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Tag: feces

Making a mountain out of a … poop bag?


Vanderbilt University may well have some racial inequities worth addressing. And some racist acts may take place on campus from time to time. But Marley’s poop was not one of them.

A sack of dog poop left on the front steps of Vanderbilt University’s Black Cultural Center — discovered the day after a student demonstration to show support for protesters at the University of Missouri — was quickly decried by a student organization as a “vile” and “racist” act.

In reality, the bag was left there by a blind student who cleaned up the mess left by her guide dog, Marley, but could not find a trash receptacle to place it in.

On Monday, about 200 Vanderbilt students staged a walkout over campus race relations — one described as a show of support for the Missouri students, but also held to draw attention to Vanderbilt’s own problems when it comes to racial imbalances.

On Tuesday, the bag of feces was found in front of the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center.

Backers of a university campaign called Hidden Dores, the mission of which is to “draw attention to the racial and ethnic minority experience on a predominantly white campus,” quickly placed a post on Facebook decrying the deed.

“The Hidden Dores team is appalled to announce that our demonstration yesterday was met this morning with a vile act. This morning someone left a bag of feces on the porch of Vanderbilt University’s Black Cultural Center. The center has served as the nexus of many aspects of black life on Vanderbilt’s campus since its inception 31 years ago. The violation of a place that in many ways is the sole home for black students is deplorable.

“As many of us sit in grief, recognize that these types of actions are what we speak of when we note the reality of exclusion and isolation of students of color and specifically black students on our campus. This act has hurt many and will not be received lightly. We will not allow for the desecration of the place we call home. As we announced yesterday and reaffirm today, we will not be silent.”

Campus police launched an investigation immediately. After surveillance camera footage was reviewed, officers contacted the student who appeared to have left the bag of feces there.

“The investigation found the bag was inadvertently left by an individual with a service dog who was authorized to be in the building who could not find a trash can near the entrance and did not wish to take the bag inside. VUPD has concluded, based on their investigation, that there was no criminal or malicious intent in this action, and the investigation is considered closed,” Vanderbilt News reported yesterday.

The blind student posted her own account of what happened on Facebook:

“I would like to inform everyone on this campus that no racial threat occurred. I am a blind student on this campus with a guide dog. I was meeting with a group last night to go over our debate for one of my sociology classes. My dog did her business outside on the grass and I picked it up and put it in a bag like always … I did not want to bring the feces inside and make the building smell, so I left it outside by the door … Everyone is going to point me out now as the blind girl who left her dog feces by the black cultural center. I am sorry that I do not know where all the trash cans are on main campus…”

Leaders of the Hidden Dores campaign put a new post on its Facebook page, apologizing to the blind student, and for reacting a little too swiftly.

“Given the recent elevation in polarization on this campus in the aftermath of our silent protest this Monday, evidenced by tough personal exchanges and anonymous targeted posts, it was too easy for us to believe that a member of our community would stoop low enough to maliciously leave fecal matter at the Black Cultural Center,” the Facebook post said.

“Nonetheless, we apologize to the Vanderbilt community for jumping to conclusions and for any personal trauma caused by the quick escalation of this situation.”

(Photo: Hidden Dores Facebook page)

I see a problem and I want it painted orange

orange poop 1

Dog poop is being spray painted bright orange on some forest trails in Oregon to increase public awareness of the problem — as if stepping in it doesn’t make you aware enough.

The campaign from the Oregon State University College of Forestry and local veterinarians is aimed at showing the amount of dog waste owners are leaving behind, and the potential ecological problems that could result.

Both of those are real enough concerns. But — not to question the noble efforts of organizers and volunteers — does spray painting something orange really solve anything?

If so, there are a few things (coming up in a minute) that I want to spray paint orange.

“We’ve been getting dozens of complaints from people noticing the increasing amount of poop on the trails and it’s been getting worse the last couple of years,” explained Ryan Brown, recreation and engagement program manager for OSU Research Forests. “We’re all dog lovers and dog owners and walkers of these trails and we know the opportunity to have dogs out here is super important to the community of Corvallis. And 99 percent of them are really careful and clean up after their dogs. But we want people to be aware that this is causing a lot of problems.”

