"Here we are halfway through January," I tell my wife, "and I still havenít come up with a New Yearís resolution to improve myself."
She looks up from the newspaper and rolls her eyes.
"Maybe thereís no improvement possible," she says. "Maybe youíve achieved perfection."
Youíd have to hear her say it to know sheís being sarcastic.
"OK, Miss Smartypants," I say, "what can you think of to make me a better person in 1996?"
"Here," she says, handing me a two-week-old editorial cartoon. "Does this give you any ideas?"
Itís one of those New Yearís cartoons showing 1996 as a little kid in diapers and 1995 as an old guy with a cane and white beard. The kid is saying "Anything Iím going to need to help me handle the presidential campaign?" The old guy is saying "A pooper-scooper."
"Do you mean," I say, wearing that steely-eyed, seriously constipated look future leaders always wear when they first catch a glimpse of their destiny, "that I should resolve to run for President in Ď96?"
She sees something very funny in the obituaries and laughs out loud. I know sheís not laughing at my presidential aspirations because I have political experience. Didnít I, in 1972, come within a few thousand votes of being elected to the Lower South Platte Natural Resources District Board?
"I mean," she says, "that you should resolve to use your natural talent. You should resolve to be the pooper-scooper for the dog."
Itís something sheís been after me to do for several years now, ever since that warm spring day when Ned, our one-eyed Beagle with the headstrong personality and the mismatched jaws, dropped a load on someone elseís yard.
"Thanks a lot, buddy!" a disembodied voice from behind the screen door told me. "Iíll bring my dog over to crap in your yard sometime."
His attitude, I must say, came as a shock to me. Iíd noticed that where Ned dropped his loads in our yard, luxuriant clumps of neon-green grass made the rest of the lawn look malnourished. So Iíd always thought Ned was doing people a favor by organically fertilizing their lawns. I thought of him as a canine Johnny Appleseed going about improving the environment.
But when the disembodied voice behind the screen door offered to have his dog return the favor in our yard, I had a minor epiphany.
"Hey," I said to my wife. "I donít think Iíd like to have somone elseís dog drop a load in our yard."
"Then," said she, getting right to the heart of the matter, "you shouldnít let our dog drop a load in someone elseís yard."
So I try. Before every walk, I look Ned in his one good eye and I say "Remember now, no load-dropping in other peopleís yards. Howíd you like it if the St. Bernard down the street dropped his load in your yard?"
The Truth, Mainly
In the interest of scientific inquiry, Ned says, he wouldnít mind at all. That way we could compare the resulting clumps of grass to see which was neon-greener. Heís pretty sure heíd win.
And, always litigious, Ned wants to negotiate: He wonít drop his load in someone elseís yard if he can drop it in the space between the sidewalk and the street.
Heís got a point. I know from my Ď72 NRD campaign that you canít plant political signs there because itís in the street right-of-way. So technically, itís not part of someoneís yard.
My wife demurs.
"If you canít put political crap there," she saysan insensitive reference to my NRD signs, "then you canít put dog crap there either."
She clinches her argument when she shows me a clipping about a guy in Oregon who videotaped someone elseís Lhasa Apso dropping a load on his lawn. He made copies for the police and was in the process of charging the Lhasa Apsoís owner with "offensive littering and criminal mischief"punishable by a $1,000 fine. I gulp.
"Better get used to it," she says. "If yahoos like you donít clean up after their dogs, Lincolnís going to have a law like that and youíll get sent so far up the river weíll have to pipe soup to you."
So now when we take Ned for walks, we carry baggies and a brown paper sack. When he drops a load, we put a baggie over our hand like a surgical glove without fingers, pick up the load, turn the baggie inside out and put the whole thing in the brown sack without ever making direct contact with the bad stuff.
Thatís what my wife does anyway. I tried once, but it was all steamy and squishy and awful and I didnít like handling it at all.
She says I need more fire in my gut. She says if I donít get over my squeamishness, Iíll never be able to run for President. And even if I got elected, she says, how could I ever handle Congress?
Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes
to salvage meaning from his confusion.
His column appears on alternate Mondays.