Guest Columns

A Plea to Dog Owners: Please Finish the Job With Your SOS

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By Rick Wolff

Because of the pandemic shutting down my local gym, I’ve been doing a good amount of walking on a daily basis in my neighborhood. It’s a quiet area, and I rarely see anything out of the ordinary. But one curious activity has caught my eye.

Well-meaning dog walkers do something I don’t understand. That is, when their pooch poops, the loving dog walker will instinctively pull a colorful blue, yellow or green plastic bag from their pocket. Once the dog has finished its business, the dog owner will bend down and delicately maneuver the dog manure into the plastic bag.

When the poop is sufficiently bagged, the dog owner then secures it and its contents with a simple knot.

It all seems pretty straightforward, courteous, civilized and fairly sanitary. After all, what could be more neighborly than to curb your dog, and then to be kind enough to remove their fecal waste in a handy bag, then take it home to dispose of the waste in a discreet, proper and safe manner?

Except I have noticed on more than a few of these colorful “Sacks of —-” are simply left in the street or, in some cases, casually abandoned on people’s front yards. Even more alarming is that all of these waste bags were deposited by the very same individual who had walked their dog and who then took the time to carefully place their dog’s poop in a disposable bag.

And so, instead of these kindly folks finishing the job of taking their dog-doo bags home with them, they suddenly come to the sudden conclusion that this wasn’t a good idea. As a result, they then just ditch the bag of dog poop on the road or into somebody’s yard.

Mind you, we all know from our middle school earth science classes that it takes years and years for a plastic bag to gradually decompose and to be absorbed into our ecosystem. In contrast, in my own observational experience, a healthy dog dump – if left on its own in the wild and unbagged — will break down and decompose in a matter of a few days (and even shorter if a significant rainstorm washes it away). When you get down to it, so to speak, dog-doo, while certainly not good to step in, dissolves and goes away rather quickly.

And please. Don’t be misled by the advertising on the colorful bags that they are “good for the environment” because they are “biodegradable.” A little online research reveals that it routinely takes several years for these “earth-friendly” bags to decompose.

In the interim, all I see dotted all over my neighborhood are green or blue or yellow bags which are still quite obvious for all to see – and most of these poop bags were left out on the streets last fall. In short, they made it through all the ice and snow of this past harsh winter, and these bags show very little sign of biodegrading and disappearing from the landscape anytime soon.

So, what am I missing here? If we agree that leaving a full SOS in the street, or in somebody’s yard, is not healthy for anyone or for the environment, why would you even make the effort in the first place of putting your dog’s excrement in a bag?

My sense is if you can train your dog to poop outside your home, then I’m also guessing you can probably train yourself to carry your SOS back home with you. 

I urge you. If you feel compelled to pick up and place your dog’s fecal matter in a colorful satchel, please just carry your bag containing your dog’s dump back to your house and dispose of it there. Finish the job. Just leaving the bag out on the street is only getting half the job done.

Rick Wolff is a longtime Westchester resident.

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