A few weeks ago, I was walking my dog in the deep woods. It was a quiet, rainy afternoon and she was roaming around in the bushes, checking out the smells.
She suddenly stopped, overly interested in something I figured might be smell-worthy enough to roll around in. When she didn’t respond to the “leave it” command, I walked over.
Indeed it was a mouldering poo. But one from which protruded a popsicle stick emblazoned with a tiny orange flag that read “Shame”.
We were about six feet from a popular hiking trail, habitat to all nature of wild creatures and a couple of clicks from anything resembling civilization. Yet, someone had chosen this well-hidden dog dump to make a passive aggressive example of someone they probably had never, nor would ever meet.
And to what point?
Well, you got me. Maybe it appealed to their inner Dr. Suzuki.
Maybe it was their way of making a statement about the urban blight of people who don’t pick up after their pets, albeit in a place exceptionally rural that sees far more bear and deer spoor than the canine variety.
Maybe it was a form of installation art for which they’d gotten a Canada Council grant.
What it suggested was somebody who took the time to make these flags, journey to the middle of nowhere and tramp around in search of a place to exhibit this particular talent where it most likely would go unseen.
Therefore, quite possibly a Canadian writer-producer used to dealing with the CBC.
What it wasn’t, was the work of anybody who actually cared that much about anything beyond pointlessly making themselves feel better.
There seems to be a lot of this pointless, just making yourself feel better around these days. I get a daily Facebook and Twitter feed full of outrage about all manner of issues that would normally never pass through my field of vision.
I honestly couldn’t care less about most people’s forms of intolerance. I used to be. But Facebook made me realize that the majority posting their cause celebre are just re-posting what their friends are re-posting as a form of tribal acknowledgement, haven’t bothered to read below the fold or don’t realize their bugaboo made the rounds years ago and/or has already been debunked.
It’s their Internet version of that little orange “Shame” flag.
As a dog owner, I pick up after my animal. But sometimes she finds a spot in the darkness or tall grass where I don’t see her go or can’t find what was left behind.
Does that make me feel bad? For about ten seconds. Because I know whatever was left is bio-degradable all on its own, won’t be there after it rains -- and hey, I tried.
You’re just not going to find them all.
Often I’ll pick up after what somebody else’s dog has left behind. It’s not a big deal and it tamps down the smouldering animosity some people feel toward dog owners in general when they spot a pile of poo on their recently manicured lawn.
A friend from the dog park has dubbed this practice, “Poop it Forward”. Because, like I said, sometimes you’ll overlook something. And perhaps some day some kind-hearted stranger will do the same for you.
It’s much like the way we all trash a politician, evil corporation or sinister social trend without bothering to notice what the representatives of your own affiliations have been up to.
Taking that moment now and then to consider their character and actions prevents you from becoming one of those pointless losers with the little flags.
I think it also makes the world a little easier for all of us.