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Archive for February, 2016

Litter

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My last blog of September 23, 2015 concerned the challenges of bringing up our new puppy, and I am inspired at last to continue the saga since Maddie is now nearly eight months old. davis_maddie2

She weighs about 50 pounds and continues to be just as wonderful, athletic, and ferociously affectionate. She undertakes her official puppy role (which is to be naughty) very seriously. She is so fast and agile; and a two-second lapse of attention in the kitchen will see the end of your lunch if you leave it within a foot of the edge of the counter.

Her pedigree is that of a working dog (Golden Labrador/Australian Shepherd), and so she needs to be exercised and kept very busy. She also needs to be trained, but the department in our household responsible for organizing the dog training tells me we are still only in the research phase. And since that aforesaid department is currently on the injured list, the serious dog walking devolves to me.

I use the term “walking” loosely since it is more like a full body workout, with every muscle of mine used to keep Maddie to some approximation of forward movement at a human pace. Likewise, every one of her muscles is directed at attempting to chase and herd every car that goes by, leap on any other pedestrian, and be completely unpredictable towards other dogs (sometimes friendly, sometimes not).

But the hardest challenge is to stop her from vacuuming every hint of litter left by unhelpful others.

I live in the lovely city of White Rock, which is quite posh in places, with multi-million dollar houses going up all the time, and it is by any standard one of the cleanest and nicest places to live on the planet. I have travelled a lot and the extent to which litter and various forms of rubbish are tolerated on streets around the world varies widely.

In Singapore, you’d better be careful not to drop anything. In other places it is almost part of the charm: after a while you don’t notice it. On the spectrum of littering habits White Rock is thus much closer to Singapore, which somehow makes Maddie’s enthusiasm for what gets dropped (by accident or through laziness or with malice) so annoying.

Firstly, I have to pull Maddie away from it all with some force.  And there is lot more to be vacuumed (especially if you include the gum) than first meets the eye. She has already been to the vet twice to be “evacuated” in some way. I resent spending the money and of course I am concerned with her having any serious injury from a plastic coffee cup lid or bottle cap or ketchup pouch or a metal soda can tab, and so on.

Secondly, since I go the same route each day, it is amazing how long this litter and other garbage stays on the street. Does no one clean the streets anymore? As I boy in the UK there were plenty of workers with well-equipped carts who would sweep and clean the streets regularly: it was a noble calling.

Then some form of mechanization occurred, but it just seemed to push the dirt from the gutter into the roadway in support of the storm water system.  Picking up all the types of litter in diverse locations is much more complicated, and there doesn’t seem to be much of it happening at all now except once or twice a year on certain highway verges.

OK, so no one likes to pay the taxes to maintain a rubbish-free community, and that would be fine if we were all then responsible for our own habits. Sadly of course, that is not the case: a certain fraction of the population doesn’t see a problem with just dropping at their convenience their leftover bags, tissues, butts, and drink containers of all types, even if they are just a few feet from a refuse container.

Vehicular littering is especially annoying. I lived in a house in Chilliwack for many years which was exactly the right distance from the drive-through fast food joint to allow the passengers to finish their burger, fries and soda and fling the trash out the window. Every morning saw another deposit on the road outside.

Stop lights seem like particularly convenient places for coffee drinkers to get rid of their cups and lids.

davis_maddie1But (getting back to my dog theme) the most disgusting habit is that of people who use a bag to pick up their pooch’s poo, only then to leave the bag right there on the sidewalk or nearby. I try to be generous: maybe they were going to pick it up on the way home and forgot, or maybe they think (as some have told me) that the bag will decompose along with the contents, though based on my unscientific observation, that’s about a two-year wait.

Here’s the deal: when you acquired your dog, you assumed the responsibility of picking up and carrying its poo and ensuring that it was dealt with according to whatever bylaws pertain. By leaving it, you are breaking the law and offending pretty well everyone else who cares, and giving all dog owners a bad name. Or am I missing something? Someone help me out here.

I was in England last year walking in the South Downs with my friend and saw the same behaviour: the beautiful countryside defiled by poo-bags, duly filled. I was hoping my friend would have a logical explanation for all this: some municipal service comes by all the trails to pick up the bags, or there is a volunteer system in place (“this mile of the Canterbury Trail kept dog-poo-free by the Davis family”), but he was also at a loss.

People seem to understand the first step in the proposition (clean up after your dog), but not the second step (don’t then leave it for some schmuck to pick up after you).

My dilemma is this: do I increase my sense of self-righteousness by picking up any litter and dog poo bags I come across (thus perhaps enabling the perpetrators), or do I just “tut” loudly and write blogs like this and so continue my decline into pointless grumpiness?

I once had an elderly landlord in Vancouver who would clean up litter and all manner of vile deposits around the building and down the alley. His routine seemed to me then to eccentric and rather sad; now I think of him as a hero of a sort, like all the people and groups who go out and keep stretches of roadways free of trash.

We are lucky at KPU to have very clean facilities, but we are not perfect. I probably embarrass people as I bend down in my suit and tie to pick up any litter I find.

Taking the few steps needed to go to one of many trash and recycling bins, or to deal with your cigarette butt properly and not leave it for someone else to clean up is not much to ask.

Enough for now: I have to go home and walk the holy terror.