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My Neighborhood is Sooooo Shitty

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Living in Los Angeles with my dog Skeela has made me keenly aware of shit. Every day I wrap my hand in some sort of petro-chemical barrier, scoop up whatever solid matter has fallen out of my canine, tie a knot in a hand-to-shit barrier bag to seal off the stench, and then proceed to dispose of it cleanly in the nearest appropriate receptacle. My dog eats a well-balanced diet with plenty of whole grains, so on average, I repeat this waste regimen twice daily. My schedule revolves around the intricacies of her beastly intestinal outpourings.

I have given some thought as to the best method for picking up Skeela’s poo. For a while, as part of my on-going efforts to live a more environmentally-friendly life, I would re-use the white plastic grocery bags that Ralph’s sends me home with after purchasing boxed food products from their store. Rather than just throwing them directly in the recycle bin, I would use them to deal with dog dookie. But then I started to worry that my dog’s feces would rot and ferment in these white plastic bags, generating mutant bacteria for decades to come, only to be opened by one of those garbage dump anthropologists who would accidently unleash a new feces-derived airborne epidemic plague. Feeling responsible for the possible downfall of the human species, I decided not to use those plastic Ralph’s bags anymore.

I started to buy rolls of blue elongated cornstarch bags that are supposedly totally biodegradable. They are costly, but they ease my eco-guilt. I suppose I do not mind the added monetary expense of the cornstarch bags. I even bought some heavy-duty leash-gear that conveniently holds the little blue cornstarch bags in place with strips of Velcro. No matter what, I always have my environmentally responsible waste-management bags at hand.

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All seemed right with the matter until a few weeks ago when I started noticing that my West Hollywood enclave had gradually become a large latrine. When the hallowed week of expiring leases arrived in the month of June, a sort of residential changing-of-the-guard occurred. Now there are new residents and dogs living on the block that I call home, but many of them are not picking up their dog shit. My ‘hood is now cluttered with piles of canine poo.

Not wanting to get angry over something as silly as dog shit, I tried to ignore the problem. But then Skeela got lethargic and sick. Her veterinarian found that she had contracted a fecal-borne bacterium, probably from sniffing around where people had not cleaned up after their dogs.

Having had enough of this excremental nastiness, I decided to start to pick up any near-by piles of dog shit that I noticed when scooping up my own dog's poo, hoping that I would have to watch where Skeela sniffed just a little bit less. So far, my strategy is not working. I can watch the ground during the daytime, but at night it is impossible to ensure that my domesticated beast does not come in contact with foreign fecal dollops. And it has cost me way too much money in little blue biodegradable cornstarch bags.

I know that the powers-that-be in my neighborhood are doing all that they can to ensure that my neighborhood does not become a feculent wasteland. Not only have they repeatedly stamped our sidewalks with the words "be a good neighbor, clean up after your dog," but they have posted signs warning that people who do not clean up their dog shit will be fined for violating health codes. Sometimes our local city hall distributes little pamphlets that explain that not cleaning up your dog's ca-ca is a biohazard. The city has even gone so far as to provide specially designed trash cans called "Dog Spots" that dispense black plastic bags printed with pictures of a dog taking a dump so that should a resident forget to bring their own feces-to-hand barrier, they can just grab a Dog Spot bag. If I'm not mistaken, the Dog Spots are cleaned and the bags replenished every few days, so there is never an excuse not to clean up.

Since the City of West Hollywood is having difficulty enforcing this sanitation rule, I have begun day-dreaming of some ways that I would enforce this fecal canon if I were the all-powerful ruler of West Hollywood. The first defecation decree would entail making everybody take their dogs down to the DMV to get a doggie identification card complete with the dog's home address and a photo. The dogs would not be allowed to leave their homes without it. While the dogs are over at the DMV getting their ID cards, I would swab their drool to get a DNA sample that would be coded and kept in a computerized database. Law enforcement officials would be allowed to stop dog owners at anytime to make sure that people have obtained their doggie ID cards. The back of the ID cards would be printed with the phrase "Pick up your dog's poo or everybody will hate you." Then I would walk around the neighborhood and take samples of the piles of poo lining the sidewalks. The samples would be sent to a lab where they would determine who the shit belongs to using the DNA codes that I got from the drool. After I figured out who disrespected the neighborhood by not cleaning up after their dog, I would send them a big huge fine complete with late-payment penalties.

Chances are I won't ever become the all-powerful ruler of West Hollywood, so maybe I'll just capture all of the shit-eating flies that congregate around the piles of neighborhood poo, wait until they die, and then use them to decorate posters that I will secretly and strategically place on the lamp-posts around my block. The posters will say: "This fly eats shit for dinner. Its favorite kind of shit is biohazardous, bacteria-laden, curb-side dog feces. This fly likes to have fruit for dessert. Its favorite kind of fruit is the kind you keep on your counter-top fruit bowl. Please don't shit where you eat."

If that doesn't work, maybe I'll hide in the bushes with a mega-phone and yell at the fecal-offenders. I think I'll say something like: "Unattended dog poo is a health hazard. Ten percent of West Hollywood households are affected by an immune system deficiency (according to the 2006 West Hollywood Community Study). Who the hell are you to compromise their health with dog shit?" Yes, I think that idea might just work.

Photo by barnism via Flickr.