“There are stream ecology studies happening in the waterways along Oak Creek and anything that gets into the water can drastically change the ecology,” Brown added. “That isn’t natural and it can really throw off the health of the streams and cause certain organisms to grow that aren’t natural to the area.”

So on Saturdays for the past month or so, volunteers had been spray painting any piles of dog poop they spot on trails with heavy duty orange paint, which really isn’t natural either.

Later — in theory, after the orange piles have made their point — volunteers return to pick up the day-glo messes.

orange poop 2On Saturday, about 20 volunteers picked up around 1,000 piles of poop at Oak Creek, Peavy Arboretum, Lewisburg Saddle and Calloway Creek trail, the Seattle Times reported.

I thank them for their service, but I would also note that pollution and annoyances comes in all shapes, sizes and consistencies, from all sorts of human sources, and they regularly taint our air, water and peaceful existence.

Should those get painted orange as well?

What about those signs of political candidates who leave them up for weeks, or months, after the election?

What about the ringing cellphones of people in a theater?

What about those robots who work for companies that call YOU up and ask YOU to hold for an actual representative?

What about utility and credit card companies who, while urging you to go paperless and thereby save trees, send you through the mail pounds of paperwork, credit applications, loan offers, advertising and pamphlets touting themselves?

And, while we’re at it, what about the car windshields of non-handicapped people who park in handicapped spaces, and presidential candidates who spread hate? What about handguns, or maybe just their barrels, and all the lies and bullshit spewed in the course of an average day.

Paint them all orange, I say. You know what that will bring us?

A still troubled, very orange world.

(Photo: Top photo Albany Democrat-Herald)

Sandra Bullock sure knows how to pick ‘em

bullockWe’re not much for celebrity worship — believing as we do that dogs are far more worthy of such adoration — but we do from time to time, on slow news days, check to see the latest movie star gossip, especially when it involves dogs.

So we were chagrined to learn that the lovely and talented Academy-Award-winning actress Sandra Bullock, who divorced her philandering husband Jesse James in 2010, has now taken up with what we think may be another loser.

We base that theory on one act alone — but one that may speak volumes.

In 2012, Radar Online reports, Bryan Randall, who Bullock has been seeing for about two months, smeared dog feces over a neighbor’s door.

Sane, even-tempered, non-bullies don’t engage in that kind of behavior.

Randall reportedly had become irate with a neighbor for allowing his dog to poop in front of his building.

That neighbor, John Stacer, said that shortly after his dog did his business, Randall approached him.

“He was videotaping me and said, ‘pick up your dog’s shit, asshole.’”

Stacer had no desire to argue or tangle with the hunky model and photographer.

randall“He is a big guy and I was scared to go any closer so I called my dog back toward me and took him upstairs.”

Stacer said he planned to go back outside later and clean up the mess, but before he got a chance his girlfriend came home and noticed dog feces spread on the door.

He cleaned up the mess in his doorway, and his girlfriend sent Randall a message telling him such behavior was unacceptable.

Randall responded with a message telling her “10 days from now this will play out differently … He will see another side as soon as my kid is out of state.”

Stacer sought and was granted a temporary restraining order against Randall.

Radar Online says it “obtained disturbing court documents” describing the whole incident. (It is good to know they have Sandra’s best interests at heart.)

Bullock, while she may have a preference for bad boys, is known as quite the dog lover, and has adopted some special need pets, including a three-legged dog, and a two-legged one.

Using dog poop to power your home

poopenergyHow many times have you looked at your dog and remarked to yourself, “I wish I had his energy?”

Maybe one day soon you can, and the source of it would be — barring any digestive issues — plentiful, sustainable and renewable.

A young Swiss designer is showing off her prototype of a home appliance that converts dog poop into power.

Océane Izard, who owns three dogs, created “Poo Poo Power” as a conceptual design. “I have always believed in the potential of my dogs’ droppings,” she says.

To use the appliance, dog owners “place a biodegradable bag of dog waste inside, where sludge-eating bacteria belch out methane that is converted to power,” reports.

The electricity is stored in detachable batteries that can be used around the house.

The amount of power it produces depends on the size of the dog.

A beagle, for example, will produce between 250 and 340 grams of feces per day — enough only to run a fan for two hours, Izard says. A German shepherd, producing about twice that, could almost power your refrigerator.

