Years ago, things were tense in Leichhardt. It seemed that the growing population of dog-owners and could never be friends with their dogless neighbours. The dogless objected to having their environment fouled; the dog owners wished everyone would just get used to being part of nature.
Peace broke out years ago, with a major cultural change among dog people. For years now it’s been rare for a companion human to step out without a supply of plastic bags, and the parks are dotted with regularly replenished rolls of degradable bags provided by the Council.
There’s peace, but it’s an uneasy one. dog owner vigilance is not perfect, and lapses aren’t always tolerated with good grace. Take this sign, for instance. In case you can’t see the photo, it shows a neatly printed A4 sheet stapled to a wooden stake: “Please pick up your dog’s poo / Small children about / Thanks”. At first glance you might take this for a courteous request that we all think about hygiene. But a close look reveals that it is nothing of the sort.
Clustered around the bottom of the stake, and around another identical sign roughly five yards away, is a scattering of drying dog turds. So the sign isn’t addressed to dog owners in general, but to a particular person, the one whose animal left this specific offering. Without the sign, the shit would have been invisible, but still capable of sticking to the sole of a shoe or attracting a small person interested in novel smells and tastes.
It occurs to me, though, that the ‘think of the children’ appeal is disingenuous, as it often is in other contexts. Surely if you thought small children, or even one small child, was endangered by something lying on the verge outside your house, you would remove the dangerous object rather than carefully manufacturing a sign asking someone else to do it? Clearly someone actually thought child safety less important than their impulse to advertise their (justifiable) irritation.
I confess that, like the maker of the sign, I decided this particular pile of poo was someone else’s business and walked on by.