Poop Scoop, Virtue Loop

This week, I ‘sat’ Tom Dog, whose owners had gone to York for the day. The weather was cold, wet and sleety, fit for nothing but dog walking. We set off on a three-hour jaunt across the moors above my town. Before we ascended the hill and departed from civilisation, my canine charge conveniently vacated his bowel within three feet of a dog-waste bin. I warmly commended him for his thoughtfulness, and proceeded up our bridleway.

Then he did another.

Like all responsible custodians of domestic dogs, I was given a stash of green plastic bags, into which the offending deposits might be scooped. I knew that I was only 1 and a half miles into a nine-mile walk; I would likely have to carry about that bag for several hours. Unlike reprobates, I baulk at the practice of stuffing them into dry stone walls or discarding them under bracken, which only hinders their destruction. Yet, while walking, the bright green bag gave me an air of satisfaction. It communicated to every other user of that bridleway that I was one of the better classes of dog walker; I did the right thing, even though it was distasteful. It was a feeling just shy of self-righteousness, but I certainly felt that it exonerated me from any suspicion of blame that my dog was responsible for the not infrequent piles of poop that other owners had suffered to be left in their wake. That green bag was my badge of respectability, my token proof that I was a worthy fellow citizen and path user.

Much as I enjoyed my day with Tom Dog, and the excuse to go for a good walk on an otherwise miserable day when a burning log and a good book would have been quite appealing, I am pleased that poop collection is not a regular duty I must perform. Yet I wonder if the unpleasant things we carry about in our lives are proofs and tokens of the genuineness of our faith. The bruises and scars we bear demonstrate our perseverance; the poor cloth we wear bespeaks the sacrifices endured; the familiarity with opposition shows the patience and long-suffering we have developed. The things we carry about are often deeply unpleasant, yet they eloquently communicate our best virtues.

 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Gal. 6:17