Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a post about pet love.
I got no pet love to give.
Unless you are a fish.
Then I’ll give you the best three weeks of your life.
I am many things, but I am not an animal lover.
More specifically, I am not a dog lover.
Don’t worry. I’ve never hurt a dog. Or a dog owner. Try as I might with my evil eye.
I get dog people, though. I get that you think your dog is cute, small, harmless, like a brother, like a son, like a burglar alarm, like a fireman.
But I don’t. I really don’t.
To me your dog is a poop machine. A scary menace when I’m trying to jog, which is hard enough without your dog chasing me.
Your dog is loud at night when I’m trying to sleep.
And there are times when I really, really wish he would disappear.
This is not something I often share with people other than close friends and family.
If you are a dog lover, you can understand why.
You probably noticed your head sway from side to side in disbelief as you read my words.
You probably noticed the muscles in your neck tense up.
I know the feeling.
This is how I feel when your dog comes walking down the street toward me without a leash,
and you are nowhere to be seen
* * * *
Somehow, though, in the years since I moved to a kibbutz in Israel, my antipathy towards dogs has lessened a bit.
I didn’t realize that until earlier this week, when I scanned a thread of more than 100 comments by upset mothers on Facebook.
Kveller.com, a blog and community forum focused on Jewish parenting, asked on their Facebook page for reactions to a recent Tumblr written by a mom who brought her dog to the playground.
The mom is upset that another mom “tattled” to the park police after her dog “accidentally” peed in the toddler playground sandbox.
Kveller wanted to know: who was right? The mom with the dog or the mom who told on her?
I read the comments with interest, because I was totally and completely that tattle tale mom, once upon a time.
Ask anyone in South Orange, NJ where I used to live.
There was a dog park there, which– in my humble, non-dog loving opinion — was the only public place your dog should ever be off a leash.
Those that dared an afternoon frisbee throw with their canine best friend in a “no-dogs-allowed” park would certainly be on the receiving end of my wrath if my kids and I were there too.
I’m that kind of mom.
Heck, I’m that kind of person.
At least, I was until I moved to Israel.
* * * *
Dog or no dogs, I have always been more or less a rule follower.
If it’s against the law, I’m pretty likely not going to do it. And certainly not in public.
If there is a sign about not doing it, I am even more likely not to do it.
And when it comes to dogs — which I admittedly and unabashedly fear — I am rigid and unbending.
But then something happened.
I moved to a dog-loving community — by choice.
Sure, I didn’t realize how dog-loving my community was before I moved here, but looking back it should have been reasonably obvious that moving to a small community in the country would put me within spitting distance of lots of dogs.
Now, I live in a neighborhood of about 110 families — and at least 1/3 of them are dog-owners. And about 7/8 of those dog owners let their dogs off leashes in our public spaces quite often, despite it being against the law in Israel. And of those off-leash dogs, 95% choose to pee and poop in one of the three neighborhood playgrounds.
I kid you not.
Our playgrounds are poop-colored.
An unassuming guest may think those are just multi-colored decorative rocks — but no, it’s dried out dog poop.
For a few months when I first moved here, I was angry a lot.
Angry about the poop.
Angry about the dogs wandering in packs late at night.
But angry got me nowhere.
Angry has gotten no one nowhere.
2 1/2 years later, the dogs are still here and walk around a lot more confident than I do.
And 2 1/2 years later our kids have been trained to play around the poop — barefoot, mind you, since that is how Israeli kids go in the playground. They’ve even designed careful games around the poop mines scattered beneath the slide and lining the ground in front of and behind the swings.
The littlest of our kids will even sit in the pebbles at the playground and scoop up with her bare hands rocks that are surely covered in dried dog pee. Probably wet cat pee too. Maybe even kid pee. Israeli kids pee outside a lot … and not always next to trees or in grassy patches. Some just whip it out or squat into the sand.
We adjusted, I guess.
To the dogs… and their poop.
And their law-breaking mommies and daddies, many of whom are my friends.
At some point over the last 2 1/2 years, I had to make a choice: bend or break.
Don’t get any false ideas. I am not reformed. My kid will likely never get a dog no matter how much he begs me. Last week, in fact, I sent a text message to the county reporting a pitbull wandering around the neighborhood off a leash. An off-leash dog, a few months ago, attacked a girl in a Southern Israeli town.
But bending allows me to still dislike dogs (and their poop), but continue living here, and loving my friends.
