Caitlin Crawshaw

Caitlin Crawshaw is an award-winning Canadian freelance writer and animal lover, whose articles have appeared online and in newspapers and magazines across North America.

News: Guest Posts
Turf Wars
The battle for supremacy moves to the litter box.
From the moment Maggie bursts through the front door, the leggy Terrier-X is five feet off the floor, chasing Truman, my burly Shep-X, around the house and luring him into endless games of bitey-face.   My sister-in-law’s dog visits at least twice a month, often for days at a time. As soon as the cats hear her car in the driveway, they scatter: Jay heads for the bedroom to pout in the closet and Lester heads to his nylon tube in anticipation of playing with his favorite canine. Despite the cat-dog language barrier, Lester is committed to befriending Maggie, often rubbing his black tail against her, or touching noses when Maggie shows interest in him, or occasionally attempting a game of chase. Lester will even tolerate a paw in the head when Maggie play-bows and misjudges the distance between her mile-long paws and Lester’s ears.   But there is one issue between them: the litter box. Just as I have to clean out all the garbage cans to prevent Maggie from indoor dumpster-diving, I have to keep the litter box immaculate to avoid her sneaking a crunchy snack, to the cats’ mutual horror.   The cats had begrudgingly adjusted to Maggie’s violations until, last month, when she did something even weirder.   One day, as I walked past the box, debating whether I needed to clean it, I noticed an unusually large log on top, completely uncovered by litter. But my cats always cover up their feces—it’s the classy thing to do, in a cat’s mind. And, after four years, I’m quite familiar with the size of their poop. This didn’t look right at all. I also know that Truman, at a hefty 70 pounds, couldn’t possibly squeeze into the litter box. At only 30 pounds, Maggie could.   I didn’t have to scour the Internet to find a dog-litter connection. It turns out that people actually train their dogs to use litter boxes (not just faux-grass poo-pads). This is not the stuff of eccentric Internet entrepreneurs, either. Purina makes Secondnature Dog Litter.    Many own small dogs in apartments and work 8-hour days, so perhaps it’s not unreasonable for them to demand a convenience busy cat owners have always enjoyed. But…it strikes me as weird. Perhaps I’ve lived with cats too, long, but it seems to me that the litter box shouldn’t be the domain of dogs. Despite the happy-looking Yorkie on the Purina litter package, I’m just not convinced canines—I mean, other than Maggie—would really appreciate the convenience of litter.   I told my sister-in-law about the poo situation when she came to pick up her pup, and we shared a giggle. But Maggie’s always been a bit of a @#$%-disturber, so she wasn’t shocked. As long as her dog isn’t rolling in decaying fish (as she did at my in-law’s farm a while back) or opening bags of garbage, Maggie’s quirkiness is wholly accepted—and expected.   As long as the cats don’t start pooping elsewhere in protest (as felines sometimes do), I’m happy enough that Maggie’s figured out the power of litter. I wouldn’t go out of my way to train a dog to do this, but it’s handy on days when I’m out and about. But, it’s easy for me to say—I’m not the one who has to share a toilet that doesn’t flush with several other pooping creatures. I’m expecting that on Maggie’s next visit the cats will have something to say about her frequent visits to their loo. Inevitably the fur (and hopefully nothing more) will fly as everyone adjusts to this new scatological development.
News: Guest Posts
Where’s A Pup to Poop?
What's proper etiquette for neighborhood walks?

While returning home from a dog walk one night, I spotted a woman loitering outside of my house. Since I didn’t have my glasses on, it took me a moment to realize she had a Shih Tzu on an extendi-leash pacing back and forth across my lawn, as he chose the perfect place to poop.

I called out to her just as her dog squatted down to do the deed. “Excuse me, is he going to the bathroom on my lawn?”

I had to repeat this a second time before the woman turned to acknowledge me. “Oh, this is your house?”

I was incredulous: Did it really matter whose house it was? It was my house. In fact, I’m a new homeowner still busting with pride—and I was right there! I never allow Truman do his business on people’s lawns, especially not in a neighborhood like mine, with all kinds of public parks. In fact, my own house backs onto a large park, and if she’d turned the corner, her dog would have had blocks of greenery on which to do his thing.

“No harm, no foul,” she said dismissively, pulling out a plastic bag. I paused for a second, hoping for an apology, before correcting her.

 “No,” I said, attempting to be diplomatic. “This is my home, this is my lawn, so don’t ever do this again. I don’t let my dog do that on someone’s front lawn. That’s really rude!”

“I’ve picked it up, relax,” she spat.

I felt my grip tightening on the leash as she slowly sauntered down the street. Truman, my Shepherd-cross, growled in solidarity.

My neighbor and I aren’t the first to get into an altercation over dog doo. Last fall, a 47-year-old Washington woman named Linda May Johnson went to trial after being charged with trespassing, harassment and disorderly conduct. She had allegedly allowed her two miniature poodles, Ollie and Hershey, to poop on her neighbors’ lawn, repeatedly. The neighbor, who’d frequently asked the woman to let her dogs poop elsewhere—and who’d been verbally berated as a result—was also a dog owner, but disagreed with Johnson’s assessment that the first few feet of her lawn were actually public property.

Unfortunately, the judge dismissed the case. During an interview with The Washington Post, Johnson said she’s considering filing a formal complaint against the police service and suing her neighbor.

These struggles aren’t limited to regular folk. According to TMZ.com, comedian Dane Cook was evicted in September from a West Hollywood apartment after failing to pick up his Miniature Pinscher’s droppings. That same month, Adrianne Curry—of “America’s Next Top Model” fame—filed a restraining order against a woman whose dog was decorating her lawn. Of course, the woman—whom Curry accuses of stalking her—had also allegedly posted creepy messages on Curry’s MySpace page and even sent her a pair of designer shoes in her favorite colors. (I hope she checked inside them before putting them on.)

If you raise the subject of dog-break etiquette in a mixed crowd, you’ll probably hear everything from moral outrage to tolerance. But whatever side you’re on, it’s probably best to err in the direction of the curb. Next time Mr. Boggles yanks you towards your neighbor’s begonias, why not give the leash a tug and lead him toward the road or sidewalk? Better yet, reward your dog for pooping in a particular spot, and he’ll quickly comprehend that there are some places he can go and others he can’t. Conflict averted.

And for those who suffer rage blackouts when your neighbor and her canine companion dump on your turf, take a deep breath and zip it. Do you really want to make an enemy out of the nut-bar next door?

Bark Off: Is scooped poop different than no poop at all? Is the edge of a lawn better than the middle? Be honest, as a dog-person, a lawn-lover or both: Share your best and worst neighborhood pet waste experiences.