Dogshit: A Philosophy

A few months ago I was trotting around the neighborhood with my dog Cowboy. This is nothing unusual…as an animal with no opposable thumbs and the IQ of an infant, he requires me to take him around the block 3–4 times a day to go to the bathroom. But, this day something unique happened.

After Cowboy relieved himself (#2) on a neighbor’s lawn a few blocks away, I did my civic duty and bagged up his shit. This is nothing heroic to be certain, but many people around Los Angeles tend to leave their pet’s poops as lawn ornaments to be enjoyed by everyone else. Feeling honorable, I began to loop back towards my house with Cowboy’s tiny paws pitter-pattering by my side. It happened to be garbage day and seeing that there was a trash can in my path ready to be collected, I lifted the lid and threw Cowboy’s bag of doo-doo in the bin.

As I headed off, I heard a loud male voice behind me, “hey buddy, next time throw your shit in your own trash. Got it?” Without turning around, I threw up a thumbs up and shouted a sassy, “Ok, dude!” and scurried away. While still likely in earshot, I began to mutter under my breath (a VERY brave and mature action on my part), “what do you care? It’s garbage day. The trash is going out anyway. It’s not like I threw the shit on your lawn. I don’t even fucking know you, I’m not your ‘buddy’” and on and on until I worked myself into a minor frenzy.

After arriving home and cooling off a bit, I reflected on the encounter with my neighbor: why was I so sure I was in the right? Sure, I didn’t let Cowboy shit on his doorstep or put the poo bag in his mailbox, but the guy didn’t appreciate me dropping the bag in his trash can for whatever reason.

This is when an epiphany struck me…one man’s dog shit is another man’s…dog shit.

Let me explain. I wouldn’t care if a neighbor put their poo bag in my bin. In fact, it happens all the time without me being any wiser. I’m not a germaphobe, I live by the fifteen-second rule as opposed to the five-second rule, and generally I don’t see the harm in what I did. YET, here was the mistake I made: I assumed that someone was “right” in the situation and also assumed that person was me. The truth is, my neighbor and I have different views on dog shit, and that’s ok (we also have different views on calling adult men you don’t know “buddy” in a condescending way, but maybe that’s ok too!). Dog shit is not always “dog shit” to someone else, and since then I’ve made the effort to bring Cowboy’s stinky presents home to my own trash can where they reside without offending anyone. It’s made my life .01% harder, but so far I can handle it.

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While I wouldn’t say that picking up Cowboy’s poop is fun or particularly enjoyable (especially after my wife sneaks him people food under the table durning dinner), I think it’s perhaps the most important thing I do every day.

If I’m on top of the world, crushing it at work, everything is falling into place, my hair is falling at just the right angle, and I’m feeling invincible…I end the day holding a bag of shit.

If I get a parking ticket, have a project go underwater, lose 15% of my portfolio in a stock market crash, have an appliance break, and stub my toe…I end the day holding a bag of shit.

Having a dog and picking up after them is a stoic, grounding practice. It’s a simple act that keeps things in perspective. Life can’t be that serious and your ego can’t get too big when you have to bend down and pick up excrement. It’s just not that sexy. But at the end of the day it’s a nice thing to do for your neighbors. And maybe wait until you get home to throw it in the trash.

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Just a very tall human occasionally unearthing joy and wonder amidst the chaos of life

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