One of the joys of city life is stepping in a fresh pile of dog shit offloaded by one of San Francisco's estimated 120,000 canines. Lieutenant Le-Ellis Brown, the field service assistant supervisor at San Francisco Animal Care and Control, gets to hear plenty of complaints from those of us who don't appreciate scraping crap off our shoes. "People call to vent all the time about owners not cleaning up after their dogs," he says. "They're pretty fed up by the time they call us."
Sadly, police rarely catch scofflaw owners who commit the sin of not cleaning up after their dogs. But just as Sherlock Holmes solved the mystery of The Hound of the Baskervilles with his amazing powers of deduction, city dwellers can track down the offending dogs and their inconsiderate owners with a little dookie detecting. A few pointers:
1. Make sure it's actually dog doo. With a large homeless population and an overabundance of drunken frat boys, well-fed boxers aren't the only ones using the city as a private privy. A nearby crumpled copy of the Examiner used as toilet paper is a dead giveaway. A prime location for human poop decoys is the 22nd Street Caltrain station near Potrero Hill.
2. Don't rule out local wildlife. Pick up a copy of Matt Pagett's indispensable What Shat That? The Pocket Guide to Poop Identity. An escaped tiger from the San Francisco Zoo, for example, will leave behind cylindrical scat that contains hair and bone fragments, similar to what you might find in really bad Mission burritos. But seriously, how often do tigers escape from the zoo?
3. Size matters. Simply put, big dogs take big dumps. So if the poop is the size of the chocolate-covered cherries your grandmother used to give you at Christmas, it probably didn't come from the Rottweiler that lives around the corner. Large canine deposits are likely to be found in Noe Valley, where residents are partial to big Labradors that fit into their suburban lifestyles.
4. What color is it? When you come across shamrock-shaded logs, it isn't an Irish setter celebrating St. Patty's Day. Greenies are a brand of toothbrush-shaped dog chews that promise healthy teeth and gums. For dog poop sleuths, they're a vital clue — green in, green out. These treats ain't cheap, so shit the color of money is prevalent in Pacific Heights.
5. Irritable bowel poop. If the turd is covered with a film reminiscent of plastic cling wrap, it's a sure sign the dog has an irritated digestive tract. With the stock market in a tailspin, dogs are feeling their owners' pain at the moment, so this clue points to a dog owner who works in the Financial District.
6. Evidence of human food. If the pile looks a bit like roast beef, potatoes, and a little corn, that's exactly what Spot had for dinner. This often indicates a Castro canine, where lap dogs often take the place of children and eat at the table with the grownups.
But once you identify the dog and its owner, your problems are really just beginning. "Think about it; the people who continually let their dogs poop without cleaning it up are probably drunk, high, or crazy," says Diane Kathryn Haas, an artist who has provided dog daycare and dog boarding since 1997. "What are you going to accomplish by finding them and talking to them?"