Cairngorms National ParkScotland

Doggy Don’t

This week’s post is not pretty. It doesn’t feature wildlife guides, dignified gentlemen in evening light or gorgeous children. Sorry to disappoint, but there are no photos of sweeping mountain views or snowy glens, either, and categorically no waxing lyrical about the scenery. In fact, the whole thing, from start to finish, is shit. Pardon the language. I’m not joking or using a figure of speech, I’m being quite literal. Because, friends, fellow-walkers – and I’m looking especially at us dog-walkers – we need to talk about shit. Our dogs’ shit. By extension, OUR shit.

Anyone who knows me at all will know that I rarely say words more rude than ‘bother’. (Okay, my family may beg to differ, but in public, I mean. In a blog post, especially.) But this situation demands that we call a spade a spade; or, more to the point, shit ‘shit’. Whatever euphemisms you favour – ‘crap’, ‘poo’, ‘pucky’ – just don’t cut it because they don’t carry the requisite degree of disgust. And disgust is the word, folks. Disgust is the feeling I get when I look to the west and see dog owners have left their shit for the rest of us.

Yellow dog poop bags in forest

Yes, I am a dog owner. Followers of Writing the Way will remember the charming Sileas from last week and friends locally will know her from enthusiastic greetings and the occasional missing sausage. Clearly, I’m not against domesticated canines or their owners and I’ve certainly failed on a lot of dog-rearing basics, like obedience. (And stick-throwing as well, which, I’m told, is a no-no.) But what infuriates me is the way some of our breed cheerfully let their pets shit all over the place and don’t clear it up. It’s foul for everyone and puts the whole dog-owning crowd in a bad light. It’s also illegal. Avid readers may like to savour the finer points of the THE DOG FOULING (SCOTLAND) ACT 2003, but at 5652 words with 18 sections and 43 subsections I wouldn’t recommend it. But I can offer an easy summary: Clean up after your dog.

Golden retriever with poop bag

Everybody knows that, don’t they? So why doesn’t everybody do it? It’s another example of the callous littering I talked about two weeks ago. And I’ll tell you what’s worse than the people who turn a blind eye to their dog’s shit, it’s the ones who carefully scoop it into little plastic bags and leave it beside the path or dangling on trees in touching mementoes of Fluffy’s presence. Oh, I know, I know. We’re going to pick it up on our way back. But there are two problems with this approach:

Problem 1) We don’t. I walked up a hill last Sunday and saw shit bags lying at the foot of a way marker post as I headed out at 11.30. They were still there when I got back six hours later and it was getting dark and I was pretty sure no conscientious owners were racing back for them at that point.

Dog poo bags beside way post

And that brings me to Problem 2) Even if we really DO scrupulously retrieve every single plastic deposit on our return journey, why should everyone else have to see the wretched things in the interim? The shit bags that sat there for six hours were in Glenmore, one of the most celebrated stretches of ancient Caledonian pine forest in the UK, home to red squirrels, pine marten and the elusive capercaillie. How dare we, as dog owners, endanger this wildlife and ruin the beauty for others? Ok, I said there wouldn’t be pretty pictures, but now I have to show you this one of Glenmore forest so you know just how awful it is to have it sullied.

Caledonian Pine Forest Glenmore

But what really struck me was the presence of three different bags (and, by the end of the day, banana peels, too). As you can see, it’s a simple post with a coloured stripe at the top. Nowhere does it say “Dump your shit here.” There is nothing to suggest it doubles as a rubbish bin because, clearly, there’s no bin. But as soon as one idiot plonks their bag there (must be the derivation of the word ‘plonker’), somehow others feel permission to follow suit, all choosing to see the words ‘Waste Disposal Station’ where there are none. Precisely who do they think is going to come along and clear it up?

In the Glenmore case it was me. As a dog owner and lover of this place I just can’t bear it. As I’ve done many times before, I gathered it all up and took it home. But I probably shouldn’t tell you that, in case, like the way marker post, I am re-purposed and you don’t see Writer in Residence but Waste-Disposer in Residence. Well, let me tell you this, my writing may sometimes be crap, but dog owners: if we don’t get our shit together there’ll be a lot worse from me!

11 thoughts on “Doggy Don’t

    1. Absolutely – and hard to know what will change behaviour, but I’m hoping my ranting blog post might help!

  1. From someone who doesn’t own a dog but does LOVE the outdoors this really is one of my pet peeves (no pun intended). Why indeed would you take the time to scoop up the mess just to decorate the floor (or even worse, a tree) with a bag of poo!
    We visit places because of their beauty and then spoil it by doing dumb stuff like this.

    1. You’re absolutely right, Melanie, and I am hearing from so many people who also feel this way. We need to work out how to get the message across to the offenders!

  2. Grantown Community Council have been working on this with Highland Council Dog Wardens. Increasing fouling in Anagach Woods and Grantown streets…..but extra bins and enforcement costs money and HC as we’re always told have limited financial resources. None of which would be necessary if folk just acted responsibly.

    1. Yes, there is limited money and I think the solution is behaviour change, but achieving it is the challenge. Getting people to want to do the right thing is key and it’s often about culture. If you believe that everyone around you is doing the right thing and would be appalled by you NOT doing it, then there is strong social reinforcement. Unfortunately, if you can see that lots of other people are leaving their dog crap, then you don’t feel so bad doing it yourself. It’s ‘normal’. Getting the shift is tough.

  3. Well said, it’s an appalling problem and leaving plastic bags full of it seems to be getting more common if anything.

  4. I am a dog owner but also a grandmother who loves to take her grandchildren walk’s in Anagach and am disgusted at the amount of dog crap in bags on trees and even down rabbit holes, do they think the fairies come at night and remove them !!!

Leave a reply