Poo: the great leveller.
It does not matter what kind of doggie food you buy: the outrageously expensive bags of vet chow, or the bargain basement kibble at Aldi: it all ends up the same.
The craven hunched form of a little terrier ejecting ballast is a familiar one. So much so that Cornwall’s doggie poop scoop signs used to make us laugh out loud once upon a time, when we lived there. No images exist of it online, but the little dog in the logo looked up in chagrin as he was pooping behind the big red barred circle.
These days, the poop scoop logo chooses a bigger dog, out and proud:
So Macaulay the family dog was on his best behaviour on our visit to a thing they call here a Country Park: a nice lake, adventure playground, metalled path surrounding it perfect for pushchairs. Tame and accessible, this country park has a whole different code to the forest, where the rangers insist you don’t bag poop but leave it to decompose naturally. Here at the country park, I implored Mac to keep his ballast on board for a bit longer.
But just in case, I took along some of those telltale little black bags.
Shudder. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a 21st century family in charge of a dog must manage its toilet arrangements, and that means tidying up.
But that can be a complicated business if you own a terrier.
Because terriers have their own waste disposal routines. They know what they’re doing, thank you. Macaulay’s routine runs thus: identify spot for offloading. Walk up and down, treading down imaginary reeds trapped in doggie social memory which is millennia old. Each time you walk across area, imperceptibly decrease the length of the stride until you become an oscillating blur in the middle of the spot.
Stand still. Adopt hunched position; check no-one, including owner, is watching; eject ballast.
Post-poo behaviour is just as serious a business. Macaulay stands next to the site and sweeps half the forest over the offending article. He is energetic, strenuous, even. And eventually nothing can be seen, though we all know forest animals can still read it.
Nowhere in this routine is there a space for socially conscious, considerate owner to nip in and retrieve the deposit. because as far as he is concerned, that poo is a message. This area, it trumpets, belongs to Macaulay Shrewsday. To pick up the message is to remove a large and very official canine signpost.
But needs must. Half way round the little kiddie lake the dog began the pacing routine and before long there was a small oscillating blur at a discreet distance to the footpath, in a patch of scrub.
Wearily, I pulled out a Little Black Bag.
We all employed silence and averted eyes. I cannot tell you what Macaulay was doing because if you stare, he gets up and walks away.
And then we went to the place where X did not mark the spot. Just in time for Macaulay to shower me, the bag and his creation with an avalanche of forest mulch.
Now, there was no trace of his poo. And there stood I, with a black bag, perplexed beyond words, staring at a woodheap created by my dog.
I will not go into detail about the subsequent investigations, search and final apprehension of Macaulay’s poo. Or his ability to propel it along with the accompanying brush.
No: we will draw a discrete poop scooper over the whole affair and go home for a glass of something fortifying.