Dear Meadowview Management,
I write in response to your letter alleging negligence on my part by failing to pick up the droppings of my Samoyed dog, Sophie. I am sure you often receive complaints, perhaps vicious ones, about the “Poo Prints” Program. Please know that I am writing not to complain, but to simply request some clarification on its specifics.
I am a conscientious dog owner who always picks up after his pet. In my six years of being Sophie’s caretaker, I can only recall one time when I did not promptly remove her droppings: in that instance, Sophie had already filled three waste bags on a walk, leaving me with no choice but to abandon the droppings. You will note that three bags was ample preparation for a morning walk, but alas, Sophie exhausted them all. Please note further that this took place not at Meadowview nor even in Littleton, Colorado but in Knoxville, Tennessee on an unused line clearance in a public place. Besides that one instance, I have been fastidious in leaving no waste behind, whether on city streets, neighborhood sidewalks, or even wilderness trails. You obviously acknowledge this conscientiousness, since you mention in your letter that “we have personally seen how responsible you are as a pet owner to pick up after your pet . . .”
You claim that the date of the offense was October 11. Looking over my calendar, I have concluded that I did walk Sophie that morning at the spot where the alleged negligence occurred. Therefore, I admit that Sophie was in that place at that time. Although the initial DNA test did indicate Sophie to be the originator of the droppings, I am awaiting an appeal for confirmation from BioPet Laboratories.
However—and this is the crux of my critique—even if the waste was undeniably Sophie’s, there is still the question of exactly how much waste constitutes a violation of your policy. I am quite sure, as I explained above, that I would not miss an actual, full bowel movement by my dog. You acknowledged me as a tenant who always picks up after his pet, which corroborates my certainty. Therefore, if the waste in question undeniably came from Sophie, and if I always pick up her full and obvious droppings, then the waste you allegedly found of hers must not have been a full bowel movement. It could only have been a partial scat and not a full one.
There are several ways that Sophie might have left behind such a partial piece of feces: the sample you found could have been a stain left after I removed the bulk of the waste, or of a consistency too liquid to grasp, or it could have been so small a chunk that Sophie released it mid-stride, not alerting me to the fact. I have been thinking on this since I received your letter last week and I simply cannot come up with any further possibilities.
In each case, please note that the very fact of the feces indicates that I had already reasonably disposed of the waste. If the offending feces were a leftover stain, then I had already picked up a full movement; if it was too liquid, I could not physically be expected to pick it up; and if Sophie emitted the waste in the course of walking, rather than pausing to fully eliminate it, then although I am liable it is to too high a standard.
The exact language of my contract with you in the “Poo Prints Program Addition” states that “You [sic] are required to clean up after your pet at all times and properly dispose of the waste.” Since I took reasonable care to clean up after my pet, even to the degree that you noted your confidence in me to do so, and still was fined for what could only have been a very small and unintentionally disregarded portion of feces, clarification is needed for the word “properly.” In my view, I did “properly” dispose of Sophie’s waste because it is simply impossible that I missed a full bowel movement from her. However, “properly” can mean both “correct according to social or moral rules,” in which case I am justified in doing all I reasonably could to dispose of Sophie’s waste, or “exactly correct,” which would seem to require a complete removal of all excremental particles. Apparently you are interpreting the word by the latter, less common meaning, which is far too high a standard.
So I write asking: what do you consider to be “proper” disposal of pet waste? If it is the reasonable expectations of pet owners to pick up after their dogs, which may from time to time leave some residue remaining, then I request the fine against me be dropped since Sophie’s offense was obviously outside that definition. If you consider “proper” to mean anything above that sensible standard, then I urge you to reconsider such a strict rule. In either case, the “Poo Prints Program Addendum” must be edited to include clarifying language in subclause (f) so that residents are fully aware of your expectations.
Please note that this letter does not indicate any displeasure with Meadowview Apartments; far from it. Your location is excellent, the rooms are lovely, and your staff has been nothing but accommodating. But $175 is quite expensive for what must have been a very small chunk of shit.
Your humble and faithful resident of 121B, Charles Campbell
Image Credit: Le chien rouge, Paul Gauguin (1892)
Jackson Culpepper grew up in a small south Georgia town, attended the University of South Carolina for an MFA, and has since lived in Denver, New Mexico, and east Tennessee. His work struggles with religion and violence, but in a more humane way than O’Connor, as well as place and history, but in a less ill-fated way than Faulkner. It’s funny sometimes too. His website is jacksonculpepper.wordpress.com.