This week’s ‘Stare of the Dog’ pays homage to the humble poo bag, a piece of canine equipment more widely used and under reported than any other previously discussed in these pages.
There is no doubting the huge impact that this thin sliver of polyethylene has had in the UK, single handedly consigning to history the strangely nostalgic sight of a slowly calcifying dog turd – once the scourge of the nation’s pavements and thoroughfares. Thanks to a bit of social awareness and the wonders of the petro-chemical industry, Britain’s ‘strollers and saunterers’ can now enjoy instead the ocular feast that is a thousand casually discarded fecal parcels, each one lovingly wrapped in coloured plastic and generally found dangling flaccidly from trees or spilling out of heaving waste bins like the medically enhanced breasts of a reality TV star escaping the prudish clutches of a low cut T-shirt. Wherever you experience a sighting (of the bins that is), I am sure you will agree with me whole heartedly when I say that this modern phenomena adds a certain something to the national canvas and makes me all the more proud to be British.
And since owning Dudley, I have joined the massed ranks of dog owners now totally dependent on these unsung vessels of canine waste. Initially, I’ll admit to a certain prudish hesitation when faced with the task of bagging up a ‘warm one’ (until I came to understand their hand heating qualities on a cold day) but now it has become second nature to me, so much so that I feel comfortable pointing out a few idiosyncrasies that I suspect resonate with dog owners the world over.
First up, the obvious nightmare scenario that unfolds when you realise all too late that the roll of bags has run out. As a Labrador owner, I do at least have an advantage here, as Dudley will happily ‘clean up after himself’ given half a chance. However, whilst encouraging this behaviour has obvious benefits, the social stigma attached to standing nonchalantly beside the hound as he hungrily devours his own turd would be too much to bear. So instead, when I get caught short without such an item, I tend to improvise. Initially, a malaise of panic and despair rides over me like a stampede of steers. After the panic and despair, necessity kicks in. And being the mother of all invention, she ensures that I can be found scouring through people’s bins like an urban fox, prizing out takeaway cartons and crisp packets – anything to use as an alternative receptacle with which to harvest Dudley’s impressive quarry.
When you do have an ample supply of bags about your person, other factors can just as easily catch you out or at times, make your day. Like your pooch’s chosen location for the day’s fouling. Some of Dudley’s less desirable assets have been jettisoned right outside the doorways of the neighbourhood’s finest shops or dumped beside the driveways of the grandest houses like Mafia victims. Worse still, on occasion, he’s pushed out a log or two onto the pathway that convey Manchester’s well-heeled commuters to the local tram stop and the metropolis beyond.
When on his best form however and in complete contrast, he has been known to drop anchor right beside a refuse bin, ideal for handy and instant discarding and a feat noted with envious applause by a fellow dog walker who happened to be passing by. Better still – and my all-time favourite – he once managed to squat right over a drain cover and, with the equivalent precision of a World War II bomber, dropped 25% of his offering clean through the slits in the grate. Like a snooker player left an easy pot by a careless opponent, I seized on the chance to sink the balance of Dudley’s account into its watery subterranean channel with little more than a deft nudge from the toe of my boot, before congratulating the hound for his generosity of spirit.
Then there is the indelicate matter of what I believe is known medically as the Bristol scale. I shall allow readers to make their own research into this useful medical yardstick, suffice to say a number one on this chart represents something the host may find tricky to pass, whilst a number seven refers to something difficult to pick up off the floor without the aid of a spatula. On this matter, Dudley is no stranger to the higher value digits, especially after a lot of vigorous exercise. Other dog owners will be acutely aware that such stool is not easily coerced into any container, and that to attempt to do so too vigorously off a concrete floor is to invite rips in your bag in places you really don’t want rips. A pressure washer really would be a better tool in such circumstances, yet owing to the obvious impracticalities, I never seem to have one to hand on our little jaunts. Instead, I make an overly theatrical show of attempting to pick up Dud’s liquidy load without actually troubling it too much below the surface.
Of late, I have dug deeper into my pockets and purchased a better quality sack going by the name of ‘Pogi’s Earth Friendly Poo Bags.’ Complete with a reassuringly ‘thick feel,’ a weirdly pleasant scented aroma (pre use) and most importantly, the coveted ‘biodegradable’ logo, I am confident that things can only get better for myself and the future of the planet. And armed as I shall be with Pogi’s finest, all that remains is for Dud to play his part and offer up something that’s closer to the ‘bottom end’ of the Bristol scale and in a convenient location for its retrieval.
When that perfect storm blows through town, he and I shall exchange a knowing and satisfied look that says it all quite clearly – ‘good job well done.’