You Can Legislate Morality. Ask Anyone Who's Tried to Avoid Picking Up After Their Dog.

Categories: Get Off My Lawn
SHZ_GetOffMyLawn_TitleImageV2.jpg
I have been thinking a lot lately about dog shit. It seems to be the answer to one of my more persistent inner puzzles. Dog shit is a surprisingly deep topic.

Dallas enacted a so-called pooper-scooper law in 1997, a moment in local history I remember well, because I got tagged by a city code inspector the very next day. I was what I guess you'd have to call a scooper scofflaw.

I had my reasons. I was then the master of a dog with genetic problems affecting the gastrointestinal processes. I know that you won't want too much information on this. Suffice it to say that scooping was difficult, so I pretty much didn't do it.

Plus, nobody else did it. Not many. For a while after I got ticketed, I carried around a big harvesting apparatus that allowed me to do my duty without having to shower and change clothes. But people in the neighborhood actually laughed at me. One guy said I looked like the Grim Reaper. Son of a bitch. So I stopped. If one man obeys the law while others flout it, then that man shall be viewed by society as a ninny. You can use that for a quote if you want.

Here's the inner moral, social and political puzzle.

Pooper Scooper.jpg
There's a quote -- "You can't legislate morality" -- that apparently has been around since at least the 19th century, even though it is commonly attributed to the late Barry Goldwater of Arizona, conservative U.S. senator and 1964 presidential candidate, who is supposed to have said it in explanation of his vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The late Martin Luther King Jr. offered a famous rebuttal in a speech at Western Michigan University, calling the idea that you can't legislate morality a half-truth. He said: "It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that is pretty important."

I have never known quite what to think. In thinking about dog shit lately, I find myself going back to both men, Goldwater and King, and it looks to me like the scales of history have come down on King's side. You can legislate morality. Mine anyway.

All our dogs died. Not all at once; serially. And naturally. We were dog-free. We were determined to stay that way. For a long time I reveled in arriving at the end of each new day and not having to rush home to walk a dog. Then finally one day I realized I didn't have anything else to do.

So, to make a very long story less long, we recently adopted. I'm back out on the dog-walking circuit. What I notice now is that everybody scoops. It's very rare to see people with dogs not doing it. And now it's the other dog-walkers who judge you.

I tried to get away with a fake scoop -- you lean over with a bag in your hand and stare at the matter very intently, then fade away. But I did that one day and another walker called out, "I think you missed something."

I said, "I have a terrible vision problem. Thank you so much." I had to go back and scoop. Damn. I even thought briefly about carrying a long white cane and some Mr. Magoo glasses when I walk the dogs, but too many people in the neighborhood know me. I think I have no choice but to scoop.

Since the day the code lady got me, I have never again seen a single city employee out enforcing the law. I can only conclude that the passage of the law and the very existence of the law sent out some kind of moral message telling people what their fellow community members think of them for scoop-scoffing. And it is that message, not any enforcement activity, that has in fact radically altered behavior.

So you can too legislate morality. Think about it. If you can pass a pusillanimous little ordinance that the city can't even afford to enforce and get people to pick up dog shit, you can probably get them to do a lot of things with laws.

It's weird. I don't feel that I am a better person now that I scoop. I'm just doing it to avoid getting hectored. But I do believe other people think I am a better person for scooping, and somehow that feels like almost the same thing.

I keep trying to get at the inner truth of it. Maybe it's this: If they pass a new law legislating morality, don't be the first person to obey it. But when everybody else starts, you better jump in. You can use that for a quote too.

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
41 comments
kmaliberals
kmaliberals

It's clear from your article, that your attempt to blame the dog for intestinal problem, is more indicative that you're full of crap about that issue.  You likely are still full of crap, and you dog's intestines are quite normal.  You're just one of the ilk who doesn't pick it up and resists living in a humane and responsible society.

Dog Leash Training
Dog Leash Training

Great article . Thanks for sharing this . Having fun while reading this. :)

Everettattebury
Everettattebury

When people complain about governments trying to legislate morality, they aren't complaining about laws that try to protect people from actual harm caused by other people.  The problem is that people with crazy superstitions try to force other people to respect them.  

