I lived in The Netherlands for two years before moving to China. Walking down the street in The Netherlands required serious training in modern dance to avoid stepping in ubiquitous piles of dog poop. A video of ordinary pedestrians would resemble a mass outbreak of St. Vitus’ dance. (Indeed, Aachen wasn’t far away.)
In 2004 one of the many delightful surprises about China was . . . no dog poop! Ah, heaven! Some Chinese, apparently, sometimes ate dogs, but no one kept them as pets. The sidewalks were blessedly clean. Along with not having to own a car, Suzhou’s classical gardens, wonderfully friendly people, super-fast trains, amazing (and affordable!) foot- and body-massages, and Traditional Chinese Medicine, not having to dodge dog poop really made me happy.
Alas, along with other Western vices like fast food and designer labels, the rising Chinese middle classes have discovered the delights of keeping dogs as pets. Lap dogs, suited to apartment life, are most common, inevitably being cuddled by beautiful women sporting designer-brand clothing and accessories head-to-toe. But big dogs are increasingly seen as well. All of these dogs, big and small, poop. So far, all the pooping (and evidence of pooping) I have seen has been in grassy areas, not in the middle of the sidewalk. However, if I were fond of lounging on the sward in city parks I would be seriously miffed at having to carefully check for dog poop before stretching out. And if I had a toddler or two, small persons fond of touching and tasting everything in reach, I would be more than seriously miffed.
If (as my mother used to say) I had my druthers, I would ban the owning of dogs in municipal areas. Assuming this won’t happen, my fallback position is to call for a national campaign (China is really good at national campaigns) to train dog owners to pick up their little darlings’ poop. Yes. A pooper-scooper campaign.
Because although it’s still great that I don’t need a car, and I love Suzhou’s classical gardens, and the people are extremely friendly, and the trains are awe-inspiring, and the massages are life-saving, and TCM is really life-saving . . . despite all that, I have to say it: China is going to the dogs.