The other day, someone emailed me a picture of dog doo.
It was a close-up, color photograph of a pile resting on a bed of green grass, a few flowers poking in from the side.
The photo was sent not just to me, but to all residents of Southern Village who subscribe to the neighborhood listserv. There are about 1,100 homes in Southern Village.
The emailer had a valid purpose – her daughter had stepped on the pile, and she was urging dog-owners to clean up after their pets.
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But her style of protest struck a negative chord.
“I’m sorry, but I have to ask, is it just me or do other people think posting these photos is absurd and disgusting?” wrote one respondent.
Apparently plenty of people did, because the exchange set off a crossfire of responses that crowded the listserv for days.
One of the interesting facets of life in a large planned community is the online tom-tom of the residents. An anthropology student could do a rich dissertation analyzing the electronic communications of early 21st century suburban dwellers, using these emails.
Just in the last month, the listserv has hosted robust discussions of two topics, dog poop and yard signs, that range from comic to tragic. I thought I’d try to capture for you the debates through the email threads, edited for brevity and protection of identities.
On yard signs:
This discussion was prompted by a small yard sign, planted in one neighbor’s yard, that read in English, Spanish and Arabic: “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbors.” Not everyone agreed.
▪ I am going to be the lone person to say these lawn political bumper stickers are obnoxious. This is a slippery slope toward opinion billboards.
▪ I don’t find them obnoxious, for the record. It’s your space to decorate as you choose. If you want to make clear your politics, go for it.
▪ When selling your home, would you like your neighbor to have a giant “I love Jesus” sign? No different. Free expression. I respect the opinion of all, but I will state my own. Volunteer your time. Do something. Actually do something.
▪ Although I disagree with your concern about these signs, the most troublesome bit of your email was the startlingly closed-minded assumption behind your call to “actually do something.” I can promise you that your neighborhood is stuffed with people … doctors, nurses, public health specialists, educators and other public servants – doing something daily to mitigate the impact of the current political climate.
▪ As to the signs, they are only a small, symbolic gesture but nonetheless a way to speak out with a message of inclusion, welcome and love. These are not ordinary times and silence is the same as acceptance.
▪ Given the current demolishing of basic rights, I think we have to go above and beyond our usual being friendly and inclusive. Active vocal protests are essential, whether in showing up at a protest or posting a sign in the yard.
▪ I find it interesting that most of the posters here assume that everyone here in the Village is of a like mind and that these are “dark times.” What would be the response if someone posted a sign in their yard saying “Build That Wall?”
▪ I am one who is not looking forward to a neighborhood with everyone’s opinion on their lawns. I believe this will create more divisiveness and detract from the neighborhood. Maybe people can show support by smiling at passersby, being friendly and welcoming to humans face-to-face and speaking to and helping their neighbors.
On dog poop:
▪ “Please folks, consider that a written description works just fine and stop grossing us out with your unnecessary pictures.”
▪ “Why not be a part of the solution to this environmental problem? So now when I’m walking my dog, I take along a few extra bags and pick up the poop of some other little and big poopers.”
▪ After a visitor of mine stepped in poop and got it in her car, I put out a sign telling folks not to let their pet poop in front of my house.
▪ This is just getting petty. And by the way I find it offensive when people put out signs saying dogs can’t use their yard. I think it is inconsiderate in a neighborhood full of pet owners to think you should have special rules just for you.
▪ Why don’t pet owners only let their pets go in front of their own yard?
▪ How exactly do you propose we do that? Only walk our pets around in circles in our own yard?
▪ Southern Village has it good in the poop department (this from a professional dog walker). I spend time in many different neighborhoods each week (Lake Hogan Farms, Cates Farm, Briar Chapel, Governors Village) and trust me, I come across so many more piles of uncleaned poop in each of those areas than I ever have in Southern Village.
▪ It can be a minefield getting in your car. Frankly, I get safely on the road and then walk to my car.
▪ Into each life, a little poop must fall.
▪ I pick up my dog’s poopie and even random poops that he didn’t make – hey, poop happens and sometimes we run out of bags. So let’s all chill out.
Ted Vaden is a former editor of The Chape Hill News. You can reach him in c/o firstname.lastname@example.org