20 June 2011

Here's why we can't have nice things, DC


Keeping a large city like DC clean is the responsibility of everyone who lives here, visits here, and works here. Unfortunately, there will always be misanthropes among us who just don't care if they toss a bag of fast food detritus out their car window. Sometimes you see the result of this carelessness, and you think, "Boy, if only I could have caught that jerk in the act!" Well, I did, and here's what happened...

I was standing on the sidewalk in the shade of a tree on the 1700 block of Pennsylvania Avenue NW, having just finished talking to my brother on the phone, when a couple walking their dog approached from the east. It's a sight you see a million times a day in the city, and it hardly registered at first. I did notice that the woman walking the dog was moving towards one of the trees, and I thought, "That's a well-manicured tree box, would be a shame if the dog messes it up." Bright pink flowers shared the space with a young oak tree.

The dog defecated in the tree box. Again, something you see every day. The strange part was that the couple continued their conversation and began to walk away without doing anything about the mess the dog had left behind. Incensed that anyone could do anything so careless, I spoke up and said to the woman, "We're you planning to do anything about that?"

The couple stopped, glanced at me incredulously, then at each other. I spoke again, saying, "That's your responsibility. You can't just leave that mess there."

The woman nervously laughed and said, "Oh, I forgot to bring any bags with me. Do you have one?"

I couldn't believe where this was going. We were standing in front of a cafe, and I recommended that they go inside and see if they could get a carry-out bag to remove the dog waste. That recommendation was met with blank stares. I continued to press the point, but they really didn't want to hear any more of it. The gentleman had nothing to say, and the woman gave a forced smirk and they proceeded to walk away.

At this point, I was angry and not sure what I could do. Scream out, "Hey, those people didn't pick up their dog's shit!"? That would have drawn the attention of perhaps nine other people within earshot, and probably nothing else. I did still have my phone in my hand, so I thought, "I'm going to take a picture of these fools."

I followed behind them and grabbed this shot as a test to make sure the camera was working:


We got to the corner of 18th and Pennsylvania, and I stepped around them and pointed the phone straight at them and snapped the shot at the top of this post. They pretended to ignore me, then kissed and walked in separate directions—he continued west on Pennsylvania Avenue, she went north up 18th Street.

I don't know where they live, or even if they are DC residents. The badge hanging from the gentleman's belt leads me to believe he works somewhere nearby, but I didn't see it clearly and my photograph isn't sharp enough to ascertain that information. The woman had an accent that I couldn't nail down. Was it French? Eastern European? Clearly, I'm no linguist, but I could tell that English wasn't her first language, and I also am certain that there was no misunderstanding due to language that would lead them to leave the dog poop in the tree box.

So, what do I want from this? I'd like to see these people positively identified and publicly shamed. Some unfortunate worker from the Golden Triangle BID has probably already cleaned up the mess left by these anti-social jerks, but it would be nice to make sure they know that what they did was noticed, and that the people of this city don't approve of people who think it's okay to crap on DC and try to get away with it.

52 comments:

  1. You know, even Hitler cleaned up after his own dog.

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  2. Some dog owners honestly don't even think about it, which is amazing to me....having grown up in Ed Koch's New York, scooping pet poop feels like second-nature. Koch trained me very early in life! Perhaps these folks didn't have a similar watchdog.

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  3. I hope the dog shits in her shoes.

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  4. That looks a lot like a World Bank badge...

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  5. This is a simple situation where they forgot the dog shit. Be helpful and constructive, pick up the shit with a bag, calmly walk up to them and throw it into their faces and say in a normal voice "I believe you forgot your shit." Problem solved...

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  6. Right in front of Roti, too.

    I learned this lesson as a kid. I walked my suburban yorkie everyday. Eventually, I got tired of picking up her poop. I stopped picking up the poop. For some awful reason, my yorkie liked to poop in front of the same house everyday. One day that homeowner came to my house and told my mom that her daughter was not picking up her dog's poop and that the dog had basically made poop art in front of her home.

    I was so ashamed. My mom made me return with a slew of sandwich bags and pick up all the poop. I'll never forget that. I don't have a dog now but, if I did I would pick up the poop. I'm still so ashamed.

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  7. Is it really that hard to keep some sort of baggie tied to the leash handle? They make special walking thingies just for that, to keep poo bags in a container that attaches to the dog leash so someone would never have to be in this situation!

