Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mixed Bag(s)

Thank you for all  your feedback about the topic of poop bags. One of you kindly pointed out that the true king in this category is the Target bag. I could not agree more. Roomy, sturdy, opaque, and free with purchase—all the qualities we cherish in a poop bag. I forgot to mention the Target bag for the simple fact that they are so rarely passed along anymore that I no longer use them for clean-up. (My Depression-era grandmothers would be so proud that I have a taxonomy of trash.) I save the Target bags for inside jobs—trash can liners and holding other bags and even as gift wrap. (My friends' kids know not to expect real wrapping paper around the gifts I give.) The bags are so rare now that I don't even have one to photograph for use in this blog. Sigh. I can only dream. 

Please keep your comments and ideas coming. I enjoy them so.   

Now to some Dog Park business. 
I still talk to people who have not joined the Dog Park listserv, which provides more timely and immediate information than this poor blog. Here are the instructions for signing up, courtesy of an e-mail that Ran Hirsh posted in February: 
To subscribe: 
2.  at the bottom type  dogparkinfo in the search box, click on the Search Lists button
3. click on the  link 
4. in the left hand menu bar click on the subscribe link 
5. fill in your email address, click submit 
6.  follow the instructions sent to you in the subscribe email 

Please let me know if these instructions do not work for you. I will send you the name and e-mail of the fellow who set up the listserv. 

More business: 
As you know, we had storm clouds over Dog Park last week with the proposal of House Bill 4536, in which the Texas State Cemetery Board tried to initiate the process of selling land that makes up about half of our Dog Park. Laura LaValle contacted a friend who is a lobbyist, and he made some phone calls on behalf of Laura and all Dog Parkers, as well as the nearby neighborhood. Laura's friend agreed to work pro bono, and Laura has established a PayPal account to which grateful Dog Parkers may contribute funds. The link was posted on the listserv. Here is where you can go to contribute: . Please give what you can. I know that money is tight now during these troubling economic times, but Dog Park is a free and essential part of our lives. It's difficult to imagine life without it. People have already put in $1,000.00. Well done, everybody!

Friday, April 10, 2009

In the Bag, Part 2

Okay, everybody. Settle down, please. Let's continue our survey of poop-scooping bags. Today we will consider the ubiquitous newspaper bag.

Every day, thousands of these babies show up in driveways all around the city, even when it is not raining. I think that they are the perfect size for poop pick-up—although my neighbor who has big hands and a giant Labrador says that only the Sunday newspaper bags will work for him. The newspaper bags are deep enough so that you can tie up the bags nicely and have a decent sized knot to hang on to while walking. 
Pluses: Free with every newspaper. You are reusing a bag that really was conceived for a one-time use. The bags are deep, and they fold flat, so no bulky pockets. 
Drawbacks: Holes, as always, especially when the newspaper guy or gal stuffs a Sunday paper in a weekday-sized bag. Also, most of these bags are clear and revealing—not for the squeamish. (Squeamish? Dog owners can't afford to be squeamish.) Again, not biodegradable.

The New York Times bag, a subset of the newspaper bag. A personal favorite. 
Pluses: It is a pretty blue. It provides privacy. It announces to the world that you are an intelligent reader and probably an ace at crosswords (I wish; I can only do Mondays, Tuesdays if I cheat.) It glides neatly through a belt loop for easy carrying.
Minuses: The paper that comes inside it costs about three times as much as the ones that come in the clear bags. And—you know it—holes from when the newspaper guy or gal hurls your highfalutin' blue bag into the shrubbery. "Let's see how much you really want to read all the news that's fit to print."

The produce bag. Is this bag facing extinction? At the market where I buy my veggies, shoppers have the privilege of weighing their own stuff and printing out price stickers. Many folks I know don't bag their produce; they just throw half a dozen apples onto the conveyor belt and hand the cashier the stickers. Other stores, like the Wheatsville Co-op, provide paper sacks for produce instead of plastic. In any event, these bags have the same issues as newspaper sacks. 
Pluses: Roomy, and free with purchase. Rarely have holes unless you have purchased some particularly pointy carrots or a pineapple.
Drawbacks: Not opaque (although the ones from Randalls and HEB are somewhat filmy). Somewhat bulky when stored. Alas, not biodegradable.