If I want to buy a beer on Sunday, or have sex with a stranger I met on craigslist, or play slots in a casino, it is nobody's business but my own.  The fact that it offends someone does not give them the right to try and use the power of government to try and stop me.

VeniVidiDejaVu
VeniVidiDejaVu

"...we recently adopted...", WRONG. What really happened is the dog HIRED you as it's butler; or more correctly as it's slave, as you receive no pay. As a Bitch Butler your job is to scoop poop, rinse off pee, bath, feed, water, and take care of medical needs. Puppy poops EVERY DAY, 365 days a year, and either YOU scoop it or you have a very smelly back yard. So YOU handle at least 365 piles of doggy dung annually. For free. You stupid.

Your pooch's only obligation is to poop, pee or vomit on whatever you have at floor level, if indeed it has not already chewed it up. I had two St. Bernards who would have been very useful if I could have mixed concrete mix with their dog chow; they would have paved a new patio in no time at all. Instead they ate socks, books, trees, furniture, and the occasional neighbor. Once I found a whole athletic sock in a poopie pile, not even chewed up. I had to wash it three times before I could wear it again. Obtaining a dog is one way of saying "I just don't have enough gross tasks to do around the house".

averagejoe
averagejoe

Jeez, Schutze. Go to the mirror and check your eyebrows. You're channeling Andy Rooney on this one.

Fecal Matters!
Fecal Matters!

Isn't it more "moral" just to leave it there. I mean its a natural fertilizer, made from the earth. Encasing poo in petroleum polymer packaging and putting it in a landfill seems like you would be increasing your dog's carbon footprint.

Heywood U buzzoff
Heywood U buzzoff

JimBo -- there is the Preston Hollow Approach to poop scooping.  Carry a sand wedge or a pitching wedge from you golf bag (not one of the gad awful 60 degree litter box scoops) when you walk.  After fido 'tees one up', you problem is keeping your head down and the left arm straight during your follow through.

Oh, and keep you mouth shut just in case you are hitting into the wind.

Anon
Anon

but no one's views of the relative merits of scooping have really changed, have they? all this really proves is that the walkers in your neighborhood know each other well enough to care about the judgment of their neighbors, or about it getting around that you're the crazy guy who doesn't adhere to their standards. as for me, I don't even pretend. I don't care, frankly, unless it's literally in your walkway and you'd risk stepping on it just getting out the door in which case I grab a stick and move it out of the way for you - you're welcome. besides, what's to say that turd on your yard wasn't from the pack of strays? for more on this conversation check in on whitewhine.com

pak152
pak152

so who picks up the rat, mouse, raccoon, possum, squirrel and OWS shit that is all over the city? garden gnomes?

214 Cocksucker Lane
214 Cocksucker Lane

Jim, your post is a great introduction for white people to bitch about dog shit. Many a city counsel person was elected by pronouncing dog shit the bain of existence. It's a steamy and hilarious subject that brings out the self righteous anti dog shit folks that probably walk around with hand sanitizers and yell at bums to get a job. Or at least stop breathing in the park, next to the dog shit. And oh my god, getting dog shit smeared on the carpet, where children play! The humanity!

I don't own a dog, but if I did, I let it secretly (secretly, for fear of the militant shit police) SHIT ALL OVER YOUR LIVES.

Jd
Jd

I would of sworn that Steve Blow wrote this essay. 

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Dogs can shit in my yard no problem!   Just don't do it on the side walk.    After all it is fertilizer.

RTGolden
RTGolden

I think too much turkey has addled your brain.  You're confusing codifying behavior with instilling morality.  If morality had to be legislated, it wouldn't be morality, it would just be laws.However, it's good that you're a scooper now.  Anyone who advocates banning plastic bottles from national parks would be viewed as severely hypocritical if they didn't clean up after their dogs.

brett
brett

people who don't pick up after their dogs are bigger pieces of shit than what comes out their pet's ass.

OakParkStudio
OakParkStudio

Get a cat Jim.

No more dog walking. No more pooper scooping. Just a warm bundle of fur waiting to plop on your lap after a hard day.

Lots of purring. Lots of love.

Yeah sure there's that litter box thing. But it's a helluva lot easier when you consider having to go out in the rain and nasty weather with Brutus.

I'm a cat person. MEOW.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

It's weird. I don't feel that I am a better person now that I scoop. I'm just doing it to avoid getting hectored.