Providing enough electricity to power an entire home, she says, would take about seven dogs.

Izard hopes that the appliance might change how dog owners see poop.

“For me it should not be taboo,” she says. “Dog owners pick up their dog turds every day. This is certainly an ordeal. That’s why there’s so much in the streets. But with this machine, people will want to bring (home) this precious gift that their dogs do one to two times a day.”

izardIzard isn’t the only one to consider using dog waste for power. The city of San Francisco considered a pilot program in 2006 to collect poop at dog parks and bring it to digesters, though the program didn’t move forward. Another project aims to use dog poop to power streetlights at parks.

Izard notes that, in addition to creating a renewable source of energy, the concept, practiced on a larger scale, could also help keep cities cleaner.

Paris cleans up an estimated 12 tons of dog poop from city streets every day. In the U.S., dogs produce around 10 million tons of poop each year, most of which either stays where it was dropped or goes to landfills, where it releases methane into the atmosphere. Dog waste also pollutes watersheds.

Izard thinks, rather than viewing it as an evil scourge, it’s time to make dog poop start working for us.

“My project is an opportunity to say it is possible even at a small scale,” says Izard. “The future of poop is here.”

(Photo: Oceane Izard)

And if you need a more revolting “challenge”

An animal sanctuary in Ohio, after watching how successful the Ice Bucket Challenge has been as a fundraiser for ALS research, has launched a similar campaign to raise money for its shelter, challenging people to pick up dog or cat feces — with their bare hands.

The gimmick is similar to the Ice Bucket Challenge — but way more disgusting. Participants videotape themselves picking up poop, and post the video on the Internet, nominating friends and family to either take the challenge or make a donation to the shelter. ($25 is suggested.)

In a post on its Facebook page, The Island Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary in Port Clinton, Ohio, announced the “Poop Pickup Challenge” on Saturday:

“We at Island Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary are starting our own challenge. It is something that if you are a dog or cat lover have probably ALL done at one time or another. We want you to challenge people (hopefully germ haters) to a ‘Free-hand poop’ Event.”

“We’re just trying to do something to raise funds for the sanctuary,” Nancy Benevento, CEO of the sanctuary, told  The Toledo Blade. “Hands can be washed.”

As proof that the whole thing isn’t entirely tongue in cheek, Benevento got the campaign rolling by picking up — with her bare hands — a pile left by a bull mastiff at the sanctuary.

People are challenged to record themselves picking up dog or cat feces barehanded, post it to social media using the hashtag #pooppickupchallenge, and then challenge their family and friends. Those who are challenged and prefer not to pick up are asked to donate $25 to the sanctuary.

Benevento said she tried to make the challenge so revolting that people would wind up donating rather than completing it.

We think she succeeded on that last account, and we think picking up dog poop is far more earth-friendly than pouring ice water over oneself. (Or one’s dog.)

But concerns about health and hygiene should send this challenge to the Dumpster.

Filling up a bucket with dog poop and disposing of it, rather than the bare hands requirement, might have been a better challenge — and it should be poop from dogs other than your own. Picking that up is your job, anyway.

Those behind the challenge do suggest that anyone taking part should wash their hands afterwards. They advise picking up poop only from animals you know are healthy — though often one would have no way of knowing that. On top of that, they recommend you not do it with a hand that has any open cuts. And children, they add, should not be allowed to participate.

We’d say all those disclaimers pretty much take all the fun out of it — if there was any fun in it in the first place.

As much as we’re in favor of poop being picked up, and funds being raised for shelters, we think this idea is need of a lot of fine tuning.

For that reason and others, Mrs. Benevento, bold and well-intentioned as your challenge is, we’re not inclined to take it, and forgive us for not wanting to shake your hand right now.

Fecal responsibility: Boulder looks at DNA testing to track down poop scofflaws

poopquestionBoulder City Councilwoman Mary Young wants to know how feasible it would be to require DNA samples from dogs, and create a registry so that, through DNA analysis, poop left on city trails could be traced to dog owners.

She’s not suggesting every dog in Boulder be tested (yet) — just the estimated 35,000 with so-called “green tags” that allow them to romp off-leash on some of the city’s trails and greenspaces.

