Eve Pearlman: A question, Alamedan to Alamedan
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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.