A Personal Essay
Caca. Late 19th century: from cack, or direct from Latin (what isn’t?) cacare — ‘defecate’. Caper. (1) To skip or dance about in a lively or playful way. From late Middle English. Or from French, Greek or Latin. Take your pick. (2) Informally, an illicit or ridiculous activity or escapade. (3) The pickled flower bud of a prickly Southern European shrub, used to flavour food. In any event, capering (see 1) is the ‘dance’ I feel obliged to play every time I perambulate the promenades, pavements and parks of Aberystwyth, my hometown, to avoid soiling the underside of my shoes. I also refer to the activity as doo-doo-dodging.
I’m resigned to the presence of a significant colony of the urban European Herring gull (Larus argentatus), or mews, in and around the town throughout the year; after all, they were here long before humans arrived. Based on the law of averages, there’s a good chance I’m likely to be bombed by gull droppings at some point; I think I’m overdue. The gulls spread their guano near and far, and I continually risk walking in it.
Although I watch my step and keep a careful eye on the sky, needing to do so because of the gulls does not trouble me. My rationale? They are wild — natural to the environment. I can say the same of the starlings that appear every year, passing directly back and forth over my home to their primary roost on the underside of the Royal Pier. Their droppings do not trouble me either.
If truth be known, the gulls prove to be more bothersome by way of the ‘carnage’ they cause in the highways and byways of Aber every Tuesday morning (mainly) before the weekly collection of food and other waste by valiant Cyngor Sir Ceredigion County Council refuse operatives. It honestly appears like a war zone in places until cleared up, as the gulls are extraordinarily adept at gaining access to bins and bags to rummage through their contents, discarding what they don’t want to all points of the compass. To cap it all, they are notably vocal in July and August while raising their young. The word ‘cacophony’ is apt. If humans made such a continual din, it would earn them a fine for breaching noise pollution regulations.
However, apart from the inconveniences already mentioned, it’s the waste of a domesticated animal that unsettles me most. Canine caca. Doggy doo-doos. Feculent piles of poop and residual brown smears litter pedestrian areas across the town to lesser or greater degrees, ready to ambush the unwary passer-by. On occasion, mysterious, small plastic bags appear, left at the wayside, or placed atop some wall, or left hanging in precarious fashion in a hedge like some Christmas tree bauble, ready to drop and ‘detonate’ without warning, spreading their dark, concealed contents. I’ve never been able to fathom (and never will) the logic of a dog owner taking the time to stop and bag the faecal waste of their pooch only then to leave the bag in or near the same spot — other than in a waste bin — or even abandon it somewhere else — other than in a waste bin. Why? What am I missing? The ripe smell of faeces and urine wafts up to assault my nostrils from local walls, shop fronts, lamp posts, dustbins, the bases of benches and anything else a dog can leave its calling card on.
None of this could be possible without the awareness, allowance, or direct causative action of dog owners. At this point, I accept the strong likelihood that Deputy Dawg, the deputy sheriff (ring any bells?) will summon a posse comitatus of dog-owing citizens, to chastise me for such comments, via my online mail or comments boxes. That’s okay. It’s increasingly the price to be paid for being so candid. This being (almost) a given, I’ll also risk making a plea for:
1. Anyone wishing to own a dog must undergo formal training in the care of their animal, and its behaviour in public places. For. Each. And. Every. Dog. Official regional government training centres could be established for this purpose, part-funded by the person applying for and receiving the training, with operating licences awarded to other suitable training centres approved by the authorities.
2. Every dog must be chipped for track and trace purposes.
3. Dog licenses are re-introduced (electronic), which are also a record of every owner’s formal training in the care and management of their dog(s).
4. Outlaw all extendable leashes, with a return to close-quarter leashes that keep a dog by their owner’s side.
5. Hand out heavy on-the-spot fines for any dog owner not picking up and appropriately disposing of their dog’s pop.
None of which is ever likely to happen.
. . .
(This article first appeared on Medium.com)Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in