Lifestyles Left and Right

Mr. President, Spare Me the Product

In a dog's world, product placement is a dirty business.

By 1.27.09

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The topic examined is self-explanatory, and in the interest of decorum will be called "the product."

If anything good comes from the new administration just inaugurated, it will be a national leash law, and a removal of the product law, for the product is highly visible lately. We're talking a "shovel-ready" New Deal WPA-type program designed to purge the product from our parks and other public places.

We've had a thaw in Salmon, Idaho recently, and snow melting in Island Park -- where I walk each afternoon -- has exposed a goodly amount of the product. I've noticed that it's also present in a frozen variation in sheets of thick ice slow to melt off the walking trails. Anyway, it's everywhere. I counted roughly forty deposits of the product one afternoon. It's not so noticeable in the warm months thanks to the luxuriant greenery that hides it.

Other parts of the country have strict laws governing this, but here in the West we have a libertarian attitude that seems to say: "This is America and my dog can leave behind the product wherever he wants to. After all, it's the natural course of things, so what's the problem?" This attitude is fine considering the West is home to vast expanses of public land. If cattle, horses and sheep can leave the product all over Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, why not dogs? There are millions of acres of the public domain for Spike to happily run around on and drop the product. Many Westerners take advantage of this opportunity. But many are too lazy to go beyond the city limits. Hence those filthy public parks and residential yards.

When I lived in Cody, Wyoming, I had a front yard (not so in Salmon, where I live in a second floor walkup). I never ceased to be amazed by the chutzpah of people who when walking their dogs thought nothing of letting them squat and drop the product on the lawn. One day I startled an elderly woman when I yelled at her from my front doorway (this in the late morning, she must have thought nobody was home). Anyway, she hustled off, dragging on a leash the still- squatting terrier-type canine down the sidewalk. Many people in Cody walked their dogs in the pre-dawn hours before work, or afterwards at night. They were harder to catch. Another lawn depositor regularly left the product at four or five AM, and being asleep, I never caught them. Eternal vigilance is the price of a tidy yard. The United States Congress, or the president -- by way of Executive Order -- needs to act.

Then there's jumping dogs. Libertarian-minded  Salmon has a problem with leashes, especially in the park, where hordes of anarchic pooches run free. Why do some people think it's okay to let their dogs run wild? How dare we suggest that they restrain Fido and Fifi?  Unrestrained canines are either friendly or not, and even the friendly ones are annoying with all that enthusiastic slobbering and jumping, where they plaster you with muddy paws while their masters (custodians? companions?) stand nearby and futilely beckon them to stop and return to their side. Of course, it's very politically incorrect to complain about this, as I found out one day when I had sharp words with a man about his border collie. His contention was that the dog was  -- again -- just being friendly, so what's the problem? I countered by gesturing to a nearby mud puddle, and offered to get my hands dirty and then plaster them all over his parka in a reciprocal act of friendship. Luckily, we stayed about twenty feet apart during this contentious discussion. Hence my call for legislation instituting a National Leash Law.

Which brings me to cats.  Why is that they don't need restraining? Why is it that when they drop the product it's not easily detectable? They even work hard to bury it in a kitty litter box. And isn't it nice that they don't jump all over you in effusive greeting, marking you with muddy paws? Cats that do sometimes end up at the vet for a shot to cure some sort of distemper. Their noble and detached demeanors are certainly admirable. Cats are self-reliant in that good old-fashioned Emersonian American way. Are they morally superior to dogs? Good question. They certainly don't require a public works project to clean up after them.

Here in the West government "manages" public lands; it "manages" water; it "manages" wildlife. But unfortunately my next walk in the park will again remind me that, yes, we may need government to manage our pets. I implore the Obama Administration to take this national problem seriously.

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About the Author

Bill Croke, formerly of Cody, Wyoming, is a writer in Salmon, Idaho.