In the bag

Those of you who have read my column for a while know that one of my recurring themes is my loathing of rogue shopping carts left in parking lots.

And I appreciate all that you have done to help stem the tide of this menace. And while the battle against non-returned shopping carts is not yet won, it is clear we have the high ground. We are legion, and we are going to eventually get every used shopping cart to its proper home.

I am proud of everyone who has enlisted in the cart army, and your work is valiant.

So now, I ask you, noble cart warriors and other defenders of things that make the world kind of a bit more decent: It’s time to turn our focus to another menace.

We’ve got to take on dog poop. And I’m not talking about cleaning up when you’re walking your dog. I think the vast majority of folks are in full agreement about carrying bags with you and taking care of your dog’s business. Yes, there are a few people who do not clean up after their dogs, but you already know they don’t return their carts. So let’s focus on the real problem: Bag droppers.

I have noticed of late that there are a lot of people who walk their dogs, dutifully bag up their mess and then, rather than taking said bags to a proper disposal station, just … drop them.

I have a trail I like to hike on a regular basis. On my last hike, I picked up five bags that were left along the trail. Now, you may think, “Hey, Mike, perhaps these folks had just dropped these bags and were going to pick them up on their way back.” Two problems with that:

The trail I hike is a loop. They weren’t coming back this way.
I saw a social media post recently that showed where folks walking over a particular bridge over a train track had been pitching these bags off the edge, leaving a big pile of poop bags piled up. And those folks certainly aren’t circling back on that trail to pick up the bags. Also, in the picture, it shows several different kinds of bags disposed, which tells me this isn’t just a lone poop pitcher.

Now, unlike grocery carts, this is not the thing we can easily start fighting just through our actions. If someone leaves a cart, it’s easy to go and snag the cart and send the very clear message that you are making the world a better place. The dog bags are dropped surreptitiously. We never see it happen. We just have to pick it up or leave it. And struggle with the very real inner thought of, “Why did you even bother bagging it? At least if you didn’t bag it the poop would go away eventually.”

So what do we do? Simple. We stay nice. We pick up the bags. And as we pass our fellow travelers, we hold up the bags and say things like, “Crazy that folks don’t pick up their bags!?!?!?” If someone were to say that to me, my response would be, “I know, right!?!?!” Granted, I’d also probably be carrying a fistful of bags in my hand.

But if you were to say it to someone who drops their bags, maybe they would get the picture and stop doing it. And if you are someone who does drop your bags, I’d love to hear from you. E-mail me and tell me why it’s a good call or what I’m missing. I’d love to hear your explanation. I’ve done the same challenge to cart abandoners, and I have gotten a total of two responses over the years: (1) “It’s not my job.” (Vounteer: True, but it’s also not your job to have my car hit by your rogue cart in a parking lot and (2) “It IS my job to gather carts, and I really like when I can leave the store and spend forever chasing carts down and listening to music and not have to bag groceries.” (Counter: I don’t have a lot for that one).

So in closing, let’s put our energies to spreading the word through actions: Pick up your dog waste. And dispose of it properly. It’s as easy as returning a grocery cart.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.

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