Roger Marolt: The General meant no offense
There is a regular dog in our neighborhood. I don’t mean the kind of “regular” you can tell by comparing one dog to another. I mean “regular” by its morning routine, which occurred without fail at the time the newspaper delivery guy ought to have set his alarm clock to. I know this because the little guy left his calling card on my front porch each morning before I went out to get the paper this winter.
In the meaning of the word by which you would describe someone as, “a regular, average guy,” this dog is not that. He’s the size of a toy Tonka truck and about as tough as one, too. He is unaware of his diminutive stature and struts as if he is a mature lion. My medium-sized dog likes him and tries to get him to play, but is also scared of him. When the little dog snorts, my dog shuffles backward and bows in deference. I will call this little dog “The General” to protect the innocent, who might otherwise underestimate him and pay the price.
I admit, I was irritated at first that The General was pooping on my doorstep. The first few times it happened I practically stepped in it, unawares. Maybe I even did a few times without knowing it, the saving grace being temperatures below freezing that quickly solidify pre-owned Purina and render it basically harmless until after sunrise.
As silly and as normal as it sounds, I agonized over how to handle this situation. Each day as I scooped it up, I wavered between brining the situation up over a friendly cup of coffee with The General’s owners or saving a winter’s worth of the FODS (Frozen Old Dog S—) in a 50-gallon trash bag and dropping it off surreptitiously in the middle of some warm May night on their doorstep.
But, as I delayed action for lack of the right words for a conversation of this magnitude of importance and/or trying to figure out a place to store a 50-gallon trash bag of poop all winter, I realized that picking up the dog doo in front of my stoop before I trudged to the backyard to clean up my own dog’s contributions was not a big deal and, in fact, cleaning up the small frozen turds out front was way easier than getting the big ones in back that were guarded by knee-deep powder.
I even got over the insane belief that somehow my pet’s larger piles were not nearly as disgusting as The General’s since it was my beloved dog that made them. I saw this kind of principled thinking was completely lacking in factually based experience. I also stopped believing that my neighbors could read my mind and were ignoring my angst because they are passive aggressive people secretly delighting in getting under my skin. And, I found, I really love The General and I don’t want him to stop coming around. I chalked it up to something that happens during a big winter. Where else was the poor little guy to go?
I know this sounds kind of yoga and zen, but it is not that. It is me being lazy and taking the path of least resistance after discovering it winds through the dark forest of pride. What I mean is that cleaning up tiny dog turds every day when I’m cleaning up my own dog’s anyway is a lot easier than waging a silent war of resentment with people I like, or even having an awkward conversation that, in the grand scheme of things, would not make my life any better, even with the desired outcome, but would probably make it worse, if only for the few minutes of awkward conversation.
I would not even call this a strategy to deal with neighborly issues, either. I’m not writing a self-help book here. All I’m saying is it worked in this instance. If my neighbor had a buffalo and it was crapping on my doorstep, yes, having a conversation with them could actually make my life significantly better. I will keep that option open.
The risk you always run in confronting anyone is that they don’t end up seeing the problem the same way you do. The result could be they now view you as a nitpicker and you think they are inconsiderate jerks. It is a common neighborly stand-off that rarely self-corrects. I figured it could be a tough way to live for the next 20 years.
Roger Marolt is happy to take orders from The General. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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