Monday, January 21, 2013

Red bowl surprise

Small Centerpointe backyard plus medium dog equals large headache where dog waste is concerned. 

Sometimes you'll see these kitschy little warnings installed on residents' front lawns. As if they do any good.
You know that I have an obsession with thinking outside the box, right?  Well, this time, I've chosen to think outside the bag.
These bags. 
Screengrabbed from this URL.
Let me explain through the usual logical strategy of presenting the starting conditions, describing the dilemma that those conditions generate, and neatly resolving the predicament via description of the creative solution. 
The waste management deal that was struck in our home was as follows:  The child wanted our family to get a dog - she was the sole driver behind that decision.  Therefore, the child has certain inalienable responsibilities with respect to that dog.  One of those responsibilities involves picking up dog poop on a daily basis, operative word being daily
This deal is non-negotiable, but there are two practical challenges associated with it:
  1. The child cannot always fulfill this responsibility in a timely manner.  With school and other activities, there may be a significant lag time between the initial depositing and subsequent responsible remediation of said waste.  Meanwhile, life goes on, and Mama is frequently working in the back yard.  You've no doubt heard the expression, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy"?  Well, if Mama steps in dog doo as she's doing her yard work, the situation morphs into the ultimate scenario in which there ain't nobody happy in this house.  Happiness becomes a distant memory at that point.
  2. Children have eagle eyes in all situations except those in which they would rather not participate.  There have been too many times when the child has, indeed, fulfilled her daily responsibility, except she "missed one".  One in which Mama then proceeded to step.  Cue the widespread unhappiness.
So basically, we needed a workaround to these practical challenges, and this is what I came up with.
With a nod to general industry safety protocols and the OSHA Lockout-Tagout (LO-TO) standard in particular, I obtained this collection of fire-engine-red plastic bowls from Walmart.  They were about one dollar apiece.

LO-TO was designed for the control of hazardous energy.  The only real difference here is that I am controlling hazardous matter.  The principles are similar: identification and isolation prior to resolution of the maintenance demands that triggered the need for the procedure. 
Our dog delights in distributing a dung diaspora.  She isn't content to simply create her own cohesive daily pile.  Instead, she constantly turns around to inspect each nugget as it is produced, as if each and every fecal commodity were a new and unprecedented phenomenon (Do all dogs do this?  Or just our brain-damaged one?).  This quickly results in comprehensive coverage of our small back yard. 

You may find this paragraph above to be TMI, but my point is to illustrate the breadth and depth of this unhappiness-producing phenomenon.  If we were dealing with discrete daily piles, there wouldn't be as much step-on risk and as much urgent inspiration for a procedural work-around.  But our situation is not like that.  Not at all.   
So whenever I spot the offending hazardous material, I simply toss a bright red plastic bowl over the top of it until my child is available to do the collecting.  This procedure neatly resolves the two predicaments described above:
  1. It effectively isolates real-time waste from Mama's feet, and
  2. It removes all reasonable possibility that the child can legitimately claim an "Oops, I missed one".  Each and every one of them gets flagged with their own special Red Alerts - there's no way they can be overlooked. 
Of course, for every such instance of thinking outside the box or bag, someone will inevitably misinterpret the intent.  In our case, I was completely mortified to discover that our non-English-speaking lawn crew apparently deduced that we must be preserving dog waste for some special family ritual or something. 
I kid you not:
On those days when the lawn crew makes it to the lawn in advance of my child, they have this tendency to use the bowls to scoop the nuggets, then depositing the collection safely up against the slab so that they can continue with their mowing.  The first time I saw this, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry. 
As for the child, well, I assure you that she doesn't appreciate this procedure nearly as much as Mama does.  At one point, she began grumbling that the only way she can stomach this undelectable responsibility was to visualize that, one day, she's going to lift one of those bowls and discover a gold coin rather than a brown nugget.  I responded that this was unlikely...
...but not impossible.

Seriously, if you're into the whole maternal revenge thing and/or if your child is particularly defiant about fulfilling this kind of responsibility, you could modify the procedure slightly to encompass a unique allowance delivery mechanism.  Now that's what I call a new take on an old shell game!  Just be sure that you bleach the magic bowl that will cover the bill instead of the bullet. 

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