Young has asked that the issue be discussed at tonight’s City Council meeting, the Boulder Daily Camera reports. (Yes, it happens to be an April Fools Day meeting, but nobody’s joking here.)

I would hope Boulder looks not just at whether it can be done (it can), but at whether it should be — that city leaders consider, in addition to the price tag of such a venture, the ethics and implications and utter goofiness of it.

There’s a lot of dog-related technology I don’t like (click the banner at the top of this page for one example) and poop-detection technology is near the top of the list.

Not just because of its Orwellian overtones, not just because it’s heavy-handed, dictatorial, silly, creepy, intrusive and expensive.  It’s also because technology, unleashed, has a habit of oozing beyond the boundaries of its originally intended purpose — DNA-testing of dog poop being just such a case — and spreading into ever scarier realms.

The day could still come when your tossed cigarette butt, un-recycled soda can or expectorated phlegm could be traced back to you, which, come to think of it, might be a better use of DNA technology than that being offered by the dog poop sleuths.

Declaring war on poop, and bringing out technology’s big guns, is overkill. Especially when the real solution can be achieved by simply bending over and picking up what your dog leaves behind.

In case you haven’t been following our posts on this issue, here’s how it works:

Deciding unscooped dog poop is simply intolerable, homeowners associations, apartment complexes or government entities sign up with a company called PooPrints, which sends them the supplies needed for residents to take swabs from the cheeks of their dogs. Those are sent to Tennessee, and a doggie DNA registry is created.

After that, any pile of poop that is found can be gathered, packaged and sent to a lab in Tennessee, where it can be unpackaged and tested and, by comparing DNA markers, matched to an individual dog, assuming that dog’s DNA is in the registry.

The company lets management know who the poopetrator was, and the owner is fined $100 or so — or, if a repeat offender, perhaps told they and/or their dog should move somewhere else. Thereby a community is made safe from scofflaws, as well as, say, a grandmother whose back might have been hurting too much one day to pick up every last dropping left by her Shih Tzu.

Here in my current home state, North Carolina, apartment complexes in Winston-Salem and Wilmington are among the growing number of property management companies and government entities turning to PooPrints.

Yes, dog poop can be hazardous to our health, and harmful to the environment.

So can the feces of all the non-domesticated animals we live among, but don’t feel compelled to prosecute for pooping.

danriversludgeSo, too, can the dumpage of corporate entities, like the thousands of tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River by Duke Energy, coating 70 miles of the river with toxic sludge.

That’s a little harder to pick up after, and, I’d suggest, at least as deserving of society’s consternation and oversight and vigilance as dog poop — even if punishing the culprit won’t make them change their ways. (Big companies, unlike the average dog owner, can hire lawyers to avoid fines, and, if unsuccessful, they just pass the costs along to their customers.)

Finding clean sources of energy — that’s a use of technology I like. Using DNA to solve murders  (and clear the wrongly convicted) seems a good use,  too.

But gathering, packaging and mailing dog poop so technicians in Tennessee can comb through it and test it, by comparison, seems a silly use of our technological muscles.

In Colorado, Boulder officials say dog waste on public trails is one of the most common complaints the city receives, so it’s not surprising that they’d turn to a company that claims to have the solution.

Eric Mayer, director of business development for BioPet Vet Lab in Knoxville, Tenn., said the company’s PooPrint service is used by private property management companies in 45 states and in Canada. Franchises are popping up all over, like Burger Kings.

So far, the company doesn’t have contracts with any municipalities, but officials have been in talks with a half dozen different local governments. He said he expects to sign the first municipal PooPrints contract with Ipswich, Mass., sometime this year.

Maybe, if poop detection continues to catch on, it would be good for the economy. Maybe, you too could have a fulfilling career as a dog poop laboratory technician.

But there are far better ways to spend our time and money, and far bigger problems more deserving of our rage. Between all the emotion, and all the technology, we seem to forget that we can simply …

Pick it up!

(Top photo, fake poop question mark, from Big Mouth Toys; bottom photo, sludge from the Dan River spill, courtesy of Dan River Basin Association)

How to keep dogs out of tree wells — NOT!