Using Kant's definition of morality, you just disproved your thesis.

Phelps
Phelps

I think you are putting the cart before the horse.  Since society shifted to "respect your neighbors property and stop leaving your dog shit on it" as the social norm, legal enforcement of the code became possible.  

Ditto with litter.  Litter has always been against the law.  It was endemic in the 70s because everyone thought the law was stupid and littered anyways.  It was unenforceable.  When attitudes shifted in the 80s and 90s, enforcement became possible.  (Dog shit is just a particularly odious form of litter, after all.)

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

If you've ever stepped on dog shit and smeared it all over your carpet where your children play, maybe you'd consider it a health issue as well.

trannyntraining
trannyntraining

Just get ya some fake poo, put it in a plastic bag, store it where you store your dog's leash, take it with ya every time you walk the mutt, and if it looks like it's taking a crap just say(in a loud, but not shoutingly loud voice), "hey! (your dog's name here) why are you pissing in the same position you poop in?"...look real bewildered, give a once over to espy any onlookers, and keep going. If someone calls you out on it, just show em the bag of fake poop and tell em that the dog already took its dump and then tell them(kindly), "to mind their own freakin' business!".

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

I miss seeing your Weimeraner. I used to have one and it was my favorite dog of all time. SHH don't tell the others...

Montemalone
Montemalone

Apparently, the dog owners patronizing the Katy Trail are not afflicted with morality.

Darren Schmits
Darren Schmits

Hang out in Uptown.  Hardly anyone scoops there.  And baggies & trash cans are everywhere!

Zeluiz
Zeluiz

That's the whole point. The behaviours you mentioned are nobody's business but your own, but failing to scoop is everybody's business.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Probably the most apt description of dog ownership I've seen ever.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Unless your dog is a free range vegetarian dog, no, its crap did not come from the earth.  As far as I know, dog crap will kill your grass, although we're in a drought, so who cares.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Pow, zing, bam!

Now that's a lot worse than "Schutz sux" or "Libertard".

My theory JS is resting up for the JWP trial.

Observist
Observist

The irony is dog crap will biodegrade in about a week, but when you put it in a plastic bag it will last for centuries.

rke
rke

Lady Bird Johnson help start the anti-litter campaign in the 60's, but yeah.

james
james

nobody has stopped littering. there are plastic bags hanging in the trees. i pick up a few that have blown into my yard every dam day. the CITY OF DALLAS GARBAGE TRUCKS leave a trail of them every week everywhere they  go. so not littering does no good. the CITY OF DALLAS will  litter for us every dam day. when they drop or spill a garbage dumpster, do you think they actually stop get out of the truck and pick it up? my hispanic-likely illegal immigrant  neighbors don't pick it up either.

Guest
Guest

I don't know. Even we conservatives talk about how incentives and disincentives can influence behavior. Certainly the use of seat belts is probably something that's been helped along by the laws on the books that create a fine for not wearing one. Certainly the same could be part of the increased use of pooper scoopers, too. Or at least it could have been a catalyst that helped people start thinking about how they should pick up their dog's crap.

todd
todd

that sounds like more work than actually picking up the shit.

Mountain Creek
Mountain Creek

Someone who's name is "wooder" talking about missing your "weimer...".  Sketchy.  Very Sketchy...

cp
cp

Yeah I was going to say that. And Uptown is probably the reason the law was enacted in the first place. Uptown looks like Perpignon, France!

Fecal Matters
Fecal Matters

If it did not come from the earth, then what planet did it come from? Tatooine?

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

All of the poop bags I have seen claim to be biodegradable.

cp
cp

Look if I don't want to wear a freakin seat belt, I shouldn't have to. What does society say about people who just don't like to wear seat belts? 

Montemalone
Montemalone

Yeah, just like France, without the charm, culture, history, food, wine, architecture...

RTGolden
RTGolden

It did come from the Earth, but doesn't come from the earth.  Capitalization makes a difference.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

Feel free to drive without your seat belt on. 

The Seat Belt law is an idiot fine, that's all.  If you are stupid enough to drive without one, the police should feel obligated to pull you over and take away some of your money.

Ed D.
Ed D.

"The laws of physics still apply to you, fool."

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

Around The Web

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...