Behest of the West: There’s no business like dog business

It’s not just the repulsive aesthetic or gnarly odour we should fear here, dog poo is not as harmless as you might think.

Fido, we have a problem.

My daughters Crimson and Clover were baptized on Sunday and it was perfect.

St. Columba is breathtaking and its congregation matches its charm. Rev. Will Ferrey has been a godsend to this Coast and he nailed his duties that day.

I didn’t drop either princess during the handoffs and the godparents said all the right things on cue.

Before the day went perfectly though, it was very nearly an epic disaster.

We arrived at the church quite early and, as men of his ilk are wont to do, my two-year-old son Jr. decided to run around in the grass. He wore an all-white tuxedo because of course he did. He’s fun, fancy and fabulous and he has no time for not looking fantastic.

Jr. and I hit up St. Columba’s evening service every Wednesday at 7 p.m. and he always plays on the grass in front of the church before we go in.That Sunday though, his eyes wandered and he decided the grass was greener elsewhere. As he ran along, and I sauntered as quickly as I could to keep up, he stumbled. Falling in grass is awesome and encouraged, but if you read the headline you know where I’m going with this.

Roughly two inches from where Jr.’s feet faltered was a sizeable mound of excrement.

Fate allowed him to escape calamity cleanly that day but around this time every year the sun we all worship so heartily sheds light on a very real issue we have.

It’s a problem we tend to snicker at.

When our councils discuss it, and they often do, it’s hard not to smirk at the euphemisms. During one particularly heated Tofino meeting last year, an audience member couldn’t help but ask council if dogs required licenses for all the business they’re apparently doing.

As fun as it is to poke fun, dog poo is a very real problem that has plagued our towns for far too long and exasperated our elected officials.

It’s not just the repulsive aesthetic or gnarly odour we should fear here, dog poo is not as harmless as you might think.

“Pet waste doesn’t just decompose. It adds harmful bacteria and nutrients to local waters, when it’s not disposed of properly,” according to the America’s Environmental Protection Agency.

A Ucluetian dog caught a case of canine parvovirus in 2014. This virus is extremely contagious and can be fatal. It’s spread through feces and it’s not the only one. When you refuse to take the 30 seconds needed to pick up after your pet, you threaten your community with a bevy of gross, hard-hitting, parasites and viruses like salmonella, crypto and giardiasis along with all kinds of worms like ringworms, tapeworms and roundworms.

Tofino and Ucluelet both have seasonal bylaw enforcement programs, but neither department includes a CSI unit that can identify a dog’s owner from that dog’s feces. Both towns have bag dispensers, but local business owners should really think about putting a logo on those bags because they get tossed all over town. Getting people to pick up their dog’s poop is one thing, getting them to dispose of that bag appropriately is apparently too much to ask.

Our sidewalks and trails are covered in feces and bags of feces and I’m not so sure we can blame the tourists for that fact. We can’t expect them to treat our backyards better than we do and our trails and sidewalks are covered with poo by the time they arrive.

No matter how much we yell at them, there’s nothing our local governments can do. It starts with us and we need to get better.

Social media often calls for shame to be cast on the irresponsible; I prefer the winds of the other direction. Let’s celebrate our responsible neighbours so righteously that everyone will want in on the action. I’m not suggesting we give them a medal, but if you see someone carrying a bag full of excrement: honk your horn, give a fist pump and shout out your love for them. Dog business is serious business so let’s get in the business of loving those who pick it up.


Andrew Bailey is the editor of the Westerly News. You can find his weekly column ‘Behest of the West’ on page 4 of our print edition every Wednesday.