By Daniel Dunaief
You know the face dogs make when they’re taking care of their business? I’m not talking about number one. I’m talking about the big whopper: number two. For many dogs, I imagine that is the equivalent of the human concentration face, as we ponder everything from what we should have for dinner, to the best route home in a traffic jam, to the best use of our time on a Friday night when we’re exhausted but know we could contribute to our area through community service.
My dog must know that I’m watching him closely because every time he finds exactly the right spot to release the contents of his bowels, he turns his back to me. Before he enters his squatting position, he looks back over his shoulder to make sure no one or everyone is watching him. He’s easily distracted in the moment of separation from his solid waste.
I respect his wishes and give him his moment of privacy once he starts the process. Now, of course, much as we might watch them as they relieve themselves, I know that they watch us closely, wondering why we’re so meticulous, or not, as the case may be, about scooping up everything they’ve dropped.
My dog still seems to think that he’s doing sufficient cleanup duties by kicking a few blades of grass in the general direction of his creation. He starts tugging on the leash immediately after that, sending a nonverbal signal from his neck to my hand, as if to say, “I got this one, let’s move to that flower bed where Marshmallow left me a secret scented note.”
As I bent down recently to clean up his mess, he saw one of his favorite couples. That’s not exactly a fair characterization, as almost any combination of two people would immediately rank among his favorites if one or both of them came over to him and rubbed his stomach while he turned over on his back and dangled his paws in the air, as if he were at a canine nail salon. The challenge for me, as he was pulling, tugging and twisting on the leash, was to do the impossible: Chat with his human friends, keep him from knocking one or both of them over with his enthusiasm and politely scoop up his poop.
I waited for a moment to retrieve my retriever’s droppings, hoping that he’d calm down enough to allow me to bend my knees and lift the boulders from the ground. No such luck, as he seemed to be playing twist-the-leash-around-the-human-legs game.
One of the many sensory problems with my dog’s poop is that the longer it remains in place, the more it seems to spread out and sink into the ground. Knowing this, I was eager to bag it and to move on during our walk.
Just as the couple finally disengaged from my dog and his leash, another dog and his owner appeared, causing my dog’s tail to wag so violently that it looked like those whirling propellers on an old airplane. While my dog darted and retreated from his much bigger and more mellow friend, I got farther away from his droppings. In the back of my mind, I wondered whether I could, just this once, leave his biodegradable droppings where they landed.
When the other dog and his owner took off, my dog and I returned to the expanding pile. I’m convinced that my dog watched the entire pickup routine with rapt fascination, knowing he’d succeeded in extending the process into something considerably more challenging for the human scrunching his nose at the other end of the leash.