When I first visited London, in my distant youth, I stayed with a late friend’s family in the working-class district of Chingford. One day, as we walked around his neighborhood, I was amused by a metal sign that read “Dogs Fouling the Footway/Byelaw Penalty £5/Clive G. Dennis, Town Clerk” (I am a committed dog person). In fact, the euphemism so amused me that my friend thought the sign would make a great souvenir and, one night, we liberated it from the fence to which it was attached. I brought it back to California with me but, sadly, it has since disappeared (I’d happily pay £5 for a replacement).
|Stanley's 800-quid fine should deter scofflaws.|
I have a visual reminder of it, though, in a photograph of a sign outside the cemetery in Stanley, in the Falkland Islands, where I spent more than a year in 1986-87. At that time, though, Islands dogs were working dogs on sheep farms—pet dogs were rare in town, and I only recall a couple lapdogs belonging to elderly people. Concern over hydatidosis, a liver disease for which dogs are a vector, discouraged the ownership of pet canines.
Cats, of course, were common, but many households also had pet lambs which, in time, became pet sheep. Some friends of ours had one they mischievously called “Dinner,” though nobody would ever dream of eating a pet lamb (even in the “Camp,” or countryside, pet lambs were untouchable). These weren’t watchdogs—not that anybody needed such security in Stanley—but they did serve a function as living lawnmowers.
|Deuce the watchgoose will attack through the stakes and wires of Ray and Nancy's fence.|
Today it’s more common to see Stanleyites walking their canine charges, though dog ownership does not remotely approach London levels. There are no stray dogs, however, and it’s still unusual to see a dog unattended even in a fenced enclosure—though that doesn’t mean there’s nothing. For example Deuce, the upland goose that my friends Ray and Nancy Poole have raised since he was a wild gosling, goes ballistic whenever I approach their house. Still, while his droppings may foul the lawn, they do not reach the footway.
While I’m on the topic, I’ll address the issue in Buenos Aires, another city with an enormous number of dogs and a reputation for notoriously irresponsible owners who often let their pets dump on the sidewalk. Sometimes, when I see such an event while walking around town, I’ll hand the owner a plastic bag with the comment “Se te cayó algo” (“You dropped something”). They’re surprised (and often embarrassed), but usually thank me.