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  8. LOL ... You're a poop Nazi! In all seriousness, while it's nice when people pick up after their dogs, provided it's happened in public space and not on someone's yard, I don't think you really have any right to be telling them to pick it up. Something like your rant makes me wonder what strange direction we've headed in as a nation/civilization. Do you think a hundred years ago people stopped to pick up their horse's poop? Of course not. And most of the world understands that dogs shit and it's only natural that there'll be dog shit out there on public space ... Just like there's squirell shit, and rat shit and bird shit and you name it. And you know what, in some countries, it's even okay for there to be people shit. Next time you worry about someone else's dog shitting in a space you don't own, ask yourself what has gotten into you to make you think you have a right to be telling others how to handle their pets poop on property that isn't yours. Okay, maybe Mayor Koche is to blame ...

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  9. Anonymous: Unfortunately, your comment rests on a few very flawed premises. The idea that fecal matter is safe to leave lying around is wrong. A concentration of human and/or canine fecal matter leads to increased bacterial load in our waterways. Did that happen in the past? Sure! But we're smarter now than we were then, and we don't allow such things to happen.

    In addition, your assertion that, because this isn't my private property, I should not care, is equally flawed. The fact that this is public property means that I have just as much of a right and responsibility as anyone else to ensure it is taken care of.

    You are more than welcome to ignore such things, but those of us who care will take the time to make sure the city is a nice place.

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  10. These people give dog owners a bad name. Although I do let my dog poo in public tree boxes (look, he has to go, ok?), I ALWAYS pick it up with a bag and it's unbelievable that other dog owners leave theirs lying around. I am pro public shaming.

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  11. I am amazed that there are folks like you who are willing to be so confrontational in public. It shames me when I realize how unwilling I would ever be to do something comparable: I think that dog would have to be attacking a baby before I'd intervene.

    Thanks for being a guardian of the public good!

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. Has anyone seen Best in Show? See any comparisons that could be made?

    On a side note, it seems from your writing, that you would have still been disgruntled if they had picked up, merely because it happened in a public tree box. That seems a bit unreasonable.

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  14. Anonymous: No, I wouldn't have been disgruntled if they had picked it up. Sorry if my writing came across that way.

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  15. Well, then. Carry on.

    These 2 and their dog are clearly the yuppies from best in show. They deserved to have their picture taken simply because of who they look like.

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  16. Good for you, Geoff. Here in Downtown LA, we have a huge problem with dog owners not picking up after their pets. You've inspired me to say something next time I see it happening.

    My other pet peeve is dog owners letting their dogs piss on the sidewalk instead of walking them over to the treebox. Sure it dries up (eventually) but the smell lingers. Not sure if that's a problem in DC too, but here its terrible. When you live on the nicest street in DTLA, and the first thing that hits you when you leave your building is the smell of dog piss, you know something is wrong.

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  17. Almost forgot: saw this gem last week:

    http://www.viewfromaloft.org/2011/06/urban-art-review-cat-rallies-against-dogs.html

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  18. Chris: That's awesome! Hope everything's going well out in California!

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  19. A dog like that in the city is cruelty to animals. Those two must really hate dogs.

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  20. 900.7 No person owning, keeping, or having custody of a dog, except a seeing eye dog, shall allow or permit the dog to defecate or urinate on public parking or any sidewalk or in any and each such person shall immediately remove dog excrement from any curb, gutter, alley or street.

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  21. OMG, is that Molly the dog that was abandoned in front of Whole Foods on P street and 'stolen'?

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  22. That does look like a World Bank ID badge. And the World Bank HQ is just across the street on 18th. So my guess is that the World Bank is treating DC the way it treats the rest of the world: leaving a nasty mess for others to clean up.

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  23. these people look disturbingly familiar to me, but i can't quite place them.

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  24. Horray for guerilla blogging! As a dog owner (and pet store owner!) I find this kind of behavior so upsetting. It gives all dog owners a bad name and makes it harder for those of us who are responsible and respectful of our city.

    Lisa F.
    Green Paws
    81 Seaton Place NW
    (second floor)

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  25. Concur - absolutely a World Bank/IMF badge. When I clicked on the picture, I knew exactly what it was going to be.

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  26. I generally enjoy your POV, and I agree that these people should have picked up the poop. But if I were them, and you came around taking my picture like that, your phone would be very shortly shattered into a dozen useless pieces at the corner of 18th & Pennsylvania.

