I took Pippin on our usual morning walk through the neighborhood and was thinking about what to write next. Sometimes I think in my head and sometimes I think out loud which gets me a few strange looks, but it also augments my natural “I’m kind of a weirdo” vibes and serves as added protection against other weirdos approaching me while I walk.
In fact, now that I think about it, I wonder if that’s what the other people in my neighborhood have been doing all along. I always think my one-sided conversations are tempered by the fact that I’m walking my dog and I could feasibly (and usually am) talking to him, which is a little less unsettling than talking to someone who exists only in my mind (as many of the other people I see on walks seem to be doing), but I don’t know, maybe that man was yelling at a squirrel, or that woman was sharing her plans with her pet mosquito. Maybe they just didn’t want to be bothered and pretended to have rabbits or starlings or friendly clouds to talk to.
“Mom, you’re getting off topic,” Pippin says.
Right. Thanks, buddy. So I was walking with Pippin and talking to him about my blog and he asked what I’d already been writing about. I told him about how I wrote about the leaves yesterday, and he suggested that I share this particular story. It’s not a great story, but he insisted. If you don’t like it, like a fart, you can blame it on the dog.
A year or two ago (I’m not sure which because, you know, time has no meaning anymore), Kalen and I were walking with Pippin through the neighborhood. It was a nice autumn day, or maybe an early winter day. The leaves had fallen and many people in the neighborhood had dealt with their leaves by either piling them by the curb for the city to take or bagging and disposing of them in other ways, but as I explained before, this is a pretty wide window of time.
On this particular occasion, we were, in addition to walking, also picking up trash. I don’t say this to make us seem like better people. For various reasons, our neighborhood finds itself accumulating a lot of trash. I don’t know if it blows in from the plains of Kansas, or flies out of the trash trucks as they hurtle down the street, or is dropped by slobbering idiots (actually I think it’s a little of all of that and more). And lest you think I pick it up like some kind of environmental saint, know that I mostly approach the task with a certain level of suppressed rage.
In fact, we have different tools for the job: a pinchy grabber and a spiky stabber. Those names are fairly self-explanatory, but just in case you’re confused, I’ll elaborate. The pinchy grabber is like long-range tongs, pinching at the squeeze of a trigger. I often see people use these around the house to reach for items that have fallen behind furniture or if someone has a bad back and can’t bend over. The spiky stabber is most commonly seen on television in scene-setting sequences of “the big city” and is usually wielded by a rough-looking person who is stabbing loose trash onto what looks like an overturned receipt spike. The pinchy grabber is undeniably easier to use, but I must admit I really enjoy the spiky stabber for taking out my anger at the obscene amounts of litter. So when you picture me picking up trash, it’s much less “Let’s make the world a cleaner and better place!” and more “No one picks up their &%$*@! trash, so I guess I’ll do it myself!”
When we pick up trash, we usually end up filling at least two kitchen trash bags over the mile and a half that we stroll. It’s a lot of trash. And picking around leaves makes it a little more difficult because we don’t want to waste our precious garbage-bag space by filling it with leaves instead.
Of course, whether it’s a garbage picking walk or not, I always try to pick up Pippin’s poops. Again, this isn’t a holier-than-though thing. It’s the right thing to do, sure, but there’s more than a little self-interest there too. We almost always walk the same route on our walks, so if I don’t pick up his poops, I’m just as likely to step in it as someone else. And Pippin is a big dog. Big dogs make big poops. Big enough that stepping in it could really ruin your day. And your shoes. If he catches me without any bags, I really make an effort to pick up the poop on our next walk.
But sometimes I just can’t pick it up. Sometimes Pippin’s tummy is upset and there’s nothing to grab. Sometimes he backs into a dense flowerbed to do his business and I can’t find it.
On this occasion, as Kalen and I picked up trash, one house had blown their leaves into a pile for the city to collect and mulch, but rather than blowing them to the space between the sidewalk and the curb, they blew them into the street gutter. The city says not to do this, but sometimes it happens. I understand not having the literal real estate to hold the leaves for an indeterminate amount of time.
Unfortunately, Pippin decided this pile of leaves was a great place to take a dump.
Because the leaves were fairly freshly blown, they were still fluffy, and the turds immediately disappeared into the depths of leaves and we decided that since a) he had technically pooped in the street, rather than someone’s yard, and b) we were picking up trash, we would be karmically okay if we left this one. We tucked away the poo bag that we had unrolled in preparation, re-situated the nearly-full kitchen trash bag and five-gallon bucket that we were filling, and continued on our way.
We only got about fifteen steps before a grouchy dude appeared out of nowhere shouted after us, “You gonna pick that up?!”
Apparently he had been sitting in his pickup truck (why are there so many people in this neighborhood who just chill in their vehicles instead of going inside like normal human beings?) and thought he would be a neighborhood vigilante, calling out the villains leaving dog poo everywhere.
I called back, “If you can find it, sure, we’ll pick it up, but it went down in the leaves and we couldn’t find it.”
He huffed and stomped and pointed at the ground, “It’s right here!” but I don’t think he expected us (still carrying at least 13 gallons of litter that we had picked up, by the way) to come back.
“Where?” I asked. He hemmed and hawed as he quickly scanned the ground again like he was playing the worlds worst game of Where’s Waldo.
“Right there!” he huffed and pointed triumphantly at a small, dried turd the size of my pinky, sitting on the grass between the sidewalk and the curb.
Clearly, the man didn’t know shit.
“You think this cold, crusty, tootsie roll came, just now, out of that 90 pound beast, and we, already laden with the refuse of the neighborhood, were just going to leave it,” I desperately wanted to say.
But I am, in reality, pretty timid, so what I actually did was choke back a surprised laugh at the man’s staggering incompetence and misplaced indignation, and say, “That’s not from my dog, but we have bags, and we’re already picking up trash that’s not ours, so I’ll get it.” And I did. And the man stomped his way back to his truck like a toddler in need of a spanking, a timeout, and a nap, and I stomped away in the other direction not much happier.
It felt unjust. We were picking up garbage that wasn’t ours around the neighborhood during a pandemic. It wasn’t court ordered. We weren’t only nabbing recyclables that we could sell back as scrap metal. We pick up after Pippin on all but the rarest of occasions. But this man had such an air of self-righteous arrogance that every time I walk past the house I want to throw a filled poo bag (which I am almost always carrying at that point in our walk) into the bed of his oversized pickup truck. I never do. But I imagine it.
In writing up this memory, though, I imagined that maybe justice was served anyway. I’ll never know if it actually was, but it could have happened. We never found Pippin’s actual (large) poo that fell into the leaves that day. Maybe some force in the universe saw that we had been trying to do something nice, and saw that the leaves had been blown where they shouldn’t have been, and saw the countless other times I stopped and stooped and picked up as much of Pippin’s poo as I could short of actually digging up little chunks of my neighbors’ yards, and in return, maybe that force guided that small-minded asshat to park on that side of the house where he actually did step in it one day.
The thought of it makes me smile. It’s a wicked, nasty, little smile, but it’s a smile nonetheless.
And in case you were wondering how Pippin told me that this was what I should share today, it went like this: he found a large, deep pile of leaves covering the sidewalk in front of someone’s yard and pooped in them. Remembering the dying embers of my rage from the above story (and my desire to not step in the poop the next day), I gently brushed away some leaves and scooped the poop. And then the not-so-little stinker did a second poop at the house where the story takes place. His means of communication aren’t always the most orthodox, but they certainly are effective.