Yesterday morning I was sitting in a coffee shop in Charleston enjoying a liquid JOLT of some Nitro Coffee when I came across a quote on Social Media by the late Martin Luther King, Jr. that said “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
At the same time, a couple walked in with two MASSIVE white Great Pyrenees’ (sp?), and I could only think of how much those dogs cost to feed and then, the obvious, how much they must poop. Growing up, my family owned a commercial Quail hunting plantation, aptly named Shirahland Plantation, where we housed and boarded around 45 dogs in the kennels across a field behind my childhood home. So, you could say I know a good bit about the fecal habits of our furry K9 friends.
Naturally, being the younger brother, it was my responsibility to clean, water, feed, disinfect the kennels, mow around them, sweep them out. etc. etc. and check up on the dogs during the summer every morning. So picture this… 46 smelly, outside dogs, South Georgia, 1 Trillion Gnats (no, I’m not kidding. They will legit suffocate you like a pillowcase if you can’t fan fast enough), Dog Poop, 100 degrees… you get the picture.
NOT A PRETTY SIGHT. Well, each morning, I would get on our little Kawasaki mule, drive across the 200 acre field behind our house to the dog kennels. The drill goes like this…there were two rows of 30 or so kennels facing each other and they are slightly downsloped to a singular concrete drain affectionately known as the “poop chute.” Essentially, we had a high-powered water hose that you washed all of the poop from the kennels down into the chute and then washed the chute down into the septic tank. All-in-all, a pretty gross ordeal.
I would then get the food wagon (a red flyer!) and go to each kennel and give them their prescribed amount of food, wash out their water bowls and check to make sure everything looked good. Every month or so, I’d have to get a disinfecting wash and spray down the kennels, fix the shade sails over the kennels, fix their fans and the water misting system, and, oh yea, give them a bath! This was a pretty top-of-the-line dog kennel for the times. These were some happy pups to say the least.
Well, as you can imagine, sometimes dogs don’t always poop every day and so sometimes I would “spot clean” them and only really clean out the ones that needed it, which could save hours of time. Being that it was a fairly straight-forward thing to do, my dad didn’t really check up on me most of the time. I mean, follow the steps and do the right thing, right?
I can remember one time that I had finished cleaning out the kennels and was on my way up to my dad’s office across the farm when I saw my dad’s truck coming towards me. Immediately I got that nervous stomach because I, in fact, had NOT followed the steps and left a few of the clean kennels unwashed. He stopped, asked me if I was done (he obviously knew it should have taken me longer that it did), asked me if it was thorough, etc. Of course I answered a resounding “YES,” or so I thought, and he said “well get in the truck and let’s go take a look.” Cue the stomach drop into my shoes.
As we pulled around the kennels, it was quite obvious which ones were wet/washed and the ones that weren’t. He slowly drove around the kennel, TWICE, and then, without turning his head, asked me “Jamey, did you wash ALL the kennels out?” To which I had no other option but to solemnly say, “no.” Disappointedly he asked me why. I had no good excuse.
Now, normally at this time, it would be time for me to go “pick out my belt/branch,” but dad just sat there quietly for a second, the tension in the air drowning out any potential excuse I could think of. So I sat there quietly too. I had lied, I had cheated the work, I had taken the shortcut. I didn’t follow the steps, didn’t do the right thing.
My father had given me the responsibility of taking care of one of his most valuable assets in the quail hunting industry, a well-trained, high-bred hunting dog, and I had botched it. I had taken his trust and the responsibility and failed it. Obviously, at an early age of 9 or so, that’s somewhat hard to grasp, but dad saw a great opportunity to teach me versus discipline me.
He simply explained to me everything above and that in order to get anywhere in life, you have to do the right thing. He taught me that how you do anything is how you do everything. There’s pretty much a right way and a wrong way to do it. The in-between is just as wrong as not doing it.
Moving from South Georgia to Atlanta by way of Athens, GA (GO DAWGS), I was NOT a poop-picker-upper because I’d never had to do that. Well, step in some dog shit once or twice in your life on the sidewalk while on a run and have to smell that for the next couple of miles and it will make you 1) want to fight the person who didn’t pick up that poo and 2) make you very, very intent on cleaning up your dog’s poo.
DO THE RIGHT THING!
If you’re tasked with something in life and you don’t do your absolute best in it, you are the one that suffers the most. We are usually given the option to either pick up the poop or not each and every day! Do you make your bed or not? Do you push the shopping cart back to the cart return or leave in in the middle of nowhere? I don’t know a single successful person who leaves their cart in the middle of the parking lot. Do you keep your car clean or not (guilty)! I actually had to make a daily mini-rule in order to overcome this. Now when I get out of my truck, I have to fill my hands with as much stuff as I can until it’s empty and clean.
But we think “None of these things will kill anyone. It’s not a big deal?” Or is it a microcosm of the other habits in your life? To this day, living in an apartment where almost everyone has a dog, I ALWAYS pick up my dog’s poop. But there are a lot of people who don’t. There’s always some fresh piles in the dog run. Does it even make a difference?
So, which person are you?