There are eight million canine stories in the city. This is “Check Your Shoes (Before Entering the House).
I went for a walk the other afternoon, and just before walking I asked The Universe to supply me with an idea – some image, a word, a phrase, a sacred vision – for a subject for my Thursday blog post. I was walking down by Johnson Creek, and the idea came to write about walking in the woods. I also thought about the creek water, and rivers, and writing about rivers by which I have closely lived, and how they are unique, each there own. I was leaning toward that. And then I happened to look down and saw I was about to step in a pile of dog excrement. In Portland. Here. And I knew The Universe had answered. I had my tale.
Let me tell you something about Portland. There is a militancy here about cleaning up after your dog. No, I take that back. It is more like a flat-out, crazily obsessed, dogmatic militancy. You must clean up after your dog. We have ways of knowing if you do. Or – perish the thought – if you do not. Punishment will be severe.
Actually I have never seen a “punishment will be severe” sign posted. But there are signs to “pick up” posted throughout the city, certainly at walking parks. And parks that have sections reserved for dogs-off-the-leash-freeness. And there are receptacles. Everywhere. With blue doggie bags. To use for, you know, cleanliness is next to dogliness. Some are just bags. Many are blue, made of the kind of plastic outlawed in California and no doubt soon in Oregon. Others are clear. Boxes of dog bags everywhere. Some are in the shape of plastic gloves, making the grabbing and scooping and retrieving process lickedly-split quick and easy. But those boxes are only for convenience. Not really necessary. Because dog walkers everywhere in Portland carry their own bags, like boys use to carry Trojans – just to be ready, just in case. Everywhere people are leaving their homes with plastic bags, gloves, receivers and retrievers of all shapes in their back pockets. Or their purses. Because that’s the way we roll here.
So, imagine my surprise – lost in reverie about my next wildly engaging blog post of nature, rivers, spirituality – to look down as my foot was about to fall squarely in a big pile of dog shit. (Author’s note: as it is my intention always to write blog posts that are available for readers of all ages, the aforementioned dog shit will be hereafter noted as “DS”.) Anyway, the shock, the fear, the loss of breath, the……………….
Um, excuse me. That is not how I felt. Don’t tell Portland people I am saying this, but I looked down, I was about to step in DS, and I – oh my God! – moved my foot. The canniness, the stealth, the jaguar-like speed of decision making. I moved my foot, I thought I had a blog topic, and I kept walking. Here’s why. It’s a where and a when. I’m from Massachusetts and I am from back in the day. Ah, the day. That day. Back when we would go out to play, really play, run through back yards, back and forth across streets and the little grassy areas between streets and sidewalks, run through baseball fields and empty lots and parks by schools and parks by rivers and parks by the woods, and inevitably, invariably, run through DS. Like, you know, not a big deal. Like, you know, normal. If you went out to play and you didn’t come back with at least a smidgeon of DS still on the bottom of your sneaker, even after all the rubbing on grass or twisting your ankle to get it off the sides, even using a twig or stick to scrape it off the bottom, if you didn’t come back with at least a trace of the brown stuff and just a twinkle of a smell – were you really playing? Had you even gone out? Were you like, maybe, the biggest wuss in your hometown? Come on!! Live free with DS or die.
DS on your shoes was a way of life – a damn badge of honor – and I’m glad I lived in that place and that time. Because it’s not like that here, it’s not like that anymore. Now, you don’t clean up after your dog, it may be a criminal intervention, it may be a fine, possibly public ridicule in The Oregonian. But for sure it will be a seething, glowering mob mentality, a righteous umbrage at the insensitivity and, well, dogged disrespect, for the way things are. They way we do it here. The way we roll.
Sometimes, when I’m in a really “bad” mood – and by “bad” I mean to say really “good” – I make a plan to go to the local shelter, rescue some unwanted mutt, bring him or her home and feed ’em a couple of large cans of B & M beans, and then run through the streets and parks of Portland, my dog pooping and farting and fouling all of the greenness here, there, and everywhere, again, and again, and again.
Because that is how me and my dog, who by the way I will name “TheGoodOldDays”, roll.