Dog Poop: A Metaphor for Challenge and Change, and Seeing the Positives in Negative Circumstances


There’s been a bit of chatter about dog poop on our community Facebook page, more pointedly about the person or persons who are not picking up their poop.  It’s a topic worthy of multiple posts, evoking the ire of some and a few humorous responses from others.

I run all around our neighborhood barefoot.  I’ve encountered all types of poop on the sidewalks.  Some in discrete piles, some in straight-line little plops, and some streaked on the sidewalk, as if the owner were dragging the poor pooch right in the midst of bowel-elimination.  I picture the pathetic pup with head tilted down and shoulders hunched up in a moment of embarrassment, since the unwary canine has neither the opportunity to do his business elsewhere nor the means to clean it up.  It’s not the dog’s fault but a matter of an inept human for its master.

Since I’m out running to clear my head, I don’t get upset about such things.  Poop is another obstacle, just like a steep hill, sharp gravel or gale-force winds.  Like many an obstacle, rather than stop and complain, I choose to go around it, over it or through it; though the latter is undesirable in this particular setting.

Much like life’s many challenges, an obstacle need not be a negative circumstance but an opportunity for growth and improvement. 

But I’ve stepped in poop, unintentionally of course, where it gets smeared on the bottom of the foot or wedged between the toes.  I saw no positives, no opportunity there.   In snow the frozen turd has less of the yuck-factor than a squishy poop on a warm day.  Both are unsettling to say the least.  This is one of those truly negative circumstances.  But life is messy.   We move on.  And we learn something along the way.

We have a puppy.  His name is Benji.  Benji is 5 months old and we’ve had him since early September.  Benji’s not fully potty-trained yet.  Benji can be a pain-in-the-rear at times.

Benji has learned to go in and out of his doggy door to the outside world.  Many times he goes outdoors and does his business: a poop here, some peeing there.  But there are times he looks us straight in the eye, squats on the family room carpet right in front of us, and drops a turd. 

Whenever he does his poop-ritual indoors (he sniffs and circles around), I quickly pick him up to carry him outside.  It’s always too late.  Like a little bomber, he drops his payload as I’m running for the door; I find when I look back, he’s carpet-bombed the floor with multiple, discrete little poops.  By the time I plop him onto grass, he looks at me as if I’m some crazy fool and heads back to the house.  I swear he has a smile on his face, if it’s possible for dogs to smile.  Or he’s possessed by Satan.  Of course, I need to follow him into the house and retrace the poop line from point A to B and gather the turds before he sniffs and nibbles them.

But he’s learning, and much like our previous beloved dog, Sammy, one day Benji too will exercise proper etiquette and release bowel and bladder in the fresh outdoors.  One can only hope.

This got me thinking, which I don’t do very often (Dad used to say if I had a brain, I’d be dangerous.  Or was that my best friend in high school?).  Dog poop is a good metaphor for the challenges we face in life and for the changes we can make to improve it.  It represents those nasty obstacles we all want to avoid.  Yet at the same time, it presents a problem we must solve whether we like it or not.

Picking up poop is an obligation of dog ownership, whether in the privacy of your own home or out in public.  The poor creatures can’t do this for themselves, so it’s up to us responsible humans to do so.  We all must suffer minor inconveniences for the benefit of others; it’s a natural part of being a member of the human race.  One small, individual act has a big impact on the whole.

So for all you poop offenders out there, all it takes is a change of mindset.  Think about the common good, your poor dog who suffers the stigma of a poop-dropper, the other dogs who (for some unearthly reason no one can satisfactorily explain) stop to smell and nibble on other dogs’ poop, and the rest of the kindly folk in the community.   Think of that metaphor for life and challenge and all that jazz, and how poop-collection will enrich your soul.  Perhaps then picking up poop will be—though not a joy—less of a chore.  Carry on folks!


©Randall S. Fong, M.D.

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