I spend a lot of time watching dogs poop. I am the human to a wonderful, almost ten-pound Papillon freak show named Frankie who I often walk at night, so I'm extra-vigilant about where he poops — sometimes even using my phone flashlight to find said doo-doo in the grass so that I can properly dispose of it. I also pet-sit other peoples' canine family members, monitoring their number twos on our walks and observing that waste to make sure my dog friend is feeling okay. (If you are a vigilant dog owner like me, you know how much the look of dog poop can tell you about how your four-legged pal is feeling. )
All this talk about poop has a point, I swear. But it's less about the dogs doing the pooping and more about the human caregivers. I want to ask you one simple thing, my fellow dog lovers: Are you picking up your dog waste? No, really. Are you collecting every piece of poo that your pet releases into the world outside of your own yard? If you're not, why the hell not?
With at least a thousand new people moving into metro Denver every month, we are bound to up our dog population as well. And that's great news, because I love dogs. I really do: The more the merrier. But simultaneously, we're in the midst of a dog-shit epidemic. I'm not exaggerating — earlier this month, a Denver dog park was closed because too many people weren't picking up after their dogs. No joke: The Railyard Dog Park, one of the many beautiful open spaces provided by the city and devoted specifically to our pets, had to be shut down because humans suck at being responsible. How embarrassing.
After several months of warnings from the city explaining that it could not deal with a dangerous weed problem at the park until dog owners started picking up their dog's poop, the park was closed. Via 7News:
At the heart of the issue is the abundant growth of "puncturevine," which leads to goathead thorns. As city officials attempted to clean up the paw-pad-damaging thorns and weeds, they say they were stopped up by excessive levels of dog waste.
"Excessive levels of dog waste," something completely preventable by dog owners, was the reason dogs no longer got to use that space. And this isn't just a dog-park problem: Have you walked around Capitol Hill lately? Of course, I can no longer afford to live there, but back in my salad days, when I did reside on the Hill, I got used to smelling human piss or (if only rarely) catching someone taking a dump in an alley. But now it's dog shit. And it's everywhere.
I walk dogs all over this city and consistently see pile after pile of poop on sidewalks, stairways, entranceways to apartments, medians and anywhere with grass. I am so paranoid about not leaving dog waste behind that I carry several bags with me just in case. I've even gone so far as to pick up poop with a Kleenex I had in my pocket. I've taken newspaper out of a dumpster and used that to pick up dog poop. If anyone saw my dog taking a crap and witnessed me not cleaning his mess up, I would be mortified. I don't think asking other dog owners to take responsibility for their furry friends, too, is that unreasonable.
Denver, I'm concerned about you. Where are your manners? Didn't your mother teach you to always clean up after yourself? Do you like how gorgeous our city is? Don't you want it to stay beautiful and not smell like shit all the time? I certainly do. So I wonder: With our city's growth coinciding with this dog-poop problem, are there people moving here from another city in the U.S. where they don't make you pick up after your dog? Could there be some magical place where the city cleans up dog shit for you that I don't know about? Because I'm pretty sure, no matter where you're from, dog waste removal is a human owner's job.
Maybe Denver, with its weed-utopia illusion, is being misconstrued as a place where people have zero responsibility for the basic maintenance of our city. Maybe people are just lazy and don't care what happens in and to Denver. Whatever the case, if you are a person who doesn't pick up after your dog, you should be ashamed — and if you don't feel it yet, I'm here to shame you. I'm also judging the way you care for your dog, because it says a lot about how you care for yourself and your community.
The saddest and most frustrating part about this dog-shit epidemic? It was totally preventable. The bright side? It can be fixed today. Like, right now. In a world overstuffed with plastic bags, it's not hard to find one and shove it in your pocket when you take your dog for a walk. They even make plastic bags specifically for picking up dog poop. (I'm not advocating for those, by the way, I'm just saying they exist.) Some parks even have dog-waste bags ready for you, for free, next to a trash can where you can put the poop. And proactive neighbors in certain areas of the city provide their own plastic bags in containers on the street, just in case you don't have a bag.
Denver, please: Stop disappointing and angering your fellow residents by being a bad human. Clean up after your damn dog.
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.