So whatever your choice, please keep in mind that others at the Park may need some prodding. You can help by bringing your extra bags to the Dog Park. A thoughtful person (not moi, but thanks for asking) tacked a plastic bin to the telephone pole in the north parking lot for the purpose of holding bags. Just tuck your bags in there and then feel free to yell at people who don't pick up after their dogs. 

Note: I would like to thank several friends at Dog Park who supply me and my dog family with plenty o' free bags. Thank you for reading newspapers and eating vegetables and sharing the spoils with Roma and Muzzy. You are good people. 

Coda: A pet peeve. 
People who scoop the poop and then leave the bags lying on the ground. Here's an example. In this case, the dumpster is about thirty feet away. Yet many of us regular Parkers have seen neatly tied bags strewn all about the Park. Who is supposed to pick these up? The Park Ranger? Security? The janitor? ("Wet clean-up in aisle 3, under the 'No Dumping'sign!") Kudos to all those who, in frustration, have picked up bags left behind. 


Thursday, April 9, 2009

In the Bag, Part 1

Good morning, everyone. It's a lovely day, so let's talk about poop, shall we? The number one complaint at Dog Park concerns poop pick-up—the lack thereof. Most Parkers scoop the poop. Those that don't tend not to care that the rest of us are glaring at him or her. "It's fertilizer" is the excuse I often hear. Well, I don't care to eat anything fertilized with dog poop, thank you very much, so pick it up. With that thought in mind, here is a primer of tools we can use in the matter of scooping. 

Many people choose to use the store-bought poop bags. They come in rolls, like garbage bags, often with a handy carrying case, like this one. The last time I bought some of these, they were impregnated with a floral scent that made the car smell nice but not the Kleenex in my pockets. 
Pluses: They are opaque and roomy. They are compact. Often they smell nice. Some are biodegradable. They often come with a case that can be velcroed to a leash or belt loop. Handy!
Drawbacks: You pay money for them. Not all are made of recycled plastic. If you suffer from chapped hands in the winter, the bags are nearly impossible to extract from the roll and open easily. Also, the bags are slippery, so I tend to drop and lose them on the walk. 

The plastic grocery bag. This is my personal favorite. It's roomy. It's opaque (so no one can see your dog's business). I particularly like the loopy handles, which allow me to tied the bag securely and then hang the bag from my wrists—important on neighborhood walks when I have two leashes and at least two bags to deal with. 
Pluses: These bags are free. It's recycling--or at least reusing--when these bags are used for poop pick-up. Opacity, yes! Loopy handles, yes!
Drawbacks: Holes! These bags are prone to tearing during their original workout as grocery sacks.  What a downer when your fingers go through the bag. Also, the bags are bulky. I walk around Dog Park looking a bit lumpy when my pockets are stuffed with crumpled grocery sacks. Also, not biodegradable.

I will discuss more options tomorrow. I know you can't wait! Keep scooping! --z

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Let's Get Political—Again

Ah, it's April, and the Texas State Legislature is in session, so even Dog Parkers are worrying about what our elected officials are trying to pull off while we are watching American Idol and reading blogs about cake (Really. Check out As you recall, last week we Parkers and members of neighborhoods near the Park helped rebuff proposed legislation that would sell half of Dog Park. This week, some folks are concerned about House Bill 1982. Most of the bill is about under what circumstances the state can seize and destroy a dog identified as "vicious." Here is the part that might concern some Dog Parkers: 

SECTION 11.  Subchapter D, Chapter 822, Health and Safety Code, is amended by adding Section 822.0424 to read as follows:
(a)  This section applies only to a city with a population of more than one million.
(b)  A person who owns or keeps custody or control of a dog weighing 40 pounds or more shall ensure that the dog, at any time the dog is not on a leash in the immediate control of a person, is kept inside a residence or in a secure enclosure on the premises where the dog is kept.

