of compromise and compassion. That your own children sometimes create enough noise and ruckus to upset an elderly neighbor or two. Go deeper. Imagine that your neighbor is disabled in ways not obvious to you, has physical limitations, or even mental ones, (bipolar, perhaps?), that prevents him/her from attending to the customary and preferred tradition of walking the dog and scooping the poop and disposing of it in a carry bag.

    Now, most of us, sound as we are in mind and body, would not own a dog if we couldn't tend to its needs properly. Any more than most people would not have children if they couldn't provide for them, nurture them, discipline them, keep them from breaking the peace, or the law.

    But just imagine, for a moment, that your neighbor is in some way disabled, and that none of your "solutions" are really compassionate or even neighborly. And that you can be just alert enough that you inspect your lawn and grounds each morning, and if necessary remove the offending offal without really straining yourself. Get it? Got it? Good! Now you have enlightenment.

    Dennis Green

    Responsible Dog Companion

  • Jim Quilici says:

    A high school teacher once spoke about dealing with a road block:

    Politely meet it face to face, and kindly ask it to move out of the way. If that doesn't work, find a clever way around it. If that doesn't work, run right over it.

    People love compliments and tend to be more receptive to further messages in that state of mind; start your conversation with a few nice things to say, then state your suspicion about the poop on the lawn, and just ask that they do you the favor of keeping the dog leashed. You could do that with one or more dog owners you suspect. At least, you've asked nicely. It's on them to cooperate.

  • Neal_J says:

    It seems to me that #1-9 require considerable effort on your part. Might I suggest #12: publish the owner's name here.

  • Barbara Thomas says:

    To Mr. Green's enlightening comments add: One measure of a human being is what it takes to offend that human being.

  • DDW says:

    If possible, take a picture of offending dog 'in action' – Blow it up big time -put picture on front lawn with comment "Do you know this dog because it's not mine". Doesn't work? Take picture of dog and owner and put it up with bags next to it inviting the 'models' to use the bag.

    Asking people to cooperate works only if they're willing. If they're not willing you don't have an obligation to keep asking.

  • Adrian Blakey says:

    Ask the neighbor if you can do them a favor and walk their dog for them.


    Dog gets a new friend. Owner gets dog looked after. You get the love of a dog which will offset the pickup chore.

  • Kenny says:

    hmmm… IJ's solution with the motion sensor timer sounds like a good one but if you're looking for "evidence" to turn over to the Animal Control folks you may be able to use this similar solution: Assuming there's sufficient light… You have a computer at home I'm sure. Do you have a web cam? Logitech web cams usually come with motion sensor software. Set up the cam in a window overlooking the dog's favorite area and get photographic proof.

  • Susan Dunn says:

    Hi Eve,

    I would think that a note left on your neighbor's doorstep would be a good way to handle this. Its not confrontational, which is difficult for both parties, and is a polite way to address a difficult problem. Probably your neighbor is unconsciously thinking that all grass is a lavatory for pets, and hasn't really thought about her responsibilities. So I suggest starting very easily, with a kind note letting her/him know that you are inconvenienced by the doggie doo. I would make it as kind and diplomatic as possible.

    If that doesn't work, you can take more aggressive actions. But you will know that you did the right thing in the beginning. I always try to take the high road. At least at first!!!

  • KH says:

    Hmm…we have this exact same problem on our street. But the guy/gal pair who let their dogs do their business everywhere aren't exactly the approachable type– both have meth mouth; not exactly the Alameda Braintrust, if you know what I mean. And the dogs are pit bull mixes, and not too friendly.

    I learned a little defensive trick from a neighbor: sprinkle cayenne pepper along the border of your lawn. It works! Of course, you need to re-apply once per week, and daily when it's raining.

    Good luck!

  • LS says:

    Lots of good ideas here. But how 'bout this one: Kidnap the dog. Send it on a 1 or 2 day vacation to a friend's house. Give the owner a little while to get worried and say to him/herself "If Fido ever comes back I promise I'll never let Fido out of my sight again!" This strategy may require you to lie in the owner's face when the owner asks "have you seen my dog?" I tried this once. I only kept the dog for an afternoon. I don't think it was long enough.

    Another variation of this catch and release strategy, is to take the dog over to animal care and control yourself. Then the owner has to pay a fine to get the canine back. Money is a big motivator to change behaviour. If the owner really doesn't get it, then take the dog to Berkeley, they have a no kill policy. But then you'll have to lie to them and convince them that you found the dog in Berkeley (and you have to find a Berkeley resident to go with you and also be willing to lie – but it's all for a good cause, right?) After you take the dog to Berkeley, you could then suggest to the owner that he/she call to the shelters in neighboring cities. When the dog is found, you then become a hero for your good advice. It's a bit twisted isn't it, what with the lying and all?

  • Alana says:

    Eve – I sympathize.

    I admire Dennis Green's take on it; spiritually he's way ahead of me. Obviously I'm going to be reincarnated as a hagfish or something equally vile. And by that standard, LS might come back as a flatworm. I do not recommend dognapping.

    There is a difference in getting upset/vengeful and being assertive. Although it is fun to dream… revenge is a dish best left in the back of the fridge to mold until trash day; considered, then forgotten, then tossed out as useless.

    I'd go for a nice note and dog biscuits first, (maybe you could ask with friendly curiosity "Is there a reason why you need help picking the poo up? Would it help if I put bags out?") combined with a peppery perimeter to irritate dog's nose (one snootful will work wonders and won't harm the dog). You can also put up a sign that says "Surveillance camera in operation". You don't actually need a cam – just a blinky light in a shadowy area – but it might help you get your photo without having to stay up all night in your camo gear.

    If illicit poopage persists, send a photo with a copy of the civil code and a written warning to the offending party. More poop would mean posting the photo on your lawn prominently (you may as well get extra copies laminated, because some will be torn up and tossed out). Then move up to contacting city authorities as last resort.

    If you were really motivated, you could HYPOTHETICALLY hide behind a bush wearing a gorilla suit, and when ol' Bowser is doing his doody, jump out with a horrifying roar of "BAD DOGGY! RARRRGHGHGH!!!" combined with strident musical accompaniment of a drum, metal pot-and-spoon set, trumpet, sax, or air horn, and a display of wild gesticulation. I think that, after only a brief hospitalization, your neighbor would be more courteous, and the dog might think twice before bestowing its gifts upon your lawn. Be sure that someone videotapes this, because if you submit it to America's Funniest Home Videos, you will make a bloody fortune. I would hypothetically get 10% of the take. I also would hypothetically offer to videotape the proceedings. Let me know if I can be of assistance. Hypothetically.


  • JJ says:

    It sounds like you've already tried to be nice about it so there is only one thing left to do: Start pooping on their lawn.

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