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  27. Anonymous: Then we'd have some real fun when I flagged down a police officer. :)

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  28. Right. And I'm sure that officer will be super interested to hear that you were following them around snapping pictures that you could post online because they didn't pick up a piece of dog poo.

    Overall, I disagree with this tactic of public shaming. I don't see the people in this picture doing anything, so it's your word against theirs... and they don't get to have a word in this. They just get labeled 'antisocial jerks'.

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  29. Anonymous: You're right, regarding my word versus theirs, though I have no motive to make something up like this and/or lie about it.

    In the end, they live their lives blissfully unaware, most likely.

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  30. I know him. Or I used to, a little. Rugby player, Brit I think. Not in contact with him any more, but I will see if maybe I can bring this post to his attention - see if the public shaming works at all. I wouldn't expect it to -- unless he's changed a lot in a few years.

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  31. Maybe you could have just picked up and thrown it away? They may have seen you do it and felt ashamed (rather than mad), and then been more inclined to change their behavior.

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  32. The other half of the city says "here's why we don't have laid back nice people DC."

    Although I totally agree with your outrage over trash and waste left on the street, and the civil obligation to look out for our city, I think vigilante shaming people is just as bad. Would you like to be called on everything you may have done over the years to annoy your fellow citizens? Have your pictures taken? I'm trying to keep this comment civil, but damn, do you think cities with dense populations function well with the approach you took?

    This reminds me of the time I was walking my dog on my block, I reached into the little bag holder on my leash and found it empty, I thought "this sucks." and walked on (it happens to everyone, and I usually pick up a few stray turds from other dogs when I can, it's my way of atoning). A lady in a car drove by, stopped, and said, "you really should clean that up," I was dumbfounded. She continued with things like "you should really clean up after your dog, no one wants to clean out those tree boxes." And I lost it. I don't remember exactly what I said but it included things like the fact that I have lived on that block for several decades, I planted those tree boxes myself, have been tending them for longer than she has been here, have been picking up garbage, and other peoples dog shit when no one else wanted to live on the street, fought off various nuisances for decades, have spent thousands of dollars buying plants and building boxes to make the street she so defends look the way it does, etc. repaired fences, donated benches in the park she's parked next to, and I was not going to stand here and be told to clean up my shit by some two bit sanctimonious asshole who I've never seen before. I think when I repeatedly started screaming "You don't know me #&*@" at her the tone changed. She rolled up her window and almost crashed into a passing car as she tried to get away from me and my dog getting too close. I am not proud, but I really did snap.

    Having cleaned up other peoples shit in my neighborhood for a long time, I would still rather do that, than live in a miserable place where little nosey shits start pointing out all of our littering, and social mishaps. Yes, if you know the neighborhood, and you see someone who is a repeating nuisance, maybe let them know it sucks, and your a neighbor, and you'd love it if they stopped (they almost always do).

    But can I recommend the next time you see a group of teens getting a little too loud, and maybe throwing some trash (as teens tend to do) you go ahead and step in then. The yuppie couple is an easy target man. Or maybe save your vigilanteism for when someone is getting hurt and let the rest of us live in the city committing occasional social mishaps without being placed in the virtual stocks and shamed.

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  33. If you can read the last comment in anything other than a British accent, let me know and I'll give you five dollars. Or pounds. Whatever you want, really.

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  34. I guarantee I'm a Gopher wouldn't pull this stunt in Trinidad

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  35. Anonymous: Don't need to. We're a community of neighbors who respect each other. :)

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  36. Thanks, Geoff, for speaking up and for posting this. It's really a shame that some so disregard the physical and social environment that surrounds them.

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  37. Good to know there are no litter bugs in Trinidad because it's an urban oasis devoid of any of theroblems the rest of the city has to deal with. It must be all the g-dette students GRAS that lows int trinidad when I see it. Imgoph, seriously though,whydont you publicly shame the drug dealers and litter bugs that live in your hood... They certainly worsen your QoL way more than a couple of likely diplomats dropping turds in the golden triangle.

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  38. Damned auto correct...

    Theroblems is the problems
    Students GRAS that lows int is students' trash that blows into

    Goodness that was bad.

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  39. I live next door to a guy who walks his dog out onto his concrete-covered backyard and lets it urinate and defecate there. Currently, there is a small river of dog urine that flows from his yard into the alleyway. I've been calling the city about it for months. I've also talked to him and his landlord, both of whom appear to be clueless regarding cleanliness and basic decency.

