Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Aguirre: Wrath of Dog

 I am the wrath of dog.  Who else is with me?

There was a time when I liked dogs.  That time is past.  Maybe I should have known.  But how could I have known? It isn’t as though you buy a condo thinking that some of your neighbors will walk their dogs in the parking area.  Not their own parking area.  The other parking area where we are.  These neighbors don’t believe in picking up their dogs’ shit.  We posted one of those signs, “If your dog poops, please scoop.”  This gesture was meaningless.  By late autumn, after months and months of this, the shit added up.  Imagine a parking area that was for cars and dog shit—the dog shit vastly outnumbering the cars.

You might think that there was some sort of management that would take care of this.  Management taking care of this came in the form of an email to all the residents:


This email came in mid-summer.  The tide of dog shit rose unabated: a consequence.

The bravest of us tried to catch the offending dog owners in the act.  They pointed out the plain truth about the situation to the owners and requested that they walk their dogs elsewhere in the very least. Barely admitting to the problem, the dog owners reluctantly would move away from the parking area, dogs in tow.  Once caught, the dog owners began to time their dog walking when other residents had gone off to work.  It became more difficult to catch them.  When my schedule allowed me to leave at an odd time, I spied one of the owners and took out my camera-phone and started recording her.  I said nothing as I did this.  She turned away from the camera—in shame?  It was hard to tell.  I did the same thing a couple of days later and she ran off literally dragging her dog behind her.  Had I freaked her out? Not at all.  She, too, changed the time of her dog walking so I never came across her again.  Instead, I came across piles of dog shit by my driver side door.  I recognized the dog shit, too.  Message received.

We had considered the option of cleaning up after the dogs ourselves; a disgraceful option considered only on account of necessity.  Such reflection lasted but a moment.  This wasn't merely because these dogs weren't 
our dogs, but on account of another equally hideous situation into which we’d locked ourselves.  The recycling.  Some neighbors, we had no idea if they were the ones with the dogs, refused to recycle--even after a notice indicating that recycling was now the law.  Improperly bagged garbage and unseparated recycling would result in the suspension of a residence’s garbage collection.  I suppose the anti-recyclers didn’t believe this could happen.  It sure enough did. Someone had to go through all the backed-up garbage and messed up recycling and fix it so that our building pick-up would resume.  This responsibility fell upon us.  No one else volunteered.  After the massive cleanup of the garbage and recycling another email from management was sent:


The onus of the fee fell on everyone equally, despite the fact that it was only certain residents that weren't recycling. The fee amounted to only a few dollars for everyone, but it seemed to inspire something close to a change in behavior.  Things that had to be recycled were now placed 
near the recycling bins.  Boxes of all kinds and sizes were not broken down, as required, but placed as is in this area. Often other garbage was placed inside them.  Sometimes this was in bags. Sometimes whole, unbroken-down boxes were placed inside the paper recycling bin.  This would result in the garbage collectors leaving this bin full.  The town meant business. We got another email:


This threat of a new fine didn’t work as well as we hoped.  Some residents kept putting the whole boxes beside the bins and inside the bins.  It was too difficult for them.  We gave up.  Each time one of us went to the recycling area we’d break down one or two of the boxes.  Throw out the trash, break down some extra boxes.  This became part of our lives.

One time I discovered an entire set of Crate and Barrel boxes nested together, inviolate, like a set of Russian Dolls.  The name and apartment number of the person who received the Crate and Barrel delivery was right there on the box.  I broke down the boxes, but took one of the smaller sized boxes and wrote on a space near the label:

Hi, Could you please break down your boxes and not just leave them in the recycling area?  They won’t be collected otherwise. : )  [Yes, I put a smiley face. Those were better, different times.]

I placed the box at the door of the person’s apartment.  The smiley face did no good.  The next day I noticed a whole new set of Crate and Barrel boxes.  This time the person made the effort of tearing off the identifying label.   It was back to the old drill of breaking down the boxes like a custodial staff.

