I often walk my dogs in neighborhoods other than Brightwood. Mainly for a change of scenery, but (depending on which neighborhood we visit) with the added benefit of having less litter to deal with on the streets. It’s awfully hard to have a peaceful dog walk when the creatures want to stop every few feet to sniff and/or munch on discarded chicken bones, candy wrappers, yogurt cups, half-eaten bags of potato chips...you name it, I’ve encountered it on the streets of Brightwood, and constantly having to deter my dogs from swallowing these items isn’t fun.
We walked through Shepherd Park last night. The yards and streets are visibly cleaner than (many of) the yards and streets in nearby Brightwood. But the absence of litter only made what was there more glaringly conspicuous: specifically, dog poop. I lost count of how many piles of it we came across on our mile-and-a-half-long walk.
The Alice Ferguson Foundation conducted a study of why people litter. The main takeaway was that people who chronically litter do it for convenience’s sake; an item’s usefulness has passed, so the person tosses it away as soon as possible instead of waiting to find a trash receptacle. But the study also found that people generally refrain from littering in their personal spaces; they won’t toss litter in front of their own yards, for example. Often, chronic litterers don’t see the greater community (i.e. their neighborhoods) as part of their “personal spaces”, therefore they see littering on the next block as excusable.
I was thinking about that study as I walked through Shepherd Park’s nearly-immaculate-except-for-the-dog-poop streets. It made me wonder why it seems to be unacceptable to litter in Shepherd Park, yet it looks like it’s acceptable to not pick up after your dog. I would think that people who show they care about their communities by not littering would also be inclined to pick up after their dogs. Leaving dog poop behind is very much a form of littering, after all.
At least Shepherd Park is on the right track; I hope that since its residents already seem to be concerned with keeping their neighborhood clean, it might not be as hard to get people into the habit of picking up after their dogs. Brightwood, unfortunately, has a much further way to go.