An open letter to Chicago dog owners

Dear dog owners of Chicago:

I wish I did not have to write this. But it needs to be said, so here goes.


I'm a professional dog walker. I am outside all day giving some of the sweetest dogs in town a bit of midday exercise and a bathroom break. And no matter where I am, no matter what day of the week it is, no matter the weather, it is almost inevitable that on at least one of my walks, I'll come across some dog crap that some irresponsible owner forgot to or simply did not clean up.

I don't walk my clients in dog parks. So I see these messes on the sidewalks. On the public sidewalks that all pedestrians - human and canine - must share. I see the messes on the lawns of people who want nothing more than to have a nice patch of grass in the middle of the city. I see them everywhere.

Quite frankly, it's disgusting. For one, nobody wants to see dog crap on the ground. It's gross and smells terrible. Beyond that, winters in Chicago are disgusting enough. Oh sure, sometimes we have a fresh coat of snow on the ground that makes things look a bit pretty. But before long, that pristine white snow becomes slushy and gray and all the beauty is gone. Turd piles on top of gray, slushy snow do not help.

There is no excuse to not clean up after your dog. On any given day, I walk between 9 and 11 client dogs in addition to my own. Not all of them poop when I take them out. But the majority do. And no matter how cold or hot it is, no matter how tired I am, no matter how many times I've already done it that day, I clean up after them. It's not hard. I collect the mess in a plastic bag, tie the bag up, find a garbage can and throw it away. It takes me all of a few extra seconds, so don't give me any crap (pun intended) about how you'll be spending so much extra time out in the cold or heat if you pick up every time.

"But Bill, what if I don't have any plastic bags?" you might be asking. Good question. When I'm at work, most of the owners of my clients provide me with bags. But for the few that don't, I keep a roll of plastic bags with me at all times. "But Bill," you say again. "Then I'd have to buy bags." Perhaps. But you know what? It's not expensive. I bought a roll of 100 plastic liners for small trashcans - they're even scented - for under $5. Or, if you'd prefer, just keep your plastic bags after you go grocery shopping. Store them next to your dog's leash. Boom! Instant stash of bags that costs nothing that you weren't already going to spend on groceries. So don't tell me you can't get plastic bags.

Now, some of you might be getting ready to say that your back/knees/hip/calf/hamstring/other body part hurts and you can't bend down to pick up after your dog. I'm going to try and be sympathetic here, but I admit it's not easy. On any given day I may or may not have a sore knee, a twisted ankle, sore back, pulled hamstring muscle or some other issue that makes bending/squatting down to pick up after a dog difficult, but I still do it. However, as I said, I'm going to try and be sympathetic. So instead of telling you to quit whining and play through the pain, I'll offer a suggestion: Your local pet store (or favorite pet supply website) likely has a selection of devices - colloquially known as pooper scoopers - that you can buy and carry with you on a walk. These magnificent devices are available in many different sizes and styles and eliminate the need to bend down to pick up after your dog. Get one (they're not expensive). Use it.

Leaving dog crap on the ground is not only gross (and it can attract rodents and bugs, both of which can cause lots of unpleasant diseases). In many cities - including Chicago - it is illegal. According to Chicago ordinance 7-12-420:

"No person shall appear with a pet upon the public ways or within public places or upon the property of another, absent that person's consent, without some means for the removal of excrement; nor shall any person fail to remove any excrement deposited by such pet. This section shall not apply to a blind person while walking his or her guide dog.

Any person found to have been in violation of this section shall be fined not less than $50.00 nor more than $500.00 for each offense."

You know what all that legal mumbo-jumbo means? Simply put it means CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR DAMN DOG!

And so, fellow dog owners of Chicago, I beg you, please clean up after your dogs. Chicago is a beautiful city. We all know that. But when you leave dog crap on the ground, it makes all Chicagoans - those who have dogs and those who do not - look like we don't care about how our city (emphasis on OUR) looks and smells. Cleaning up takes almost no time or effort and can go a long way toward making your neighborhood look as beautiful as all neighborhoods in Chicago should.

Just do it.


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Filed under: Dogs/dog ownership

Tags: Chicago, dog, dogs


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