I just returned from a most interesting walk with my two dogs where I was -- or more specifically, they were -- assailed for ruining the Spring season.
It happened a mere block away from my residence, near a grimy patch of exhaust-fume-encrusted snow upon which my male dog Rawqui decided to lift his hind leg and relieve himself.
A woman who was waiting for a bus at a stop adjacent to this scene looked at Rawqui with disgust and spit out the following:
"You dogs have ruined Spring for me!
When the snow melts, all I see and smell are piles of dogshit! It's disgusting!"
Both my dogs tilted their heads and looked at her most puzzlingly, perhaps not fully understanding her words, but able to at least comprehend they were coming from a raving kook. And before I had a chance to collect my thoughts and respond in the witty, genteel manner for which I am renowned, the woman was saved by the bell by the arrival of her bus.
Look, I've been a dog owner for 10 years, and I can empathize with the unsightly dog-generated mess and fumes that the advent of Spring can bring.
But in the end, whom do you blame...the dogs, or the people that own and are presumably responsible for them?
As far as I know, there are very few, if any, packs of wild dogs running loose and wreaking havoc anywhere near to where I live. And if there are messes left by domesticated pet canine, it's not the fault of the dogs, but the humans at the other end of the leash. As smart as my dogs are, they have not mastered the art of toilet training or picking up after themselves. For that, they rely on people like me.
Over the decade with Rawqui and his "sister" Shaydee, I have taken thousands of walks, and I can count on one hand the times I did so without the requisite bags to pick up after them. On those occasions, I improvised by stealing plastic bags that held advertising flyers, or looked around and used stray pieces of newspaper or Baggies that lay scattered about.
Therein lies my point.
Every time I was unprepared to clean up a canine mess, I relied on a human mess to get me out of my jam.
I live downtown smack-dab in the middle of Montreal, but I went through the exact same thing when I lived in Westmount, a community atop the city's famed mountain. There was never a shortage of garbage within eyesight.
Let's take this one step further. Dog owners know that the two worst days for walking are January 1st and March 18th; New Year's Day and the day after St. Patrick's. That's when the sidewalks are splattered with puke from over-inebriated partygoers. And if one man's steak is another man's poison, the equation works in reverse when it comes to dogs; I have Popeye-sized forearms from guiding my pets through the minefields of protein spills on those days.
Even worse are the days with no excuse...like the other 363 days of the year. Maybe this is a Montreal phenomenon -- I would venture it's not -- but be they along a major downtown street or up in the residential areas, my dog walk routes are strewn with dog-treat debris like half-eaten slices of pizza, apple cores, banana peels, chicken legs and tons and tons of chewed gum...a buffet of disgust. It's astonishing. Given the fact that there's a garbage can on just about every street corner near me, or that most people have two hands and pockets, there's no excuse.
Except that perhaps people don't care. Perhaps the concept of civic pride has, shall we say, gone to the dogs.
So if you're looking for the lesson of the week, it's that dogs may be animals...but people are pigs.