Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
We Tierrasantans love our dogs. We’ve given over our parks, our streets and even some of our restaurants to them. One local man and his fluffy friend hit the streets daily, riding on a Segway, hair and fur flying freely in the wind. I can't tell which one of them enjoys it more.
Until recently, we’ve always had dogs living next door or at least close by. The best neighbor we've ever had was a dog, a back Chow who thought that she owned the city and kept all of us in line with only a stern look and never a bark or howl. For years, Dusty stood sentry by the palm tree at the top of the slope that separated our two properties. She watched as I tended the garden, occasionally padding back to the house to check on David, her master, and then back out again to keep an eye on me. For seven years, we lived this quiet existence, until Dusty succumbed to old age. David moved away soon after, new neighbors moved in, and suddenly, we realized that we were dog-less. None of our immediate neighbors have dogs anymore.
For a time, we had a guy down living two doors down named Mike who had a personable mutt. We'd occasionally see Mike in his backyard, shoveling dog poop over his back fence into another neighbor’s yard until he was finally told to cease and desist. We were grateful when he stopped; the flies had become unbearable. Mike sold his house a couple of years ago. We were grateful to see him go, but kind of missed the dog.
We were incredibly fond of Owen, an old gray-muzzled terrier mix from across the street who came by when his owners left for work. We'd wash the mud off his paws and put out a water bowl for him. He'd sit in front of the house, watching the traffic go by, until 4:45 on the dot, when he’d hightail it home for supper. We missed him when he stopped coming around.
Our down-slope neighbor lady, Mary, had two little wiener dogs. They lived in the house until Mary remarried, at which time the two wiener dogs were banished to the outdoor patio. Mary claimed incontinence – we were never quite certain whether she meant her own incontinence or the dogs’, but in any event, the two little guys became outside pups overnight. Frankie, the older one, died suddenly of cancer, which caused the younger dog to bark twice as much and twice as fast. And then one day, not knowing what else to do, the little guy lay down and died. We think that he died of a broken heart, but maybe he just grew tired of being ignored. Mary and the new husband sold the house and moved away and the new owners never had pets of any kind.
Cowboy was a great guy. We only saw him when his owner took him walking. She usually dressed in red, and he, in tan or green plaid. Cowboy was a Greyhound rescue, a former race dog, who was content to plod slowly down the street on a leash, stopping for a pet now and then. He even carried his own plastic bags without complaint. Unfortunately, Greyhounds are not long-lived pets, and one day, Cowboy simply stopped coming by.
One by one, the dogs left our block, moved away or died, and we are now dog-less. For a time, we tried to make do with a life-sized resin dog sculpture that sat outside our corner neighbor’s house. We called him Fake Dog Carl, sort of an ode to the Rottweiler Carl of the popular children’s book series, about the Rottweiler who babysat the toddler while mom went out. At first we thought Fake Dog Carl might be the perfect neighborhood dog, maybe more perfect than Dusty, because unlike Dusty, Fake Dog Carl could live forever. Unfortunately, even though immortality is awesome, Fake Dog Carl succumbed to the birds that discovered him one day, and that bombarded his head with thick white bird poop. Fake Dog Carl never looked more humiliated.
Even though we no longer have immediate dog neighbors anymore, we suddenly have more dog poop than we can handle. When Dusty was alive, we didn't see a single poop on our lawn in the entire seven years she lived next door. Dusty had her “spot” under the street lamp where she did her business. David marked it with a small wooden angel so that every dog would know that it was Dusty’s spot, and cleaned up the area daily without fail. Now, the wooden angel is gone, and our lawn is a minefield of poo.
When we walk through random streets of Tierrasanta, I see that we aren’t the only ones with this problem One long cul-de-sac sports a stretch of sidewalk that I refer to as Poop Alley. Our greenbelts are outfitted with convenient plastic bag dispensers and trashcans for waste, yet the walking paths are littered with fat pup-logs. And while I haven't seen it myself, a friend claims that there were so many poops on her block that some unnamed individual topped them all with whipped cream and a cherry sometime during the night. Personally, I think she's making the whole thing up.
More than one front yard sports signage of one type or another, reminding dog owners to pick up their dog’s poop. Most often, the signage is of the cute variety, such as the one with the little Scottie assuming the position, with the universal symbol for “no” encircling the poo coming out of the Scottie’s little behind. But some homeowners have clearly reached the point of exasperation, with hand-lettered whiteboards set outside, imploring dog owners to pick up; and in one case, with a huge-ass sign bolted to a tree that practically commands owners to do the right thing, but with the requisite “please,” as in "Please, PICK UP AFTER YOUR DOG." We Tierrasantans are nothing if not polite.
I admit to being more than a little frustrated by the poop situation. During the late afternoon and early evening hours, I see folks out and about with their always-leashed pooches, and our lawn is clean and poop-free. But, come morning, it is an entirely different story. It is as if poop has dropped from the sky, landing on our lawn just to torment me. As I clean up, I reminisce about the late great Dusty-dog, who never barked, bit, growled or pooped inappropriately. She was nothing less than the perfect neighbor and I miss her. David wasn’t so bad, either.