I would like to address the unknown resident of our neighbourhood who refuses to clean up after their dog.
I would specifically like to let them know that I rolled the wheel of my pram through one of their little acts of domestic terrorism last week. I say little – this thing looked like it was dropped by a particularly well-fed St Bernard.
It was more than just an unpleasant inconvenience; the question of what kind of person would do this threatens to undermine the basic philosophy I try to live my life by.
In all honesty, what kind of a person would do this?
Since becoming a parent, I have started keeping a list. It contains advice I would like to give my kids when they are old enough to hear it. I hope when the time comes it will be overflowing with a lifetime’s worth of hard-earned knowledge that will make my children’s journey through life that bit easier. So far, however, it holds just a single entry: Give people the benefit of the doubt. It sounds simple, and yet at times it is difficult to do. People can be cruel, cold, rude and aloof, but it doesn’t mean they are bad people. You don’t know what they are going through. Everybody reacts to pain and difficulty in their own way. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
At some point in the future, I’ll say all this in a sage, patient voice to my children as I sip Horlicks in my slippers. It is an exercise in empathy that can’t help but make you a more optimistic person. Sure, some people might not deserve the benefit of the doubt. Some people really are just horrible, but this is as much about enriching your own life as it is about being kind to others. Sometimes I think it is the only thing I’ll ever have to write on that list.
Then along comes the Dogshit Terrorist.
Benefit of the doubt
I have tried so hard to give this person the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they forgot their little bag to clean up the mess. Maybe they got a phone call and had to rush off to the emergency room. Maybe it was a stray dog.
No, no, no. These deposits are too regular, the pattern is too clear. This is a sustained and concerted attack on the soles of this neighbourhood’s feet.
In a strange way, I should be grateful to this unknown assailant. The desire to catch them in the act gives me energy in the morning. I practically skip out the door every day hoping, praying, to bump into them. I have never before desired to see a dog defecate, but I think we can all agree we live in extraordinary times.
If my life had a tagline right now it would be: everyone is a suspect. I'm James Stewart in Rear Window, studying my neighbours through the blinds (reminder: buy binoculars). More accurately, I'm Jeff Bridges in Arlington Road. One of these people I walk past every day is my Tim Robbins – I just need to find out who. Or maybe I'm Kurt Russell in The Thing. I can't trust anybody. All these people look like humans, but there is an imposter out there. A monster that feeds on the schadenfreude of an innocent man with a pram trundling blindly through their stealthily placed dog deposits.
We all change when we become parents, but no change is more profound than our increasingly vivid revenge fantasies revolving around hypothetical harm done to our children. It can’t just be me. If this person is bold enough to lay waste to the pathways of our quiet little cul-de-sac, what’s to say they won’t do it in the local park? What’s to say my little baby won’t be crawling on the neatly mowed grass when she happens upon this curious brown log? I look away for a second and it is in her hand. I can see it now, happening in slow motion, and I’m powerless to stop it. Oh dear God, she’s going to put it in her mouth. She is going to rub it into her eyes and go blind! Comic book villains have less traumatic origin stories.
Although this didn’t happen, it could happen. It is unlikely, granted, but that is how my brain works now.
So I will continue my low-stakes stake-out. I will continue my vigilante hunt for the Dogshit Terrorist. I have to. For my children.