Chacos column: How to be a courteous neighbor in dog town

Andrea Chacos
Enjoy the Ride

Legend has it that a woman stepped out of her house one morning into piles of dog poop placed on her porch overnight.

From what I’ve been told, the neighbors were fed up with her blatant disregard for four-legged fecal etiquette, especially living in a high-density neighborhood. Some claim the landscaping crew was tired of dodging her dog’s landmines in the common area they maintained. Others say it was a vindictive plan hatched by generally gregarious neighbors after a night of too many cocktails.

No one knows who’s ultimately responsible for the cloak-and-dagger poop on the porch, and I’ve spent years trying to crack the caper with no luck. Alas, the story lives on. 

I sympathize with everyone involved because I was friends with the woman in the story, and I reside in a similar neighborhood with unclaimed landmines. We live in tight quarters, mere feet between homes, and we have a different philosophy about everything under the sun. 

Through diligent effort, we get along well. Dogs, balls, screaming kids, patio gardens, barbecues, and friendly faces fill our common area, especially when the weather warms. Dodging doo is an afternoon activity no one enjoys, and when patio furniture comes out for the season, issues arise.

Unfortunately, not everyone picks up after their dog when they defecate in the space we all share. Thankfully, there are charitable individuals who pick up an extra load when walking their own dog. I watch as they try not to make a big deal about it, but I’m convinced no one can be that consistently altruistic, and some neighbors are more generous about it than others.

Personally, when I graciously bag more than my own dog’s daily constitution, I mutter under my breath and make flamboyant gestures. I feel all heart because everyone needs a helping hand from time to time, and I want the neighbors to know I can be a team player, too. 

My benevolent behavior doesn’t last long because all the dogs in our neighborhood seem to be in cahoots as they all poop twice a day in synchronicity.

At first, I decided to go straight to the hole of the problem and address the furry culprits instead of demeaning their owners. When a dog was ready to unload on our common area, I would interrupt the unsuspecting animal by running out of my house like a wild boar and then try to coax her to defecate in her own patch of yard instead.

Reasoning with a dog is useless, and my kids said I looked stupid peering out of the window all the time ready to pounce on innocent dogs.

I tell my children that it’s in vogue to talk about public defecation, and that members of our homeowners association would likely agree. One afternoon, a few vocal neighbors were chatting when a well-liked dog approached the group. She was wagging her tail, happy, and clueless after relieving herself, most likely looking for a treat.

I turned my back on her, not even trying to hide my disdain. My maturity level was deteriorating faster than uncovered steamers after spring melt.

In my effort to address the periphery of the problem, I decided that our neighborhood dispensers needed a makeover. If we’re going to bag our dog’s poop, we should at least do it by looking trendy, further making us feel good about our actions. Unfortunately, biodegradable and compostable bags are not all created equally. After doing a little research and going into the oxidation process needed for bags to fully disintegrate, my kids gave me a glazed-over look and asked me to stop talking about poop.

I couldn’t stop focusing on feces no matter how hard I tried. I continued to bring it up during family dinners and found myself interrupting a friend’s never-ending story to discuss the latest article in the paper about the poop littering our local hiking trails.

I shared all the ways in which our culture obsesses about this problem and how people in other cultures tackle it. I was shocked that sophisticated France doesn’t pick up after their pooches and a city in Italy tracks dog owners by using the DNA from unsuspecting dogs to get their owners to pick up after their pet.

I let my family know that I want to fix America’s abandoned dog-waste dilemma, but in all honesty, I want to be the magic bullet in my neighborhood’s problem with poop and take credit for our property values skyrocketing as a result.

Through my quest for a clean yard, I’ve learned that dogs can’t be publicly shamed for their upbringing because they’re simply too affable to place the blame where it truly belongs. But when the soles of my new summer sneakers have stepped in a dog’s mess when I’m on my favorite hiking trail, I may lose my manners despite my best effort to be a good sport about it.

Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor, and some flair. She can be reached at

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