David Griffith looks at the business end of owning a Guide dog and argues it is never OK to leave even bagged poo in the gutter.
An inevitable consequence of owning a dog is getting to grips with managing Dog Poo. This is no small issue. For some visually impaired people it is the single biggest obstacle to owning a Guide dog. Before I had Nyle I had some anxieties myself. I think this is only natural. I suspect we have some evolutionary hardwiring which gives us an aversion to handling poo. Over millennia this aversion probably helped protect us from disease and boosted the survival chances of those who possess this repugnance.
Nowadays I have a sense of triumph when I locate and deal with Nyle’s spend. This reflects the sad level of my retreating ambitions.
However there is a lot of technique involved with the stress free management of dog poo. I personally had little training in this regard. For what it is worth here is my advice to spending a good time with your dog.
Nyle never spends in his expensively constructed pen. He has always been like this. Even on Hotel training he would only spend in the street. As he is a superb guide Dog in nearly all other respects this is a worthwhile compromise. Actually in truth I also find it much easier to deal with spends in the street, rather than crouching, blindly sweeping with my hand across a pen in a failed effort to locate poo.
The first thing of course is to make sure that you never go out without poo bags. I have a belt and braces approach, carrying bags both in my pocket and my ruck sack.
The second thing is to not use bespoke Dog poo bags. I have never come across a bag that is big enough. The size of a poo bag does not relate to the size of poo. For a blind person the size should instead relate to the size of your hands. The bag has at to be least big enough to completely cover your entire hand, front and back. Admittedly I have big hands but if, like me, you have an aversion to actually touching dog poo then the security of knowing that all of your hand is safely protected inside a bag is essential. I use pedal bin liners available from any supermarket. These liners also have the advantage that they have tie handles which make tying up far easier. They also make it easier to fix the bag onto a rucksack or other part of your clothing to carry for disposal.
Thirdly always open up the bags before you go out, especially in winter. As it is the Devil’s own job trying to open a flat packed plastic bag with frozen numb fingers. Cold is not the only issue, it can be just as difficult opening and controlling a bag in windy weather.
Fourthly, I suggest a Blind person should invest in finger less gloves. I have lost count of the number of normal gloves I have lost, taking them off whilst trying to deal with dog poo. For a blind person your hands and fingers are your eyes when trying to feel and putting normal gloves on is the sighted equivalent of trying to find poo with a blind fold on. Fingerless gloves solve this problem. They are also great for handling location GPS devices or a touch screen phone.
Finally for the complete belt and braces preparation make sure you have a small pocket sized bottle of alcohol rub hand sanitiser to reassure you of protection if, despite all these precautions you get some poo on your hand.
Now to technique and disposal. Nyle will normally always signal he is about to do a poo by circling. I drop the harness and let him circle. Once he stops I follow the lead and edge towards him and gently feel for his crouch so I will be prepared to locate his spend.
Having covered my hand with a big bag I feel for the poo and sweep around, if necessary with a second bag to make sure I have located all the poo. With the poo safely in my hand I reverse the bag and tie it up, and then reinforce against smells by placing a second bag over the first. I then tie these bags to my leather white cane holder, (available from the RNIB) which is turn clipped onto the chest strap of my rucksack. I dispose when I get to a bin.
If however you are going to a hospital, café pub or shop, and you cannot see a bin to make an appropriate disposal, you have more of a problem. You cannot really enter such an establishment with bags of dog poo hanging from you.
The advice I received from Guide dogs was to safely locate a gutter in this situation and carefully place the bagged dog poo there. I now consider this to be poor advice. It has on a couple of occasions provoked complaints from residents. I explained that I was following advice and was unable to see a bin but on reflection still feel that they had a point. It is also I realise, with a little preparation from myself entirely avoidable.
What I have done is purchase a dog poo holder. I do not use this routinely but I always carry it for those situations, , when I need to retrieve dog poo and cannot find a bin to dispose of it. I purchased the Muksak Dog Poo/Poop Holder from Amazon for £17.99. It is like a clip on Tupperware box, with a lanyard which also clips onto the box. I now routinely carry this in the outer pocket of my rucksack and if necessary Nyle’s bags of poo are discretely stored away in a smell proof container before entering any sensitive environment. I find this Tupperware like device convenient but now realise that of course you could in fact just use a cheap conventional Tupperware to substitute with. I would personally avoid the material type bag dog poo holders also sold on Amazon. The dog poo holder needs washing after every use to remove smells even when the poo is already in 2 bags. As it is plastic, this is no real issue. A squirt of fairy liquid plus water and paper towel does the job in seconds. I imagine a material based dog poo holder would be far more of a hassle and the feedback reviews on Amazon on these alternative devices seem to bear this out.
So my personal view is that guide dogs should amend the guttering disposal advice and instead urge all guide dog Owners to invest in discrete Dog Poo Holders. In practice I use the device rarely. Most of the time I can carry and dispose of poo in the normal way. But today for example Nyle did a poo whilst on a free run, just prior to our arriving at a café. The dog poo holder really comes into its own then. It is a small adjustment that we should all make to ensure our environment is cleaner and less offensive to our neighbours. It must be better than littering even the Gutter and is a small behaviour modification for us to ensure better community relations.