HILL: When taking a dog for a walk offers hope about America

Photo by Meg Nicol | CC

Writing editorials and publishing news can be a drag at times.

Almost all editorials from the right or the left are aimed at the other side complaining about how stupid or immoral “they” are. Many news services focus on deaths and murders first and foremost, drug busts and then calamities that can be caused by various businesses on the environment, by government on the economy, or by UFOs invading Earth and wiping out the human race.

Dr. Aruna Khilanani gave a speech at Yale University recently, titled, “The Psychopathic Problem of the White Mind,” where she said she fantasized about “unloading a revolver into the head of any white person that got in my way, burying their body, and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away relatively guiltless with a bounce in my step.”

What kind of country do we live in today? When did such disgusting behavior become acceptable enough to talk about in public? How did we get here, and how do we get out of it?

We were taking care of our son’s dog last week and took her for a walk one morning, when it occurred to me that America has a remarkable way of cleaning up problems. A very few enterprising people figure out ways to solve an issue, and then the rest of the country catches on and follows suit.

As I was preparing to comply with city and neighborhood ordinances regarding picking up dog waste, with a bright pink plastic bag, I realized that someone long ago figured out how to clean up dog poop — way before any local ordinance or law was passed and they probably made a lot of money doing it.

They saw a market need (help people stop messing up their dress shoes by stepping on dog waste) and filled it with a solution (pooper-scoopers), which later became a public policy issue (dog feces were determined to have a lot of e coli bacteria).

Sure enough, when I got home, I googled it and found out that Brooke Daniel Miller of Anaheim, California, filed for a patent on the pooper-scooper on Nov. 18, 1999, and was subsequently awarded U.S. Patent 6196600.

The invention led to multiple versions of the pooper-scooper which had a plastic bag for disposal. Most people now skip the tool completely and just pick up the waste with their hand encased in an inside-out plastic bag, which has its own distinct disadvantages as well.

Before 1999, all most people could do was complain about dog waste or pick it up themselves. It is estimated that over 10 million tons of dog excrement is produced every year in America. The market for pet-waste disposal is expected to exceed $4 billion this year, which includes litter for inside cats.

Tens of thousands of people work in the $100 billion pet industry today, which services over 300 million pets in American homes. There are companies that employ people, who are contracted out to municipalities and business, solely to pick up dog excrement every day all day long.

With the concern that plastic bags harm the environment, entrepreneurs are making biodegradable bags for people to use. Other innovators are exploring ways to compost dog waste and turn it into usable compost, in the way cow manure has been used for centuries.

There’s a reason why our founders put patent protection in the core text of the Constitution. They wanted to protect the rights of innovators and people with business skills, so we could all benefit from their creativity and ability to put a business together to meet a common need.

Dog-waste excavators and miners have made a lot of money cleaning up our environment. It just took a very few enterprising individuals to get the ball rolling.

Next time you take your dog for a walk, see if you can think of ways to clean up something wrong in your neighborhood, city or state. It may be physical; it may be political; it may be personal. But it will take you to the better side of life. Maybe you will take the rest of us along with you.