Here’s a handy tip to keep dogs from doing their business in those sidewalk tree wells — one that works better than bricks, better than fences, and is all but guaranteed to keep those disease-carrying beasts from tainting our otherwise pristine urban tree life:

Take cuttings from thorny plants, like rose bushes, and spread them around the tree.

It may sound like a tip from Satan’s Helpful Household Hints (not a real book, to our knowledge). But it’s actually the advice offered by a Baltimore neighborhood association bedeviled by dog poop that’s not getting picked up.

The advice came in the January newsletter of the Fells Prospect Community Association.

“… You can make it clear that you don’t want pets approaching by planting thorny plants (roses, bayberry), or covering your tree pit with pine cones or cuttings from thorny plants that are uncomfortable for dogs to walk on. A sign will also encourage some people to move their dog to the next house.”

Of course moving on to the next house isn’t really the answer — is it? — unless dog and walker keep doing so until they are outside the boundaries of Fells Prospect, a neighborhood near Fells Point and Butcher Hill. Even then, the problem isn’t over. It has just moved somewhere else.

Even if every single resident of Fells Prospect adopted a tree well, nurturing it and the tree it contained (be it a live one or a dead one),  even if they filled said well with thorns, lead paint chips, discarded hypodermic needles and perhaps a few strands of barbed wire, that’s all — other than some canine and human casualties — that would be achieved.

This is a hardly a new issue. In big and densely packed cities, there are few options when it comes to dogs relieving themselves. Everything is so paved over that a tiny patch of turf or dirt surrounding a tree is the only place for dogs to go. So dogs go there. Responsible dog owners, at least, pick it up. But some dog owners, like some community association officials, are thoughtless and uncaring.

So the tired old battle wages on — escalating to levels that could involve bloodshed — when, if everyone would just pick up their dog’s feces, it could finally shut the whiners up, or at least most of them.

Setting booby traps that puncture and maim is not the answer.

It’s generally accepted that the best route is education, perhaps along with some enforcement of the law that threatens $1,000 fines for unscooped poop.

It’s generally true that a tree well that is well-maintained, with a healthy tree, and some flowers around it, will be avoided, if not by the dog, at least by their walker. Ace and I always tried to steer around those when we lived in Baltimore.  Sure, we’d come across dog poop on the sidewalk from time to time — just as we’d come across rats, both dead and alive, dirty needles and used condoms, and once in my backyard, a buried handgun.

cutthecrapBaltimore has bigger problems than dog poop. That’s not to say unscooped dog poop shouldn’t be addressed, only that it makes sense to do so with some perspective, in a reasonable matter that doesn’t involve installing weapons of mass destruction.

Alisa Peters, owner of You Silly Dog, was one of those that expressed concern about the community association’s advice: “It’s going to be uncomfortable and/or painful for the dog,”  she told the Baltimore Sun. “Why are we punishing the dog? It’s not the dog’s fault.”

Veterinarian Gregory Burbelo, owner of the Boston Street Animal Hospital, which advertises in the newsletter, told The Sun he plans to ask the association to retract its comments.

“It’s sort of trickery,” he said. “It hurts the dog but doesn’t serve as a warning to the owner to keep the dog out.” While a dog may have a fair chance avoiding a thorny bush planted in a tree well, sharp clippings spread across the ground could go unseen and lead to injuries.

Officials of the Fells Prospect Community Association declined to comment to The Sun, including Phyllis Fung, who co-founded Cut the Crap Baltimore last year to combat dog waste in the neighborhood. She’s the association’s secretary.

Making the issue even more thorny is the fact that residents don’t own the sidewalks, or the tree wells within those sidewalks, so they lack the right to install booby traps in the first place.

Worse yet, any such traps could injure not just dogs whose owners are scofflaws, but those belonging to law-abiding, poop-scooping owners as well.

“We’re ignoring the fact that we’re attempting to punish 100 percent of the animals for the issues of 10 percent of owners who are irresponsible,” dog owner and neighborhood resident John Lam told the newspaper.

“I’m hoping people will ignore [the suggestions]. There are are a lot of homeowners who think they own their tree pits and don’t realize they’re in the public right-of-way. I have a big concern that people will start putting stuff in the tree pits to hurt dogs.”

(Top photo by Gail Langellotto; graphic from Cut the Crap Baltimore)