(To download a Word version of HB 1982, in its entirety, go here:

As you know, I am not a lawyer, and I only had time this morning for a cursory reading of the bill, but the section above appears to be the only part that does not specifically address "vicious dogs." By requiring all owners of any dog over 40 pounds to keep their animals restrained at all times  means that any medium-to-large breed dog  would not be allowed to run off-leash, even at designated leash-free zones in the city of Austin. Of course, our Park is not an official park, but if this bill were to pass, it might add to the infractions we already incur, scofflaws that we are, by allowing our 40+ pound dogs to run around. 

This section of the bill should strike dog owners as utterly ridiculous. How is it even enforceable? Will Animal Control run around with a portable scale to weigh all the dogs? Pretty unlikely.  And what are the consequences of denying medium-to-large dogs access to city parks because of their size? A city full of big dogs that are unhappy, spastic, and even less likely to behave. It's a bad idea. 

I suspect that the bill writers are really trying every way they can to screen out pit bulls and other large breeds that have been rightly or wrongly typified as dangerous to people and other dogs. 

The bill was read to the County Affairs Committee yesterday (4/6). 

As always, if you want to take action, the folks to call or e-mail are our local reps, especially Elliott Naishtat and Valinda Bolton, who is on the County Affairs Committee. Their contact info is available at

Now, can I watch American Idol in peace tonight? 


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Literary Dog

For this week's Literary Dog installment, I return to Thomas Hardy. (It's true. I love the Victorians.) This time I offer a poem. It's a classic. Can you guess how it will end? 

Ah, Are You Digging on My Grave?

"Ah, are you digging on my grave,
My loved one?—planting rue?"
—"No: Yesterday he went to wed
One of the brightest wealth has bred.
'It cannot hurt her now,' he said,
'That I should not be true.'"

"Then who is digging on my grave?
My nearest dearest kin?"
—"Ah, no: They sit and thing, 'What use!
What good will planting flowers produce?
No tendance of her mound can loose 
Her spirit from Death's gin.'"

"But some one digs upon my grave?
My enemy?—prodding sly?"
—"Nay: When she heard you had passed the Gate
That shuts on all flesh soon or late,
She thought you no more worth her hate,
And cares not where you lie."

"Then, who is digging on my grave?
Say—since I have not guessed!"
—"O it is I, my mistress dear,
Your little dog, who still lives near,
And much I hope my movements here
Have not disturbed your rest?"

"Ah, yes! You dig upon my grave . . . 
Why flashed it not on me
That one true heart was left behind!
What feeling do we ever find
To equal among human kind
A dog's fidelity!"

"Mistress, I dug upon your grave
To bury a bone, in case
I should be hungry near this spot
When passing on my daily trot.
I am sorry, but I quite forgot
It was your resting place."

Please feel free to post comments. I would love to hear from you. 

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dogs in Art: The Film

While searching for images of dogs for use here, I stumbled onto this video—Dogs in Art: The Film.  Created by Moira McLaughlin, it compresses more than five thousand years of dogs in art into a 3 minute piece. McLaughlin's beautiful and informative "Dog Art Today" blog has provided a couple of the pieces of fine art I've used in this blog. This entry identifies all the art works that appears in the film and their artists: 

Which is your favorite? I think mine is the cartoon Bassett Hound by Charley Harper. I actually have been to Pompeii, but the famous mosaic Cave CanemBeware of Dog— was not housed amid the ruins, but in a nearby museum, which, of course, like most museums in Italy in summertime, was closed. (Chiuso! The only word I know in Italian). Instead, I saw the spot where the mosaic would have been. 

The dreamy music is a song called "Parlez-moi d'amour" by Charlelie Couture, performed by Mark Isham, from the soundtrack of a 1990 movie about American ex-pats in 1920's Paris called The Moderns, which critics mostly panned. That film has nothing to do with dogs, alas.  Enjoy the movie!

Ciao! --zia

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Quotable Dog

"The more I see the representatives of the people, the more I admire my dogs."
—Alphonse de Lamartine, from Count D'Orsay, Letter to John Forster (1850)

Art: "The Dog Trainer" by F. Sigmund Lachenwitz (1820-1865), found at