We realized that cleaning up after the dogs would be a similar exercise in futility.  We would always have to do it, if we started doing it.  We chose to live with the dog shit.  At least for a while.  
The first snowfall came, covering the massive amount of dog shit beneath pure white drifts.  This lasted not even a day. The dog shit accumulated immediately, highlighted in its surroundings, announcing itself remorselessly.  
What was it in an exact split second that ignited my rage?  Was it the image in my mind of the new dog shit lying atop the old dog shit, an archaeological vision of canine waste that would melt away in the spring into a gigantic dog shit stew?  Was it my horror at the recognition that there would be no stopping this constant stream of dog shit in my life? Did I flail against the fact that I actually lived with such people in my vicinity and that there was no help for humankind?  That it was such people, in all their banal laziness, that sealed our doom?

I did not believe I could reason or effect the human owners involved.  That was impossible.  The only possible target for my rage was the dogs.  It was not their fault.  This I knew.  This I understood.  At the same time, I became obsessed. What would cause the dogs simply to stop shitting in the parking area?  I knew there must be an answer to this question.  I turned to the internet.

There are many products claiming to repel dogs from areas.  They are expensive.  It is also unclear how well they work. On the net I found advice, vinegar, ammonia, anything citrus.  These DIY options were considerably cheaper than the commercially available dog repellents one could buy at pet stores.  According to the internet, the active ingredient in the commercial dog repellents was citrus scent.  A quick trip to the local supermarket had me flush with an array of supplies. Two gallon jugs of cheap vinegar.  Ammonia and bleach, no name brands. Environmentally friendly citrus cleaner.  Lemon juice.  I was ready. 

Day 1: Vinegar.  The parking area smells like a salad.  A giant salad.  It’s the middle of the afternoon. The coast was clear, and the vinegar application went perfectly.  There’s no way to see the vinegar.  It’s blended into the snow drifts.  I poured it on the dog shit.  Take that you fuckers.  Poop somewhere else.  There’s a new scent in town.

Day 2: Holding.   No new dog shit. Must reapply Vinegar.  Two gallons just covers the area.  I am cautiously elated.

Email in the evening from neighbor: 
“I can smell the vinegar, but it’s not working.  There’s a load near my car door.”
I respond: 
“Thanks for letting me know.  I will redouble my efforts.  Switch method."
Day 3: Ammonia.  I worry at first as I drizzle it into the snow and over the dog shit.  This is bad, bad for the environment, bad for the dogs.  
Fuck them.
Day 4: Holding.  Snow predicted for later.  I will have to get out early and reapply.

Day 5: Freshly fallen snow.  Fresh dog shit. I think it’s in a spot that I neglected to reapply the ammonia.  How could it be there?  How?  I must chart my course more carefully from now on.  Cross-hatch.  More ammonia.  Careful.  Clean.

Day 6: Holding.  Cold.  Very cold.

Day 7: Frozen dog-shit.  Where did it come from?  I go for the citrus.  I thought nothing could beat the ammonia.  That’s what the internet said.  But the citrus, why didn’t I just go for the citrus from the start?  The active ingredient. Surely no dog can withstand the citrus.

Day 8: Dogs withstand the citrus.  What kind of dogs are these?  Are they even really dogs?  Petco has dog repellent, $17 a box.  I’ll need three of them.  At least three. The manufacturer promises satisfaction.  Any price, satisfaction.

Day 9: I can’t get no…

Something is not right.

Everything is wrong.

The world is wrong.

I am wrongness, feel my impotence.

Day 10: Vigil: I must get to the bottom of this.  Brew coffee.  Up at 4:30 AM.  I perch in the hallway by a window.  Video camera ready.  I will wait.

6:00 AM: See woman with dogs coming from around the other side of the building.  Jackpot.  Three dogs.  Woman.  As she approaches, I see that she has a pooper scooper.  Bag full of dog shit.

I am recording.

On the view-finder screen I watch her walk through the parked cars in our parking area.  She dumps the dog shit here and there, emptying the bag.

I am recording still while she walks away, the dogs yapping all around her.