Having a dog is like living with a baby.
There's an abundance of cuteness. And a mountain of poo. It's part of caring for a creature that cannot use the toilet.
I succeeded in potty training my toddlers, but I haven't bothered trying to toilet train the dog. The risks - falling into the bowl, making a mess, chewing through the toilet roll - far outweigh the benefits.
I'm resigned to being my dog, Ally's, handmaiden the rest of her life. I'm devoted to uplifting and discarding faeces at home and away.
But not all pet owners share my devotion to doo disposal. Anywhere there are dogs, you'll find owners looking the other way as Fido circles, sniffs, squats and makes his deposit.
These are the folks who walk their dogs off lead to provide freedom - for their pet to roam - and to avoid the unpleasant but necessary task of poo patrol.
So kudos to Dunedin's Antonia Wood, who told RNZ last week about volunteer efforts of POOP (Poo Off Our Paths). The group, including herself and 10 volunteers, scooped about 30kg of dog doo from a popular walkway. They filled two large plastic tubs with compostable bags and could barely lift it at the end of the cleanup.
The Dog Control Act 1996 says owners can be fined $300 for failing to pick up dog doo anywhere in the country.
Judging by the number of droppings left lying around, it appears this law is rarely enforced.
It steams me as a pet owner because Mr "I didn't see my German Shepherd drop a giant load on the beach" gives us all a bad name.
Recently, I was running (sans pet) along the Waikareao track in Tauranga with a friend. We watched someone's dog do his business while a group of women walked ahead, seemingly oblivious to the offence they were committing. We sped up to tell the owner she needed to handle the mess. "Oh, I'll pick it up when I come back," she said, continuing to distance herself from her pet's steaming excrement.
What a crock of - well- you know. We can guess what happened with that pile. Either the owner never planned to retrieve it in the first place, or when she returned to the scene of the crime, she couldn't remember where Doggie Dearest left his calling card. Picking up poo is a lot like justice - when it's delayed, it's denied.
If people can't be bothered to supervise pets off-lead, they should keep them leashed. Then there's no mistaking when Fido relieves himself on a neighbour's grass, the beach or a walking trail.
Speaking of faeces, another maddening aspect of living around other people is cats have free reign to crap wherever they like. While there is a Dog Control Act mandating removal of dog foul, I found no corresponding law for cats. The Animal Welfare Act 2018 covers everything from bringing home kittens to the feeding and care of older felines. It doesn't mention cat poo on public or private property.
The Community Law website states, "It's generally accepted that cats are allowed to wander on to other people's property and that the owner isn't responsible for any damage they do. Cats can cause a lot of damage to wildlife. There are no laws about this, but the SPCA and Forest & Bird have guidelines for responsible cat ownership that include desexing cats that aren't intended for breeding, putting bells on cats to help warn birds and discourage hunting, and keeping your cat inside at night."
Some people think having a litter box in their home is gross. So is finding cat poop in your flower bed. My dog will never squat in my neighbour's flowers because our section is fully fenced. Ally is short, and unlike a cat, lacks the vertical leap of an NBA basketball player.
Since we moved house, it's rare I find a strange pile of faeces in the part of our section off-limits to the dog. At our old house, cat poo in the garden was a weekly occurrence. I scattered orange peels and coffee grounds around the house to try to prevent felines from fouling my flowers. Those methods didn't work. I felt like a doofus trying to cat-proof my garden, knowing no one needed to dog-proof their yard against my pet.
The double standard for dog owners versus cat owners is - pardon the pun- crappy. Unless you have a roaming cat, in which case it's fine.
Bottom line - pet owners need to own the poo problem. Domestic animals are not here for our convenience. They're not really convenient at all. If people can't pick up after their animal, they probably shouldn't have one.