Like many of you, I see a lot of dirt trails in my travels. I try to keep my eyes up as much as possible to take in the beauty surrounding me, but mostly I am focused on the rocks, roots and other obstacles I’ll encounter in my next few steps. Unfortunately, on my weekly go-to loop, some of the more common obstacles are horse and dog poop left in the center of the path.

By my account, horse poop is not offensive. Firstly, it is easy to spot the large pile of droppings from a fair distance. Although it is often in the center of the trail, it is easy to navigate. Secondly, it is only grass or straw or some sort of plant material. It mildly smells like grass, it is dry and it is not likely to adhere if you happen to misstep.

But then there’s dog poop. It is revolting on all counts. Even the most devoted dog-owner finds other dogs’ poop repellent in both sight and smell. Unlike horse droppings, it stinks, it’s sticky and it sticks to the darkest corners of your shoe’s tread. As it decomposes, rots or what-have-you, it contaminates the ground water and harms real wildlife, spreading giardia, salmonella, e.coli and a host of worm varietals. It has something to do with the carnivorous diet. To me, a pile of dog sh*t screams ‘irresponsible owner ahead’!

Obviously I am not the first person to take issue with dog poop. It seems that most urban trailheads are now equipped with doggy doo pick-up bags in handy dispensers. Marketing gurus must have their fingers in the pie because initially the poop bags were a pretty sky-blue, destined to match most dog-walking attire. Someone must have thought that dog owners had been caught short-handed and that’s why they left behind the stinky prize.

Initially I thought that this was a great idea. But no sooner did these baggy dispensers appear than bright blue bags were found everywhere – sitting beside the trail, tossed deep into the brush and even hanging from tree branches. Perhaps dog owners need a list of Poop Bag Etiquette.  I’m happy to oblige:

1) Stop texting for a moment and pay attention to what your dog is doing. Your dog was probably the motivation for your walk in the first place, so give it some of your time. Is he attacking another dog or a runner? Or is he taking a poop behind you?

2) If you can bear bagging it, then take the poop with you. Do not set the baggy at the side of the trail, pretending that you will collect it on your return trip. There is no poop bag collection out here in the depths of the woods.

3) If you don’t fancy carrying your dog’s poop around, then don’t put it in a bag! Bagging it and then throwing it into the bushes just adds plastic to the long list of things in Fido’s poop that shouldn’t be out there (even bio-degradable/compostable bags take a long time to decompose). Get a stick and flick it off the trail and out of sight.

If flicking the poop off the trail was your option, it may be time to re-consider your abilities as a pet owner. Take responsibility!

(rant off)