Maddie was a tiny, adorable Rottweiler puppy when she came into our home. She didn’t stay that way for long.
By the time Maddie hit two, she was a 120-pound shitting machine. That detail is important. See, in order for Maddie to remain in our home, my sister and I had to promise to clean up after her.
For my sister and I, cleaning up meant allowing Maddie’s elephant-sized dumps to accumulate in our backyard until our parents threatened to “get rid of the dog,” and then spending a few hours on a Saturday uncovering the green grass those dumps covered.
We cleaned up after Maddie like this for a few years, and then my sister discovered a better way.
“The people who live behind us have a dog, right?” she asked me one Saturday.
“Yeah...” I said.
“Listen, let’s just toss all of Maddie’s poops into their yard. They’ll never know,” my sister said.
And so it was decided.
From that moment forward, my sister and I would never go through the hassle of putting our Rottweiler’s mess into a Hefty bag – a long, tedious, and smelly process that took at least two full hours on a good day. Instead, we used snow shovels (greater coverage than a standard shovel) and catapulted Maddie’s excrement over our five-foot wooden fence and into the neighbor’s yard.
My sister and I thought it was a brilliant plan. Had we thought it out a bit more, we might have seen the many flaws.
Most people clean up after their dog on a regular basis. But we let the yard get so bad that the ratio of dog shit to the clear grass was nearly one to one. Unless our neighbors were as lax in their responsibilities as my sister and me, they’d likely notice – or at least smell – an extra 20 to 30 dog shits in the vicinity.
Then there was the nature of the shits themselves. Our neighbors had a Toy Poodle. A full-grown Rottweiler dump is about as far from a Toy Poodle’s as a newborn baby’s bowel movement is from a full-grown adult’s. Again, had we done just a little bit of research, we would’ve known this.
Despite everything, we got away with it. At least, for a while, we got away it.
Then one day my mom opened the door to find a woman she’d never seen before standing there. The woman introduced herself as a neighbor and, once the formal introductions were complete, got right down to the reason for her visit.
The woman had reason to believe that someone from our house had been throwing dog shit into her yard, that she had been picking up poop that clearly didn’t belong to her dog, and that she knew we had a dog, too.
My mom didn’t hesitate in her response: a complete and utter denial of the woman’s claims.
“My children clean up after the dog and, well, if you’re accusing my children of, of, throwing our dog’s poop into your yard, then you’re being ridiculous. My children would never do such a thing,” our mom said.
The neighbor was ready for that dismissal, however. In response, she put a pair of rubber gloves on and pulled two very different stool samples out of a rolled-up bag she’d been holding.
“This one here is from my dog, and this one here, well, you can see for yourself – this couldn’t possibly come from my dog.” Or so said the Perry Mason of dog shit crimes to my mom.
An argument ensued, and my mom never wavered in her defense of her children. She might have, though, if the angry neighbor had demanded a sample of our dog’s poo to cross-reference with her own evidence.
After awhile, the argument ended, and the two women went their separate ways, each believing the other was a complete and utter asshole. When my mom recounted the details of the encounter with the woman, she was livid.
“Can you believe that woman?” she asked. “I mean, I don’t even have to ask if you two actually did that, do I?”
It wasn’t an inquiry, but we could tell she wouldn’t mind a forceful denial from us.
We gave her the denial and then some. My sister even called the lady an alcoholic and said she sometimes strolled around the neighborhood in her house dress.
But deep down, we felt bad. Our mom had gone out of her way to defend us, and we’d lied right to her face. But what choice did we have? Had we come clean, we’d no doubt have been grounded and may have even lost our Rottweiler – capital shitter that he was.
Eventually, we told my mom the truth, and for a few seconds, we saw genuine hurt on her face. How could we do something like that? Do I even know my own children at all? the look said.
Of course, when I imitated the neighbor presenting my mother with the shit she believed was the smoking gun, it didn’t take long for that look to give way to fits of uncontrollable laughter.
Now that I’m a parent, I think about the dog shit incident a lot. I look at my wild, strong-willed toddler daughter and my sweet, smiley four-month-old son and wonder when I’m going to go bat for them only to wind up looking like an asshole.
It’s the natural order of things, and it’s only a matter of time before an obscure shit incident comes back to haunt me. When that happens, I hope my mom is still alive to enjoy just how complete the circle of life can be.