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  40. Anonymous: When I lived in Bloomingdale, I had the same problem, and there is a house at the other end of our block in Trinidad whose dogs do the same. It's rather disgusting, I agree, but you're totally right, the city does nothing and the owners don't seem to care.

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  41. I love how Anon 6:07 says that IMGoph's behavior is the reason why we don't have "laid back nice people" in DC, and then explains how they flew into a screaming rage at a good samaritan who politely told them that they should obey the law, keep the street (which Anon seems to have spent so much time and money beautifying) beautiful, and not leave feces in a public space.

    nobody has the right to leave their dog shit wherever they like, everyone has the right to take pictures of people in public. Not cleaning up after your dog isn't just an annoyance, it's illegal and it's a health hazard. IMGoph is awesome for doing this.

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  42. Hold the phone... My dog uses my parking pad to go to the bathroom and you meddlers would actually see fit to call the city? The reason they don't care is because it's totally dumb to care. Sorry I don't have any grass, but that's just the way it is. Not that it's your business but I clean up my dogs poop when its left on my concrete or anywhere else, but the fact that if you saw my dog peeing or pooping on my own property you'd call the city is one of the worst ideas I've heard.

    Why would I ever want to move to the suburbs and love in an HOA when I can have the same experience right where I already live.

    MIND YOUR BUSINESS. Sorry that dogs peeing disgusts you, but if it's on private property, it has nothing to do with you.

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  43. Anonymous: I guess we didn't make it clear about exactly what was being talked about with regards to dogs defecating on a concrete-covered backyard. This isn't in reference to a dog using that as a bathroom once in a while, or using it all the time and having the owner diligently clean up after it.

    The experiences that I'm referring to involve a next-door-neighbor who left dog feces on out in the open, the hot summer weather, for over a month at a time without cleaning up. If you lived next door to that, and had to keep your windows shut due to the stench, I'd wager quite a bit that you wouldn't shout "mind your business," and would want something done about it. Just a guess...

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  44. That's absolutely disgusting, I'll give you that... I'd go ballistic. But one commenter referenced urine running down the alley like a river. Not only is that hyperbole but it's totally ridiculous to care if a dog is peeing on private property. Stop crying over spilled urine.

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  45. Anonymous: You're right, a "river" of urine is clearly hyperbole. Probably not worth getting worked up about, because it's clearly not an actual, probable situation.

    I should have noted the "feces in the backyard for a month" situation I mentioned wasn't just an example of the dog defecating once and having that sit for a month, I meant a month worth of dog waste building up. Not sure how the dog walked around there without stepping in piles of waste and then tracking that inside!

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  46. The dog probably had a miserable life with an owner who was unstable that is not normal. It's sad how some people live.

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  47. Right...doesn't matter if they do it on private property, or in public spaces.

    Seriously, the ignorance is overwhelming, so I will educate that jerks who think it's "fine" to let your dog leave waste in urban areas.

    Rats LOVE dog feces and urine - it is a food source for them and by your even letting your dog do it occasionally (let alone all the time) outside provides them a reason to stick around. Look it up if you don't believe me. I could go on and on, but sometimes even common sense and decency is no more an impetus to behave morally than than indifferent apathy.

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  48. IMG...being French would explain a LOT about why she let her dog defecate sans souci. The last estimate I saw of how much the city picks up after 150,000 dogs was 16,000 metric tons or around 40,000 lbs. PER DAY. Though things have improved over the last twenty years, Parisians (and French dog owners in general) are pretty disgusting about their special dogs and where they poop.

    The problem with the two people you snapped photos (as well as a couple of the posters in this thread) was that they suffer from the disease of "Imtheonlyonewhoisimportantintheworlditis". There is almost no cure except to somehow make them suffer the same annoyances that which they inflict upon us.

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  49. Kathryn, I had never heard of dog urine attracting rats. In fact, it makes sense that it would deter rats. So, I took your rather pompous suggestion to look it up. I found out you are wrong. It makes me question everything else you said, except for the exceptionally obvious such as feces attracts rats, which isnt a secret.

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  50. Yep, I was wrong about that - my apologies. It is your prerogative to decide that the rest is untrue based on that. But you know the rest is true, so now what?

    None of that changes the fact that only the scum of the earth think that it is "OK" to not clean up after their pet. Worse than someone who paints brick or drives in the left lane without passing.

    Anyway, it's obviously a secret to some.

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  51. I am so down with a public shaming. They were dead wrong.

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You can be curmudgeonly too, but let's try to be civil and constructive here, ok?