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What some pet owners leave behind

Susan Moeller

Amid the greys and browns of Cape Cod’s winter landscape, there is often just one burst of bright color: the poop bombs.

You probably have never heard of a poop bombs. That’s because I made it up. It’s my term for the brightly colored bags of dog waste that bloom in the tangles of brush when the undergrowth is laid bare by the cold. Your eye follows a cardinal or some critter into the bushes and there, unexpectedly, often about shoulder height, is a blue or yellow bag of poop.

I can’t tell you how much this confounds me. Some dog owner has taken the time to scoop up the poop, so bravo that. But then, too disgusted or lazy to carry it home, has flung it into the bushes, because, you know THAT solves everything.

A time out: Even over the radio waves, I sense I’m raising dog owners’ hackles. So, let me reassure you that I am one of you. I have owned dogs all my life -- a very long time at this point. I have no idea how much dog poop I’ve picked up over the years but it feels as if it could be measured in tons.

And I own up to my own imperfections. I have, for example, left the house without bags and then tried to deal with things with tissues or leaves or just a kick into the bushes. And I have done that trick where you pick up the poop, bag it and, not wanting to carry it, leave it by the sidewalk with every intention of picking it up on the homeward loop. Except I’ve forgotten, or I’ve been unable to relocate it, or I’ve blithely taken another path home. I get it: You-know-what happens.

That said, I don’t see the point of going to the trouble to bag it -- the gross part -- and then flinging it. Not wanting to carry poop has solutions: Get a fanny pack. Double bag it. Line your pocket. Hook it on your belt. Listen, my daughter has two Great Danes and easily can have over a pound of poop to carry home. Even so, it doesn’t occur to her to fling a poop bomb into the bushes.

As gross as it might be to carry a bag of poop home, what it’s doing to the environment and water supply is even worse. Pet waste mixes with rain and snowmelt and eventually makes its way into ponds, streams and even into our bays. It degrades water quality to the point of making it unsuitable for swimming, shellfishing or drinking. It spreads diseases that I’m not even going to attempt to pronounce on radio. And even biodegradable plastic bags contribute microplastics to the environment, and most of us aren’t willing to shoulder the expense of compostable ones.

Besides, poop bombers give the rest of us dog owners a bad name.

Jessica Thomas, one of the co-owners of Agway of Cape Cod and the owner of a golden retriever as well as a husky-Pyrenees mix, is on a mission to train dog owners to do better. Her garden stores work with Cape towns and organizations such as the Orleans Pond Coalition to place dog mitt stations in public areas. “You’d be amazed at the number of dog bags I sell,” she told me, “why bother if you’re not going to throw them away responsibly?”

All of us dog owners are always the first to complain about restrictions on where Rover can roam. But as Thomas points out, if we want to have more freedom, then we need to be more responsible for our dogs’ behaviors and waste.

In other words, pick it up, carry it out. Don’t be a poop bomber.

This piece first aired in February 2021.