The cul-de-sac bends gracefully just after us and looks like it might go somewhere. The Pritchetts at number fifty-two must get fed up of the disappointment when the headlights might be visitors but turn out to be, well, turning. I wouldn’t mind it. I’d be happy enough to watch them go.
In between us and the Pritchetts there’s a short alley that spits out the walker like a release valve and we get a lot of those up and down and backwards and forwards in front of my view here at my desk. It’s a loop, of course. For them it’s a loop and they’re invariably attached to one form of canine or another. On the other side of the road is a strip of grass and the dogs are programmed to shit here. I spend a lot of my day watching other people’s dogs shit outside my window. They always clean it up – I have no problems with it. Even when the nervous man from up the road watched mortified as his Westie did a shit on my lawn I didn’t mind. He cleaned it up, he was humbled. If he’d have been confrontational I don’t know how I’d have taken that.
They have little plastic bags dangling for a while then, but the circuit’s planned to take in at least one of the red bins dotted about this edge of town. If a judge of a nation would be the way that it handles its dog shit then this island would come out ok. Except on bank holiday weekends when the bins get full and the little bags; all shapes and sizes and consistencies, form colourful rings around the base of the bins like some ritual sacrifice. It is a wonder how much shit accumulates in such a short time – and to think that we just used to leave it lying on the verges…
When there was Maggie I’d spend a good proportion of our walks with a heavy plastic bag of her shit swinging against my thigh. She’d always do it at the furthest point from either of the bins. One bitter winter morning, in the mental fog of the early hour, I remember enjoying the warmth that my little load gave off. I kneaded it in my hands and whistled as I walked. And then a sharp edge of nail caught on the plastic and made a little slit.
They say that dogs often look like their owners and there’s some truth in that. There must be some level on which we seek out the traits in our dog that we like about ourself. One thing that is indisputable, though, is that both owner and dog share identical expressions when the dog is having a shit on a grass verge upon which look numerous windows. The dog, probably through an inherited sense of urgency to get the job done realises its own vulnerability and has a sheepish, embarrassed expression on its face. The owner has the same look, only this is an expression that’s constantly scanning the street and the blank visages of the houses for anyone who might be watching. The best is when they’ve forgotten the little bags and know that they’ll have to either look apologetically at anyone who might be looking, or pretend that they never saw the business at all.
These people, they’ll kid themselves that they’re getting out with nature because they’re outside; that alleyway that runs between the houses and can be dark in the winter months is about as far as any of them that get from the bubble and the glimpse of the little lane that runs up into the hills is as foreign and unlikely a concept as it gets. They’re still firmly in the circle and they help to keep the myth alive. The dogs that they drag around are as far from nature as it gets in their little waterproof coats and polka-dot leads. Sometimes if you get too close they’ll whip the little dog up into their arms and cradle it there. But I won’t go there.
Let them move incircles in their plastic circle and tomorrow I’ll tell you what happens when you take that little lane that runs up into the hills…