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Experiencing the doos and don'ts of dog ownership

Tammy Swift says: If you think you're going to find a leafless area to poop, Princess Kita, you're barking up the wrong tree. Special to The Forum1 / 2
Tammy Swift2 / 2

When people ask how I spent most of my life, I would like to say that it was spent helping others, achieving world peace and producing great works of art.

I would not like to say it was spent walking behind my dog and waiting for her to poop.

When you acquire a dog, they sort of undersell this. They don't tell you that the dog's digestive system is basically one giant Chunnel that runs straight from the mouth to the exit. You are so caught up in this wriggly, fluffy, adorable puppy that you completely overlook the seamy underbelly of dog ownership.

Like the fact that a dog will eat absolutely anything — anything — on the sidewalk, and then try to lick your face. Or that she may have gas that could melt a glacier. Or that if you lavish her with liver treats and moist food and the occasional piece of chicken, most of that will wind up on your lawn.

This was especially new to me after raising dogs in the country. In 17 years of farm life, I don't think I saw a single molecule of dog doo. Our dogs ran up the hill to the tall grass and did what they needed to do.

Later, when I got married and lived in the country, I just let the dogs out when they whined. They ran into a giant cornfield and discreetly did their business. We had a mutual understanding that they weren't in there to take bassoon lessons. They minded their business and I minded mine.

But when I moved into town with Kita, I realized a terrible thing. The city wasn't some massive prairie that could easily accommodate one small dog's fertilizer. I was going to have to pick up after my dog. Me. The girl who gagged at Judd Apatow movies and wondered why parents could laugh and talk so freely about the Industrial-Strength Diaper Decimation of 2007.

So now it's been three years. I've spent about 25 percent of that time trailing behind Cleopatra like the lowliest of eunuchs, waiting for her to feel nature's call. I pass legions of fellow human serfs who are doing the same thing — walking listlessly behind their pooches while brandishing thin green bags and a hollow look in their eyes.

The problem is that Kita has become increasingly picky about her ideal spot. At some point, she figured out that this guaranteed a longer walk. And so she now has stretched a 10-minute ritual into a 25-minute one, as she sniffs every available hamburger wrapper, marks every fallen leaf and barks at every passing squirrel, rabbit, bicycle or dog.

We have many false alarms in which she sniffs the ground and demonstrates that little meandering walk that indicates she has found THE PLACE. I hope she will curl herself into the anvil shape that indicates it is time.

Instead, she will squat and mark — then perform the elaborate, self-congratulatory ground-kicking ritual that resembles the footwork of an angry bull. Although dogs supposedly do this to mark their territory, I'm convinced she does it to mock me. It's like she's yelling: "You fell for it again, idiot. Psyche!"

I have tried everything to speed up the process. I have scolded her. I have tried sarcasm ("Thank YOU for taking your time when I am already late for work. It is soooo fun and helpful, especially when it's 7 degrees outside. Perhaps I should roll out a rare Persian carpet for your use, as I know how much you prefer indoor bathrooms.) I have lavished praise upon her when she does get around to it, in hopes she will realize it's a good thing. I have made a habit of continuing the walk right after The Event, in hopes that this will help.

There are days when it actually feels like it will never happen. "This is it," I'll think. "She is never going to do this. We will walk all the way to Canada and she still won't go. Eventually, she will explode. They will find us 100 years from now — a tiny skeleton who looks like she is laughing and a large skeleton clutching a green baggie in her hand.

Both victims of poocrastination.