Who Leaves Half of Their Dog’s Poop Behind on the Sidewalk?

by Matthew J.X. Malady

if you let your dog poop on a high-traffic sidewalk & make a sad gesture to pick it up but leave most of it you are simply a terrible human
— Jen Doll (@thisisjendoll) September 27, 2014

Jen! So what happened here?

It was a beautiful Saturday and I was spending it in a rather stereotypically Brooklyn way, but you know, I’m not going to hide in shame from the truth of my life. I had just done yoga, and then gone to the farmer’s market for fresh vegetables that would soon rot in my refrigerator. I was sitting on the stoop with my friend Blair, with whom I had yoga-ed and marketed, and we were enjoying the sun and chatting and watching people walk by. I live on a pretty high-traffic street, especially on a sunny Saturday, so there is lots of good people watching. As we sit, a short, older man with salt-and-pepper hair lugging a wheelie suitcase and walking a small dog — like a Yorkie type of thing, or a slightly bigger kind of terrier — stops and lets the dog poop, basically right in front of us, on this high-traffic street, which is in itself a bit rude and disgusting and graphic. (Plus, poor dog, I think it was ashamed; it looked ashamed.) Then the man bends over and picks up HALF the poop with a bag, leaving two large pieces of it on the sidewalk. I open my mouth, but I can’t say anything because I am frozen in horror and disgust and shock and most of all, confusion. Did he not SEE all the poop? Did he purposely leave half behind? Who picks up half the dog poop?

The man walks toward a trash can, I suppose commending himself for being such a responsible citizen, and I finally recover my powers of speech and say, “THAT GUY LEFT HALF THE POOP ON THE SIDEWALK!” And Blair says something like, “Oh my God, that’s disgusting and did you see his suitcase, he is probably renting an Airbnb in our neighborhood.”

Blair and I frequently talk about how such people are ruining the neighborhood, but this was a physical, fecal representation of that fact.

We sat for a few more minutes pondering injustice in the world, and I’m like, “Someone is going to step in that immediately,” and she’s like, “Oh yes they are,” and I’m doubly annoyed at the poop-leaver because suddenly it’s like I have to be the one at the gym telling everyone the elliptical they’re about to get on is broken and I can’t deal with that sort of responsibility, plus HE’S the jerk who left the poop, and it’s not like I work at the gym, I’m just there for a workout. Why do I have to be on poop-watch?

We see a group of women walking directly toward the poop, talking to each other and not looking where they’re going, and I open my mouth to be like “Watch out, there’s poop!” but nothing comes out, and this woman in large plastic sandals just tromps on the poop, leaving it a gross green-brown smudge on the pavement. Which, I suppose, was a near kind of relief because once she stepped on it there was less left for anyone else to step on, and she wasn’t wearing flip-flops, but still.

This woman, also, did not seem to notice the poop.

Blair and I look at each other in disgust, and she’s like, “I gotta go,” and I’m like, “Yeah, I think I need to go inside now,” and I imagine we both felt a bit dirty and gross for a while. We have not mentioned the poop-cident since.

During the time you’ve spent in New York, what other frustrating dog poop etiquette breaches have you run across? I ask mainly because I’m wondering where this incident ranks in the pantheon of dog defecation–related jerk moves that you’ve witnessed over the years.

I have lived in New York for like fifteen years at this point, my god, maybe longer, I don’t even want to talk about it. I wrote for the Village Voice and a frequent blog item involved poop wars in various neighborhoods. Things get vicious! I think in Brooklyn somewhere a person was letting their dog poop everywhere and someone else bagged up the poop and hung it from a tree with a note? (Maybe I made that up.) There’s a sign on another block near my house that says, “DON’T LET YOUR DOG POOP AND PEE HERE.” There is an internet-full of passive aggressive and aggressive-aggressive notes about where people have let their dogs poop and how everything is terrible.

I have seen a lot of poop in my days in New York. Most of it, I think, from dogs. Certain neighborhoods seem to get it worse than others. When I lived in the East Village, there was a block nearby I referred to as “Poopville.” One should avoid walking on such blocks. But how does it get that bad? Is it when one person goes off the rails, and then everyone else is like, well, the neighborhood’s already poopy, so let’s give up trying? Is there a snowball effect to poop problems?

Also: I have seen poop IN BAGS left on the street. Who does that? That may be the worst offense.

If you have a dog in the city, you have to know that you have to pick up the poop. And this guy clearly knew; after all, he did pick up part of it — that’s the weirdest part of it. I don’t know if he was intentionally being evil or just nearsighted, but either way, that sort of behavior is dangerous. Someone’s gonna get hurt.

Lesson learned (if any)?

I think that the single-most frustrating etiquette thing that classifies certain types of people in the city as bad citizens, or bad temporary citizens, is when they are blatantly — even if shallowly and superficially, in a way that causes more annoyance than direct harm — inconsiderate to others. So, when you’re standing on the steps to the subway talking on your phone and blocking people, or when you walk 5-abreast slowly on a crowded sidewalk, or when you push your way onto a train without letting people off first . . . or when you fail to pick up your dog’s poop — ALL OF IT — you show such disregard for the other people living here, whom your actions are affecting. In the social compact of urban life you have to be aware of others, and while you don’t have to loudly warn them when they’re about to step in poop (I mean, I should have, but my voice wasn’t working in that moment, the poop broke me) you should at the very least make sure you don’t leave poop on sidewalks for them to step in.

Also, I will never rent my apartment out via Airbnb.

Just one more thing.

If I ever write a dystopia or horror novel set in New York City, I think my villain will have a wheelie suitcase with him at all times, and also a small Yorkie.

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Matthew J.X. Malady is a writer and editor who was in New York but is now in Berkeley.

Photo by zendritic