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Picking Up the Poop…Or Not?

30-1-13 Main PhotoByEricaSimoneParis puppy – photo by Erica SimoneJournalist and photographer, Linda Hervieux, sent me a link to an NPR story seriously worth listening to about what Parisians call Le Chocolat or for us Anglos, “doggy poop” and for the correct phrase in French crottes de chien — relatively polite ways in which to refer to the ghastly stuff.

It didn’t seem newsworthy for a long time, because, as in the broadcast, it’s gotten soooo-much-better than it was in the past that it seems much less of an issue…but that’s only relativity speaking. Fortunately, I haven’t stepped in it for a long time. Having developed a ‘third eye,’  — I naturally look far ahead (so as not to be always looking down) to spot any on the trail and therefore manage to miss it. It’s a ‘talent’ all Parisians must acquire and generally do — Schuyler calls it his “poop eye.”

For the entire month of January, Paris weather has been Paris weather, meaning that it is gray, drizzly or snowy, and foggy like sitting insider a cloud. The rain and snow and slush tend to spread the ‘stuff’ making it difficult to avoid. You can immediately see where someone has stepped in it and spread it down the sidewalk so that it’s like playing Hop Scotch to avoid it. At least, when it’s in neat piles, one can step over it with assurity, if not disgust.

In our early stages of life in Paris, after just having 30-1-13parissignpurchased my nine-year-old daughter these fab black leather boots with serious treads, she did the dirty — she stepped right into a big pile releasing the odors and managing to fill every crevice of the treads with the chocolately stuff. First we freaked, then we laughed till we cried, then we walked on looking for puddles and door mats on which to wipe it out. It took a seriously cleaning to bring the shoes back to acceptable standards, and as you can see, it was an event we’ll never forget.

According to French superstition, it’s good luck to step in freshly laid doggy poop with your left foot. Yeah, right. No, not the right. The left. That’s one of those French excuses for their failures just to make one feel better. Let’s face it — left foot or right foot, it’s not fun. Lots of people go sliding, landing on the pavement injured, then landing in the emergency rooms, to the tune of hundreds each year.

When Paris lost the 2012 Olympics to London, one of the reasons was because of it’s doggy poop. By 2001 Paris was the dog poo capital of the world and the Japanese used it as an argument for opposing the Olympic games in the City of Light Chocolat!

Picking up after your dog became mandatory in April 2002, even if it lands in the gutter. The city has even issued instructions on how to do this, including posting a video on the city’s Web site!: Lead dog into the gutter. Insert your hand in a plastic bag like a glove. Pick up droppings. Turn the bag inside out. Tie a knot in the bag. Throw it into a waste basket. It takes all of six seconds and it’s appreciated!

Watch the video to learn how if you don’t already know the trick!

Fines for not picking up after your pooch can set you back from 183€ to 450€, but how many fines do you think have actually been given? Few! The Paris police think they have better things to worry about, but if Mayor Bertand Delanoë would take the lead of New York Mayor Giuliani who cracked down on “relatively minor offenses such as graffiti, turnstile jumping, and aggressive ‘squeegeemen,'” using the principle that it would send an important message. Like New York, the city would rapidly get cleaned up in more ways than one!

30-1-13caninettesAccording to the Poop Butler, Paris at one time spent more than $8 million a year leasing 70 motorized pooper scoopers (known as “caninettes”) to vacuum dog waste from its streets and sidewalks and the bill, of course, was passed along to its taxpayers, until they stopped supporting the effort. Now there’s a campaign to bring them back, evidenced by a new Facebook page asking for their return!

But I don’t agree with letting the city clean up after us. Why can’t we clean up after ourselves? That’s the problem in a nutshell. The average Parisian dog owner thinks he’s giving someone a job by allowing him the pleasure of picking up after his dog! Can you imagine? Yes! We’re battling the Chocolat day in and day out, thanks to our unthinking, uncaring brethren.

From a non dog owner, it seems clear that if you’re not prepared to pick it up, then don’t own the dog. It comes with the responsibility, like feeding him, grooming him, tending to his needs. Maybe new pet owners should sign an agreement with the city when they purchase their pets, taking an oath to clean up after them…or pay a tax for the ownership just like the tax we pay to own a TV…or better yet, just send out a police force to really impose the fines!

Bet that would wake them up. And before long, we won’t be slippin’ and slidin’ the stuff any more.

Notes: There are lots of parks in Paris where one can bring their dog for his necessities and the city provides a guide. And for a comprehensive guide to owning a pet in Paris, here’s another downloadable PDF (in French).  

A la prochaine…

adrian-yellowAdrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris & Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC

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P.S. Tune in to House Hunters International on February 4 at 10:30 PM e/p and 1:30 AM e/p for the newest episode “Every Little Girl’s Dream Comes True in Paris” – Episode HHINT-4807H Every Little Girl’s Dream. If someone out there can record it for me, I would greatly appreciate it! You can send it straight to [email protected]. Many thanks — and I hope you enjoy the show!


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