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The Whole Poop and Nothing But the Poop

The full scientific perspective on doggy detritus on Lambert's Cove Beach.

On your first trip to Martha’s Vineyard, if you visit Lambert’s Cove Beach, odds are, you’ll sell your condo on East 48th St. in Manhattan, divest yourself of all your belongings, including your Lamborghini, and come to these shores to live forever ‘n ever. No more brokering of default derivative fungicides. You’ll set up an easel and create paintings of buoys tacked to boathouse walls.

That’s how beautiful Lambert’s Cove is.

Every summer, the residents of West Tisbury grow protective of this special beach. They need you to prove you own property in West Tis, or that you’re renting in West Tis (let’s examine that lease, please) in order to win a business-card-sized sticker to paste on your car window to prove you belong to Lambert’s Cove Beach and it belongs to you.

Okay, be that way, the rest of us say. The non West T’s of the Island can loiter in the vicinity for all the other nine months of the year. In January we hold fabulous flash mob dance parties on Lambert’s Cove, with Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, and sometimes guest appearances by Keith Richards and Lady Gaga.

Yeah, that definitely happens, when we’re not stirring our cups of Earl Grey tea, and hunkering over the latest Ruth Rendell mystery, while adjusting wool blankets over our laps.           

But last November in a town meeting, those radical West Tisburyites banned a new population from their star beach: Dogs. No dogs allowed. Not in summer. We do not like them here or there / We would not like them anywhere.

Passing an ordinance against dogs, in this day and age, is like proselytizing against apple pie `a la mode in the 1950s – particularly Mother’s apple pie.

EVERYONE loves dogs these days! EVERYONE has dogs! And if you’re in that tiny minority of people possessed of a wee phobia about canine-type animals, then please betake yourself to a monastery or a five-star resort that disallows dogs, because this planet is no longer appropriate for you.
           
Consequently this April, in a new Town Meeting in West Tisbury, that odd November group was over-turned, and dogs are welcome back on Lambert’s Cove Beach in the summer months, just so long as they lift their hind leg on a Russian olive twig no later than 10 a.m.
           
The red flag in the original argument was, of course, dog poop. No one wished to step in it in the course of one's favorite beach walk.
           
Let it go on the record that NO ONE WISHES TO STEP IN DOG POOP on any walk! And pooper scoopers, a.k.a. dog owners, are beholden to remove it from any place where a human foot might trod. (The English have an exceedingly courteous sign for this operation: Please don’t foul the footpath.)
           
But here is where mere dog owners and eco-maniacs diverge: In the woods, in this specific case, in the woods leading up to the sand-dune-rimmed grandeur of Lambert’s Cove, if one’s dog waggles off into the bushes and deposits a pile of raw hooey in a mound of dry oak leaves and powdered dirt, where microbiologists insist it will begin to decompose within 27.4 seconds, and its only effect on the composition of the soil will be to improve it, then is it not better for one and all concerned, to have hosted this dog unburdening itself on this property rather than to have its oopsie! taken away in a WalMart plastic bag to sit in a landfill for 1,500 years where, an archeologist stumbling upon it and opening it up, exclaims, “They still stored canine excrement as late as 2012!”
           
The earth is the greatest composter of them all. That’s why we bury each other in it. (Once I listened to a cop being interviewed on the radio, and he said the only sure way to get blood-and-guts out of his uniform, after a particularly hectic day, was to bury said outfit in the backyard for a couple of days.)
           
No argument: dog doo left on a sidewalk can convey all kinds of nasty organismos, from tapeworm to crytosoridium to salmonellosis. When it washes down the rain gutters, and empties into our waterways, we’ve got other kinds of trouble, like shingellosis. We hate shingellosis!
           
But if a clump of doggy doo falls in the woods, and no one is there to see it, does it exist?

Now, if the clump lands on the path, clean it up! And if you spot it on the beach, grab a stick and dig a hole and sling it into Mother Nature’s healing humus. No harm, no foul.
           
There’s no mention of this in the Bible, but if you talk to enough hard-core environmentalists, they’ll tell you the Almighty never meant for us to invent a sewer system. Nature is designed in such a way that every sentient being, in a perfect world, finds restroom amenities in the forest. So why not admit we at least got that right with our dogs, at least when we’re wandering through the woods to Lambert’s Cove?
           
Now if we could switch our pooches to a vegetarian diet, we could sell their compost to farmers for the spring cabbage crop. It gives “buy local” a whole new meaning.
            
          
         

Michael West April 17, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Sublime.
steve auerbach April 17, 2012 at 04:49 PM
A Holly-summation if there ever was one! Being a dog-owner, I would have preferred the "compromise" to have allowed us to visit later in the day rather than only before 10, but be that as it may.... dog owners have no one else to blame but themselves for alienating other folks. When I walk Toby down to the Inkwell, what do I find in Waban Park, aside from the goose poop of course, but dog doodoo, left there by people who stretch the composting argument to rationalize not cleaning it up (or, more likely, they don't even think about their responsibility because they are idiots). It doesn't take many piles of unwanted dog mess on a beach to raise the hackles of any beach lover.
William Glazer April 18, 2012 at 12:07 PM
I am glad that a sense of sanity has finally reached Lambert's Cove Beach. I have enjoyed walks there with my trusty side kick Murray, who, incidentally, complimented Holly Nadler on her wonderful and expansive consideration of the topic. "She thinks like me", said Murray.
Annette Sandrock April 18, 2012 at 01:15 PM
So well put. Thank you.
Maggie Dempsey April 18, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Right, Steve? In an idealistic world where all dog owners are responsible and clean up after their pooches, we wouldn't be talking about this in the first place. But the truth, sadly, is that LOTS of people feel like their dogs leavings are not their problem. I feel a similar issue is what got smoking banned from beaches too. Secondhand smoke laws forced smokers from restaurants and bars, but in an open and mostly windy area like the beach, the nail in the Camel coffin was the litter - butts butts EVERYWHERE. Does EVERYONE litter? No. But those who can't be bothered to pick up after themselves or their canine friends are the ones who made a bad name for everybody else.
Janet Nineberg April 18, 2012 at 04:09 PM
It gives new meaning to "Clean up after thyself". Likewise, in the indoor arena, employee lunchrooms have similar problems, though admittedly not of the poop variety.
Martha Magee April 19, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Humans are the poops. Dogs rule!!!!!
Holly Nadler April 19, 2012 at 01:43 PM
You make some good points, Steve. By the way, congratulations on your win at the O.B. elections! Hope you don't mind that, on my ballot, I voted for you, but moved you over to Tree Warden; thought you'd like that more!
Holly Nadler April 19, 2012 at 01:47 PM
The late, great Ed Coogan, of O.B. & then V.H., said that when he was growing up, his mom told her 3 boys that if they wanted a dog, they would need to clean up after it. They got a big dog (probably a lab, knowing the Coogans), and one day it pooped in the living room, behind the piano. The mom pointed it out, no one cleaned it up. Eventually it turned to white powder and just blew away. It took a few months.

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