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Dog Park Karma

On a frigid morning in the dog park, I watch my black Lab Angus chase a slobbery yellow tennis ball across the frosty grass.

“C’mon boy, it’s time to go,” I say after about 17 tosses. My finger tips are turning blue, my knuckles, bright red. He gives me a head fake as I approach with the leash, darting off to run circles around nearby boxwood bushes. I start walking away. He takes the bait and follows, tail wagging like a rudder.

As we turn to leave, a Collie trots across the field, stops smack dab in the center, and squats down low. I notice his owner a few steps away. Hmmmm, he’s not pulling out his bag. The dog finishes his business and he and the owner walk away in tandem, leaving a brown pile in their wake.

“Excuse me,” I call out. The man keeps walking. “Excuse me,” I say slightly louder.

No response. I contemplate chasing him down with my plastic bag fluttering in my finger tips. But who do I think I am, the poop patrol? It may seem gross to non-dog people, but anyone who’s had a dog--or child, for that matter--understands the drill: clean up the mess. I have been known to leave it when it’s in the rough--out of sight and stepping danger. But in the middle of the park? Come on.

This is what I want to tell the dog owner as he vanishes into the woods. Since I don’t have a lasso or bull horn, I stand there in the cold, cursing his rudeness and that of his ill-mannered companion. What if everyone did this? I mutter to myself. Who does he think he is? My lips are tightly pursed and I can feel my face turning crimson.

And that’s when it hits me. Yep, on a cold morning standing in front of a pile of steaming poop, I have an epiphany of sorts. Where is all this anger getting me? What purpose is it serving? I realize the energy I’m expending on anger could be used for something else--like picking it up myself.

So I pull out another wrinkled plastic bag and do my part to keep our parks clean. And it feels good. Hey, maybe I should try this more often? It could bring good karma. Treat people as you would wish to be treated. The Dalai Lama, St. Francis, the Bible, Everything I Learned in Kindergarten, The Power of Now--it was all coming to a head in the dog park.

Angus and I walk home with a satisfied spring in our steps. And I’m determined to spend the rest of the day trying to be good, saying nice things, being cheerful, even when a driver cuts me off on Mass Avenue and gives me the finger. I catch up to him near Ward Circle, wanting to flash my red-knuckled finger. But I remember I’m trying to be good. So I flash him a wide smile and give him a quick wave. He looks at me like I’ve just escaped from a padded cell. No matter. I hold the door for people at Starbucks, deliver food to a homeless shelter, arrive early in the carpool line, knowing my children will be thrilled by my punctuality.

“Why are you so early,” one says, heaving a backpack over her knees in the back seat. “I’m starving. Can we get a snack?”

I go to bed that night, exhausted from my feeble attempts at goodness. Will I continue tomorrow? I hope I’ll make the right choices. I hope I’ll remember to be grateful--and patient.

Waking up the next day, I race downstairs to start the coffee, let the dog out and get breakfast ready for my girls. Entering the kitchen a foul smell hits me. Angus has had diarrhea all over the kitchen.

All-righty then. Here’s an opportunity to be grateful for small things, like having a fresh roll of Bounty to clean up this mess.