Pets and Good Citizenship

By Paul Fox

The farmer and the cowman should be friends. Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends. One man likes to push a plough, the other likes to chase a cow, But that’s no reason why they cain’t be friends.

Territory folks should stick together, Territory folks should all be pals. Cowboys dance with farmers’ daughters, Farmers dance with the ranchers’ gals.

Excerpt of lyrics in “The Farmer and Cowman” from Oklahoma! by Richard Rodgers

In 1906, when events in the show Oklahoma! are taking place, there were plenty of reasons farmers and cowboys didn’t want to be friends. Disputes over land and water rights were the most common reason for fights. Cowboys were used to having the whole territory available for them to drive huge herds of cattle, so when farmers settled near water sources and claimed areas for their own herds of cattle or sheep, there was an understandable amount of hostility. The farmers, on the other hand, would fence in territory and then have all their efforts trampled by cowboys and their droves of cattle, which was also frustrating.

—“OKLAHOMA! The Farmer, the Cowman, and Why They Couldn’t Get Along” at

The following paragraph is a person’s rant about dog walking, as shared on social media:

“It has become apparent, especially in my neighborhood, some of you dog walkers have no respect for other people’s property. Some of us take pride in keeping our yards looking nice. Some also take time to add fertilizer. By letting the dog you are walking pee and/or poop in another’s yard, the scent attracts other animals who also want to do the same. Also, urine can kill grass. Being a pet owner myself, I can state that when my dogs see another dog peeing or pooping in my yard, they become territorial. The best part is when I politely state, “Please don’t let your dog in my yard,” I have actually been asked, “Why not?” The ones who are doing this are the same to whine, complain, and/or call the police when someone offends them.” —Jason, Next Door app, June 17, 2019

My first reaction to this homeowner’s “beef” was that he was not being very “neighborly!” But, there’s a lot more to this issue, and I may be on the lower moral ground of the argument.

Definition of Neigh·bor·ly: Adjective; Characteristic of being a good neighbor, especially helpful, friendly, or kind.

Okay, since retirement, for the first time in my life, I might call myself a “good neighbor!” Since becoming a stay-at-home retiree, I can now tell you the names of my neighbors, many previously unknown to me when I was a full-time, 24/7 music teacher, constantly returning back to school for extra-curricular activities, including marching band, plays, chamber choir practices, festivals, musicals, adjudication trips, and meetings. Until 2013 when my wife and I entered our post-employment bliss, we were never home. Do you need proof? When we first moved here, my next-door neighbor accidentally “turfed” my front yard in the middle of a snowstorm (and I did not notice it until the spring thaw). I was told their lack of notification was due to the fact they never saw us. “We were planning to tell you and promise to fix the damage, but you’re never around and seldom answer your phone.”

Well, now I have two dogs, Gracie and Brewster, that I walk religiously several times a day. This means that, unless it is raining hard, I am out and about in my neighborhood, a wonderful bedroom-community with sidewalks and neatly manicured lawns, flower beds, and trees. One could say we have become “watch dogs” on things coming and going in our neighborhood. Strangers beware! We serve as an informal “fox and hounds” security service! My dogs and I know if you don’t belong on our block (although the pups love the mailman and would probably bark first and then strain the leash to run over and kiss any other newcomer).

With several small ready-to-use poop bags in hand, I clean up our messes. Brewster and Gracie, at about 12 pounds each, have minimal impact on the environment! However, I’ve noticed a lack of citizenship from other pet owners. One dog walker (large breed) leaves unsolicited “presents” on the grass near the sidewalk, and sometimes even “gift wraps” them in a plastic bag and drops them at curbside! Shame! It gives the rest of us a bad name. Donning gloves, I have taken up bringing a large trash bag with me, cleaning up any of these rude donations of doggie pollution, or even stray junk thrown from passing cars on our street.

On occasion, when we expand our territory and walk around the entire block, the dogs and I run into two types residents: those who love dogs vs. those who want nothing to do with them. I know there are some who are afraid of pets, so we give them a wide berth. We also avoid the ones who, when I was a kid, we labeled “crabgrass kings,” homeowners’ lawns without a single blade of grass or foliage out of place. If your ball accidentally rolled into their yard, you were admonished, “Don’t leave a mark on my turf!”

