A German academic, amusingly called Matthias Gross, has conducted a study lasting a decade which concludes that afternoon dog walkers are more likely to pick up their beloved pet's mess than their morning counterparts, who often pretend not to have seen their dog curl one out. You could argue that this particular fact only requires a week to work out, perhaps not even that long, but you have to admire the dedication. The study paper is titled "Natural Waste: canine companions and the lure of inattentively pooping in public", and I am urgently trying to find a copy.
The professor notes all sorts of behaviours that the likes of you and I will immediately recognise. Sudden earnest phone conversations for instance, termed "strategic non-knowledge". Or if a dog-walker does make the effort, the conscious over-the-shoulder look as they do so. He also notes that fabulous phenomenon of the "poo tree". Apparently in the ten years of the study he never once witnessed the ritual of hanging a poo bag on a tree. Thinking about it, neither have I, but a particularly brilliant quote highlights; "they [sic] conduct dirty protests against a society that oppresses their dog's right to defecate at will." He argues that it is an important way of rejecting social expectation by expressing their scorn with parody. I argue that it's being an asshole, but then I'm not a scientist. Where the Professor and I do share a view however is in trying to get to the true answer. But apparently dog owners declined to be interviewed. Who knew that The Times was so sensationalist? Approaches were frequently met with aggression, with friendlier responses being "mind your own business", and "don't you have anything better to do?" After ten years you may well agree with the latter point, but coming from someone who frequently challenges dog owners, all I can say is that if any of them were ever so measured and polite back to me I might easily faint there and then. Commoner responses can be summarised neatly as "Fuck off you prick", or alternatively "I'll do whatever I want, fuck you. (you prick)", but of course my favourites are the incredibly poorly constructed arguments as to why their dog, and by association themselves, ought to be able to do exactly what they want to the detriment of all other human beings and animals. I have enough material to fill a book, so it's disappointing that the study doesn't delve into these irrational outbursts as a psychoanalyst (or birder) could have a marvellous read. Nor does he explore the mythical dog-walker apology, but then again the study only lasted ten years so he can probably be forgiven. My most recent highlight from the field is being bitten on my watch by a passing puppy, the new dog of a grumpy man who lives on my road and who in ten years of walking past me has never exchanged so much as a single word. Well it turns out he's not mute after all, as after pulling the animal away from my wrist via a big smear of saliva and a nice red weal on my hand, was heard to say "come along Poppy*". My wry retort of "You could apologise" was not acknowledged. But I know where he lives, and I may deliver his poo back to him later as never once has he returned home with a bag. You are welcome.
In other social interaction of the heart-warming kind, this week I have been called out as a bird-hater, someone who is all talk no action, and an ass. Well, one of three isn't so bad I guess, but this particular story is so wonderful that it merits some kind of record for posterity, and if you read the news possibly Twitter, which is where this thoughtful exchange took place, may not be around for long. In summary it contains the worst of anthropomorphic drivel, high levels of stupidy, total non-acceptance of conventional wisdom, and a rapid spiral into abuse. I take it back actually, Twitter's commercial future is as rosy as it comes.
Anyhow, one of my followers - for the sake of anonymity let's call them halfwit - found two nearly-fledged birds close to a nest. Oh @Wansteadbirder, what should I do? Well let's see, I reckon you should pick them up, give them names, hand-rear them for a while, and then wait for the canonisation that will surely follow. I didn't say that of course, as I am not the facetious type. Instead I suggested that the birds be left alone, and shared an RSPB link to a long-standing FAQ about what to do in this situation, which in summary says "leave them alone" (just on the off-chance that anyone really really stupid out there hasn't grasped that fact yet). I also mentioned that unfortunately this does happen, and nature isn't necessarily all cuddles and happiness. This touched a nerve with halfwit, who went on the offensive immediately with a number of absurd statements, including various pathetic hashtags, accusing me of hating birds, calling me various expletives, and culminating in the insightful "If you get hurt in an accident I hope nobody calls an ambulance just like wot the poor birds won't", or something even less grammatically excellent. Obviously I did not respond in kind, but agreed that in posting the RSPB advice I did indeed hate birds, and that I was chuffed to bits that we had got to the ambulance bit so quickly. This irony fell on deaf ears, and the tirade unfortunately continued for some while, even involving a few genuine bird-lovers that I know, to whom my thanks. Oh sorry, my mistake, they all hate birds too. Nothing of course beats the ambulance tweet, but I did enjoy halfwit's courteous gratitude towards Prof W, who said to leave the birds alone and shared......the same RSPB link. Thank goodness that at least somebody was helpful. I was also advised by halfwit to give up my job, as obviously all people's Twitter account names reflect exactly what it is that they do in real life, oh yes. Two days later and still being called a twat I decided that the "block" feature might be usefully employed, so sadly any further gems won't be seen, or at least not by me. However I would ask that correspondents and readers keep me fully informed about anything that could surpass the crass idiocy of the ambulance tweet, as that would be special and a real shame to miss out on.
In other news I had a back massage. It hurt a lot and was indescribably awful in all respects. It came included with an airline ticket, but I remain utterly mystified as to why anyone would pay good money to simply be abused. Twitter, on the other hand, is free.
*name changed to protect the