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Little Things, Big Responsibilities

Big things (both good and bad) often grow out of little things. That’s why today, I have two things to say:

1) Dog owners, pick up your pet’s poop when they go in public (you know who you are); and

2) Wave to your local school bus drivers.

We have a lot of problems right now. I’m not going start listing them because 1) I’d certainly miss a bunch of biggies, 2) we’re all aware that we have these problems and 3) we have trouble agreeing on them, what to do about them, who’s responsible, etc.

That said, I’m noticing a trend lately that, frankly, disturbs me. In the scheme of things (historic weather events, domestic and global unrest, the current political and environmental climates, economic concerns, Ticketmaster), this issue is small, but it reveals something about the state of “us” at this moment in time.

As I walk through the neighborhoods of my community (and I often do), on the trails and through downtown, I’ve noticed an increasing instance of dog poop on the sidewalks, in the gutters, on the street and generally, in public.

Why is that a big deal? Well, it’s not, I guess. But if it isn’t, why isn’t it? I mean, dogs poop, and they’re encouraged to poop outside. (As a former dog owner, I can attest that having your dog poop outside vs. in the home is a positive, unless, of course, you’ve trained your dog to go on the toilet, something I’ve never seen but who knows, right?)

So, to recap, the act of a dog pooping outside is good and natural.

But it’s the human’s behavior after the dog poops outside that creates the “make or break” scenario, the thing that may affect both humans and animals that pass through after dog and owner have left the area.

You see, a few people (relatively speaking) have apparently decided that simply leaving their dog’s poop on the sidewalk or street, next to the swings at the park or on the local multi-purpose trail is OK. Actually, they’ve determined that it’s more than OK; they’ve decided it’s their “go-to” move.

Want to know how I know they think it’s their best move? Because it doesn’t happen by accident (pardon the pun); they’ve made a conscious decision to leave their dog’s poop on the ground, unattended, at the expense of others who will be using the aforementioned thoroughfares, parks and trails after they have left.

Is this discourteous? Yes (in my opinion). Is it gross? I’ll leave that up to you, but it certainly is to someone who steps in it. Is it selfish and lazy? I would say yes. Is it disrespectful? Definitely. Is it a big deal? Well, let’s take a look (not at the poop, but rather, the bigger picture).

I believe that the growing instance of people leaving dog poop in public (and I say it’s growing simply from the tiny sample size I have, and I’m seeing it more often) is a tiny representation of how we’ve been slowly working toward a more cynical and selfish society.

It’s a small, easy way for people to rebel (against what, I have no idea), to say “I’m just too busy/fed up/tired to give that one little extra ‘erg’ of effort to do what’s right; to think, “Who’s it hurting anyway? It’s natural because the dog’s an animal and animals poop in the wild all the time, but nobody’s picking up the deer dung, the rabbit scat or the goose droppings, are they?”

Now, let me be clear on a few things before I move on. I realize that the vast, vast majority of dog owners do the right and responsible thing and always pick up after their pets. And for that, I’m grateful, and I’ll even go as far as to say society thanks you. So, this little rant is in no way directed toward you.

Second, you may believe I’m overthinking this issue (and you might be right) because we have much bigger issues to deal with personally, domestically and globally than a few random dog droppings (and we do).

Yet, it’s these little things, picking after your dog, throwing garbage in a proper receptical vs. on the ground, being respectful of others while driving, etc. that can and do make a difference on a level we can control, in a world and during a time when we all feel like we’ve lost some control, power and maybe even freedom (though I can’t recall the last time I didn’t feel free).

We’re all frustrated on some level. At times, we all feel like we’re not getting what’s due to us. We’re all a little tired now and again. But that doesn’t excuse us from doing the little things, the easy things, the appropriate things … like picking up our dog’s poop.

We no longer have a dog, but when we did, we had a perfect record of picking up after her. To us, it was a no-brainer, and it was just the right thing to do, so much so that I can identify with people who don't pick after their dogs.

That said, now that we don't have the responsibility of picking up dog poop, I've adopted a new activity, another little thing (unrelated to dogs or poop) I do when I’m out walking or running, assuming I’m not preoccupied dodging poop along the route …

… I wave to school bus drivers.

I don’t know this, but I assume school bus driver is not a high-paying job, yet it comes with a huge amount of responsibility, a strangely constructed workday and little recognition. That said, I don’t know if giving a friendly wave to every passing school bus I see makes a difference in that driver’s life (because they, like everyone else, have bigger things on their minds), but I know it can’t hurt. And I know it’s better than worrying about (or stepping in) public displays of dog poop (a.k.a., "PDDP").

I started this habit a couple years ago because it’s easy, and to put it bluntly, I had been going through a grouchy phase and needed some simple tasks that would make me cheerier. So, among other things, I decided to smile more, worked on being more patient (that’s a toughie) and to wave to every school bus driver I saw.

I can’t always see their faces when I wave based on how the daylight hits their windshield, but almost always, they I see them return the wave. That makes me feel good, and I hope in some small way, it makes them feel good and appreciated too.

At my age and status, I’m probably not going to change world in any major way. But I can change some little things in my behavior and in the world around me – my little corner – to make things better. And that’s what I plan to do. Because we rarely know how much some of these little things impact others, but we do know how much the little things -- the behavior of others -- can affect us.

© 2023 David R. Haznaw

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