Gracie, Brewster, and I don’t trespass. We try to model good citizenship. We do our best to honor the wishes of our neighbors, respecting any of their issues for privacy, restricted access, fears, or phobias. For the six years I have been a pet owner, only three people have scolded us, “Don’t let your dogs pee in my yard!”

But dogs are dogs. Mine seek to “water” every mailbox post and tree trunk on our route. The ten-inch strip of grass between the curb and the sidewalk, a Township right-of-way, also gets a lot of attention. And, yes, the grass in these areas often fares the worst with numerous brown or yellow patches (although winter road salt is probably more to blame!)

Am I the cowman whose feels he has the right to let his doggies roam the pastures? No, I will not feed my dogs a supplement, like an amino acid-based oral product that claims to eliminate urine spots by changing the pH of your dog’s urine!

Contrary to popular belief, urine spots are not caused exclusively by female dogs or by certain breeds. Rather, it’s the result of urine being deposited in a small concentrated area. Since female dogs tend to squat and stay in one spot to urinate, it will be more likely to damage the grass in that spot. In general, any dog (male or female) that squats or sprays in one spot will deposit urine into a concentrated area. Dog urine spots may also be more noticeable with larger dogs, due to the higher volume of urine produced.

—“Green Grass, Happy Dogs: Preventing Dog Urine Spots on Lawns” at

If the trouble is in your own yard, there are plenty of sites recommending a solution:

• “7 Tips to Prevent Dog Urine Spots on Your Lawn” by Doody Calls

• “How to Keep Dog Pee from Ruining Your Lawn” by PetMD

• “How to Fix Dog Urine Spots on Lawns” by Pennington

But, first make sure your dog is really to blame! There are a lot of conditions that may cause discolored areas on your lawn! Other potential culprits are fungus and other grass disease, insect pests, lack of nitrogen or iron, over-fertilizing, or under-watering.

Believe it or not, dog urine is not as damaging as many people believe it is. Sometimes you may blame the dog for brown or yellow spots in the lawn when, in fact, it is a grass fungus causing the problem. To determine if dog urine is killing the lawn or a grass fungus, simply pull up on the affected grass. If the grass in the spot comes up easily, it is a fungus. If it stays firm, it is dog urine damage. Another indicator that it is dog urine killing the lawn is that the spot will be a bright green on the edges while a fungus spot will not.

—“Dog Urine and Your Grass” at

What’s the bottom line? Walking your dog beyond the area of your limited property is important to your pet’s health. Besides elimination, walks are essential for exercise and mental stimulation. Someone once told me, taking your pooch out in the neighborhood on a daily basis is a dog’s equivalent of checking email and posting updates on social media.

Dogs like to go for walks to get outdoors, sniff, and engage with their environment, exercise, and perhaps socialize with people and dogs outside the home. There is no reason that a walk cannot encompass and meet all the needs of both humans and dogs. Because time is often at a premium, it is useful to help owners understand and find creative ways to meet these needs. —“How to Walk Your Dog–How to Do It Well, and Why It Is So Important” at

Read more about the essentials of dog walking here:

• “The Importance of Walking Your Dog” by the Animal Foundation

• “Want to Get Happy? Walk a Dog” by the American Kennel Club

• “The Top Ten Reasons to Walk Your Dog” by PetNet

• “Does My Dog Really Need Daily Walks?” by CNN

Other elements regarding pet ownership and citizenship that could be discussed in a future edition of TODAY include:

• Dogs jumping up to greet visitors

• A large dog saying “hello” to your guests by placing its paws on their shoulders

• Dogs who like to play in the mud or wet grass, and then leave their calling card with dirty paw prints on floors, furniture, and people

• Leaving unplanned solid and smelly “presents” at the most awkward times and places

• Excessive barking, even in your yard, especially when it might disturb your next-door-neighbor who likes spending time outdoors gardening

Remember, it usually isn’t the dog’s fault. You don’t actually train animals; you train their handlers! Citizenship is all about the pet owners!

I feel like telling “Jason” (the social media poster) to chill out; get a life! There are so many more important things about which to worry. One might consider caring a little more about the people (and their children and pets) in the community in which he lives. His attitude fosters animosity. Besides, as the saying goes, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

Jason does have rights, though. It is his yard!

Excuse me for now. I have to go walk my dogs. 

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