I’ve learned to live with dogs. Or, in truth, their owners.
With some tolerance and compassion.
Which is what I think both moms in that “playground pee pee tattle-tale” tale were truly seeking:
Tolerance and compassion.
14 thoughts on “How dog poop can change your life for the better”
I have been through same experience… living in Israel made me change a lot… well, still changing… I need to admit my kids grow around dogs here and basically they fell in love with them…
Mine too. they’re still a little scared when the dogs are off the leashes but they all wish we could have one of our own.
The other day when I was jogging, I yelled out to this guy to put his dog on a leash to which he replied, “It isn’t my dog.” My fury ensued when I realized that this dog was about to chase me down in my otherwise calm morning run. I slowed to a walk until I was long past it and then returned to my previous pace.
In the past I might have been OK with it but ever since being bitten by a dog while running, stepped on dog poop and been chased by a pack of wild dogs I am less, not more, tolerant. And tonight I think I am going to finally have to deal with my neighbors whom I have been avoiding, who leave their barking dog outside my window all freaking night long. The winter was bareable but now I want to open my window so enough is enough.
Dogs, like any other part of society, are enjoyed and appreciated when people follow rules.
What a bummer, Devora. I totally hear you and i had a similar experience walking home from a friend’s house the other night. Was just enjoying the cool breeze and an unleashed dog started walking toward me. I found myself strategizing in my head what to do so he wouldn’t notice me. It’s ridiculous that I should have to go worry about walking down my neighborhood street as if i was in a city alleyway.
This same thing really shocked me about the UK! I’m originally from the states, and like you I felt dogs should only be off their leash when in appointed areas/dog parks. Upon moving to England I discovered there is (seemingly) no law for them to be on a lead. Oftentimes you find dogs of all shapes, sizes and temperament frolicking around town or parks with their owner – though thankfully people here are very good at picking up after their dog’s mess, which is much appreciated 🙂 I’m glad you’re doing okay with it now, however! If anything I’m sure it’s building up your children’s immunity ;P
I joke that my third kid is going to have the strongest immune system of all. I hope it’s true!
I love, Love, LOVE all animals! Where I have a problem is with their owners! The irresponsible ones. They certainly wouldn’t like it if YOU peed in their front yard, much less had a great BM! To them, I say Grrrrrrrrrrr!
Don’t think I haven’t considered it. 😉
Living on an international urbanization in Spain is very similar with 80% of the residents owning dogs… so you can imagine the roads, paths, gardens all being decorated with dog pooh and lots of wee… It’s the unsocial owners I can’t understand… where were they brought up… Israel??? Lovely writing, Barbara
I think our problem is not unsocial it’s oversocial. 🙂 Most of the socialness of our neighbors I love and cherish — and am so grateful for. It’s so much easier raising kids in a closeknit community. But please don’t share your dog poop with me. That’s oversharing… Thanks for reading!
Ah, NOW the dog poop comment makes sense! I’m so interested in the process you went thru. Much like many things I’ve worked thru over the course of my life. Am I just going to walk around HACKED OFF all the time or can I move thru the process to grace & forgiveness? Sometimes I find I need to speak up and sometimes the process grows me up a little more as I work thru it on my own (handy since I am married and a mom! Always nice to actually have a parent acting like an adult!).
I spent a lot of time “hacked off” (thank you for my newest Britishism!) in the past. Now, I can’t say I’m cured, but I’m significantly less angry than I used to be. I worked hard on that — it didn’t come easily. But I will tell you my secret. The #1 thing that has helped me be less angry is compassion. Really trying to be compassionate in the moment for others AND for myself, which I think sometimes is what may lead you to speak up and defend yourself when necessary. Once I figured that out (not on my own, mind you, but through some great teachers and friends) — and saw the improvements in my life — I wanted more of it. So I worked harder at it. Until it became easier. 🙂
“Hacked” is much more palatable in front of our 11yo than “p—-d” off is! We’re quite fond of Britishisms here as well (for some reason we like to quote “I am awfully fond of a cottage,” from “Sense and Sensibility” and “PORK!” from “Emma”). Compassion is, I agree, a great antidote to anger. I love how you’ve combined compassion not only for the other person but for yourself as well. Another one I have found, in me, is that sometimes the things that INFURIATE me have a root of some hurt or wrong, often from years past or that I’d even forgotten, that are touched on in some way by my current irritation. Prayer is amazing in moving me past those!