Why dog poop is a metaphor for challenge, controversy, and change

I run outside, barefoot, and encounter natural phenomena along the way.  One of these is dog poop.  Ironically, there’s been recent chatter about dog poop on our community Facebook page.  It’s a topic worthy of multiple posts and the impetus for the rather absurd bit of writing to follow.

The Facebook posts center on those anonymous people who fail to pick up their dog’s waste.  Since I’m out running to clear my head — especially after a long day in the OR or a hard week on-call — I don’t get upset about such things.  Poop is just another obstacle, much like a steep hill, sharp gravel, or gale-force winds.  Like many an obstacle, rather than stop and complain, I choose to go around it, over it, or through it; though the latter is undesirable in this particular setting.

Much like life’s many challenges, an obstacle need not be a negative circumstance but an opportunity for growth and improvement.  One can always turn it into a positive experience.

But I’ve stepped in poop, unintentionally, of course, where it gets smeared on the bottom of the foot or wedged between the toes.  I saw no positives, no opportunity there.   In snow, the frozen mass has less of the yuck-factor than a squishy one on a warm day.  Both are unsettling, to say the least.  This is one of those truly negative circumstances.  But life is messy.  We move on.

We have a puppy.  His name is Benji.  Benji is 5 months old and not fully potty-trained yet.  Benji can be a pain-in-the-rear at times.

Benji has learned to go in and out of his doggy door to the outside world.  Many times he goes outdoors and does his business.  But there are times he stares straight at us, squats on the family room carpet, and releases a large one worth bragging about.

Whenever he does his poop-ritual indoors (he sniffs and circles around), I quickly pick him up to carry him outside.  It’s always too late.  Like a little bomber, he drops his payload as I’m running for the door; and when I look back, he’s carpet-bombed the floor with multiple, discrete little poops.  By the time I plop him onto the grass, he looks at me as if I’m some crazy fool and runs back to the house.  I swear he has a smile on his face, if it’s possible for dogs to smile.  Or he’s possessed by Satan.  I want to pull my hair out.

As with many of the world’s more major problems, this too shall pass.  We then move forward and live blissfully until the next challenge.

Dog poop is a good metaphor for the challenges and controversies we face in life and the changes we can make to improve it.  It represents those nasty obstacles we all want to avoid.  Yet, at the same time, it represents the problems we must solve whether we like it or not.  We all must suffer inconveniences for others’ benefit; it’s a natural part of being a member of the human race.

2020 has certainly been a poopy year.  We’ve had a lot of major turds: COVID, lock-downs, racial unrest, more-than-usual dysfunctional politics, to name but a few.  Yet, all in all, we’ll survive this year as we’ve done in years past, for we have the benefit of brave people who’ve stepped up to the plate, making great sacrifices for the benefit of the whole.  This is a testament to the courage and charity, and resiliency of humanity.  And when the dust settles, the dawn of a brighter future always springs forth.  Always.

Challenges keep coming, and Benji’s still learning.  Much like our previous dog and the gazillions of dogs before him, one day Benji too will exercise proper etiquette and release bowel and bladder in the fresh outdoors.  One can only hope.

Randall S. Fong is an otolaryngologist and can be reached at his self-titled site, Randall S. Fong, as well as his blog.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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