One afternoon a couple of summers ago, I found myself in an odd situation in the lobby of a Williamsburg condo: the doorman wouldn’t let me inside because I was carrying a bag full of excrement.
Not my own. I used to work at a dog daycare in Greenpoint and was escorting home a poodle. The mile-long walk took us through a still semi-industrial part of North Brooklyn where there was not a trashcan in sight.
I explained my predicament to the doorman, and swore I had no intention of leaving the stuff in the dog owners’ apartment. I reminded him that people are carrying poop in and out of the lobby all the time (inside their bodies, but still). Despite my debate team-worthy protest, he wouldn’t budge. So, I walked outside just out of sight, put the plastic bag in my knapsack, and he waved me in.
I vowed I’d find a better way.
In New York City, awkward debates regarding dog poo are nothing new. A 2008 book, New York’s Poop Scoop Law: Dogs, the Dirt, and Due Process, chronicles the history of the subject, from a 1958 instillation of a dog toilet on 92nd and York (a Turkish toilet-style affair, plugged up a year later because dogs showed no interest), to Mayor Lindsay’s 1972 suggestion that dogs use their owners’ bathrooms. (It isn’t so hard too toilet train a cat, but dog toilet training is still a very rare and weird phenomenon, –although, after watching several YouTube videos on the subject, I’m tempted to try out the gag).
There was also “Children Before Dogs” campaign that tried to link child blindness to sidewalk dog feces (a problem which can be avoided if kids don’t rub poop in their eyes). In 1978, the passage of a so-called “pooper-scooper” law (aka Public Health Law 1310) meant that dog owners could be fined for not “curbing” their pet. I remember walking my childhood dog Mabel with my dad in Soho about a decade after that and a man yelled at my dad for not picking up after her. After that, my dad was pretty good about doing it. Back then you never saw anyone carrying a dog poop baggy. Those were the days of print media. “I remember reading a Times article on the piece of paper I was using to scoop,” my dad recently told me. “It was about some new discovery regarding the stars and planets. My deep thought was about living out, at that moment, the perfect conjunction of the glorious and the disgusting. Needless to say, I never finished the article.”
(Journalism and furry animals have long been linked in my family. I’ve written about pets for the Times, and my father once used its Sunday edition to kill a rat in the stairway; an event memorialized in a 1986 Letter To The Editor).
Now, however, poop bags are commonplace. And we’ve evolved well beyond the Gristedes bag: pet stores sell biodegradable dog waste bags in a variety of sizes and shapes and patterns that can be stored in designer leather cases or in customizable dispensers. But none of these have GPS to help you locate a garbage can. Why is there not an app for this?
I asked a professional dog walker friend if she had tips on what to do when there’s no city trash can nearby. “I make sure no one is looking and I leave it on the ground. Or I sneak into someone’s garbage hoping they won’t see me,” she told me. She asked to remain anonymous.
Fortunately, there are a couple new products that are attempting to make life easier for any dog poop toting walker.
The ScooPup Pocket acts both as a glove for picking up, and a bag for holding poop.
BoggoDoggo does basically the same thing, but it’s battery-operated and has a bedazzled outer sheath. Here, a demonstration (plus a tutorial on how to make a prop dog poop).
The Doodie Pack is a vest for dogs that has a pocket that lets them tote their own waste. Its site congratulates itself for helping owners find a way to give their dogs a job. I’m all for raising the employment numbers.
I like the design of the Civic Doody –it is a cup-shaped leash handle that dispenses bags from one end and can carry dog waste bags on the other side under a lid. The only kind of weird thing about it is that it looks like it should be filled with coffee. (Please, do not use it for coffee.)
Other products don’t work to hide the waste as much as they attempt to camouflage it with cuteness. Take, for example, the Hugo Poo Bag Holder meant to attach a replete baggy to your dog’s leash.
Designed to hang from a retractable leash handle, the DoggieDid is a more functional looking device that serves the same function.
The best solution I could find is a new product called the PoopPac, a zippered paw-shaped bag meant for transporting excrement from the sidewalk (or beach or trail) to a garbage.
The PoopPac was developed by Susan Davidson, a Brit living in Santa Barbara, CA. I called her up to ask her about her poop brainchild. Three years ago, she told me she was walking with a friend who had a dog and a newborn in tow. When the dog went, the friend, who was carrying a baby, asked Davidson to pick it up. “I said ‘I’m not that good of a friend!’” said Davidson, who doesn’t have a dog. “I was horrified! And there was no where in the preserve to dispose of it so she had to carry it. It was right under our noses for the rest of our walk.” When Davidson had dogs back in England, they went in the yard. By the time she picked up after them, the droppings no longer smelled. “Here, people clip bags onto strollers, or they’re walking on the beach and run into a friend and stand there for 20 minutes, coffee in one hand, poop in the other,” she said.
I took the product for a test run. You can either clip it to your waist or wear a strap so it hangs like a pocketbook. There are two zippered compartments: One that holds a roll of bags and can also accommodate a wallet and keys, and then another zippered compartment for the business. This section, which is made of easy-to-wipe-clean molded plastic, contains a little charcoal filter to absorb bad smells. I found it a little clunky, but it did the job. The whole thing kind of turned me into an eight year old. When I bumped into a friend, I was a little too eager to announce that I was wearing a pocketbook filled with…you know.