A few days after Jo and I moved in, we were scouting out things in what we call the North Forty — a flat expanse of grass covering the cesspool — when we noticed some motion in the hedge and out came a dog. It was large and hairy with semi-floppy ears and an enormous tail that swept the ground like a scythe.
Apparently, the dog hadn’t expected to see anyone for it gave a start, stopped dead in its tracks and began to bark. Woof, woof. My first impulse was to yell at it and chase it away. But a second’s thought told me it was a neighbor’s and that if I wanted good relations with said neighbor, it behooved me to have good relations with the dog.
Hunkering, I held out my hand back-first (if you hold out your hand palm-first, animals can think you’re trying to catch them), talked softly and soon the dog came toward me and, with nose twitching, began to sniff. Nice doggy. After a few tentative pats on the head, the dog turned, barked and went back into the shrubbery.
That went well.
A day or two later, Jo came in and announced there were dog droppings on the lawn. Indeed there were. Three things that looked like brown knockwurst covered with blue-assed flies. I got a shovel and moved them into the street (later that week, Jo bought a design-built pooper scooper, in case we ever found more). I’m glad she did, for the dog droppings began to appear with alarming frequency; one, sometime two, each week.
Just after we moved in, we bought a lawn mower. But not the usual kind. This one was a six horsepower weed eater. It had an aluminum chassis with two large wheels at the rear topped by an engine. Projecting out front was a two-foot snout beneath which descended a cylinder in which were mounted four stout plastic strings. The cylinder was turned by the engine through a system of belts. When running flat out, it could cut down saplings.
One morning, I went out onto the deck and saw the source of the poops. It was the neighbor’s mutt. It was squatting with its backside toward me with its tail going up and down like a pump handle. “Get outta here, ya goddamned mutt!” I screamed at it. The animal simply turned his head and gave me a sullen and insolent look, then continued straining at the bowels. When finished, he moved off a few steps and kicked some grass over his leavings.
I grabbed the pooper scoper, placed the turds in a paper sack, stomped over to the neighbors’ place and handed him the bag: “Your dog dropped this in my yard by accident; I thought you’d like it back.” He was not amused. He did, however, make an attempt to control the dog as fewer turds appeared. Sometimes weeks would go by.
Then one morning, the dog came over and passed a loose and watery stool. It sank down through the grass to the soil beneath where it lay unobserved. Later that morning, I fired up the lawn mower and began to cut the grass. Not seeing the dog’s mess, I ran straight into it. The air was instantly filled with a greenish-brown spume that flew everywhere — onto the house, across the lawn, into the mower’s workings and, naturally, onto my bare legs, my white socks and my sneakers. Jo could hear my howls of outrage and came onto the deck to see what happened.
“I’m gonna kill that fucking mutt!” I raged.
Jo suggested a more temperate, less drastic response to the animal’s depredations; one that wouldn’t involve the police. “You just leave it to me,” she said, “Now go inside and pour yourself a drink. I’ll finish up.”
A few evenings later, I saw another shit on the grass. “OK, smart ass,” I sneered at Jo, “Let’s see what you can do about that,” I said pointing to the turds.
Jo smiled. She said she was going to try something she heard about on a gardening show. With that, she opened the fridge and took out the jar of bacon grease. She uncapped it, stuck in the microwave to soften it up, them dumped a large dollop into a small bowl. Taking an old spatula, she picked up the bowl and said, “Follow me.”
Out in the yard, we went to the reeking pile. Jo took out a large glop of bacon grease with the spatula, bent down, and smeared it all over the poo. “What the hell are you doing?” I asked.
“You know if there’s one thing dogs find irresistible, it’s bacon,” she said. “And the second thing on their list is shit. So, with some bacon grease on the shit to entice them, any dog coming by will eat the whole pile. Two for the price of one, huh?”
Jo took my elbow and walked me back to the house. The next day I took a look and, sure enough, the dog crap was gone. I don’t know if was the neighbor’s mutt, another mutt or a coyote who ate it, but eat it something did. Oh, joy and bliss.
We have since made it our practice to inspect the lawn every few days and if we see something, we coat that something with bacon grease. It was more than a year before we had to use the pooper scooper again. Then they stopped appearing altogether. Either the dog finally learned its lesson, or its master finally got tired of having a shit-breathed dog licking his face and he applied corrective measures.
In any case, the problem was solved for good-and-all when the dog was run over by a garbage truck.