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It's Nelly's World

The Living End

alec vanderboom

There is good reason to not talk about what I am going to talk about; the subject is repellent, disgusting, outre even. Yet it is one we think about often enough, and it is of especially vital and consuming interest to parents of both canine and human children. (I'm sorry, though, when it comes to feline, the subject is truly unspeakable: even when I had a cat, I felt this way. Which is one big reason I have not gotten another cat.) I'm talking s--t.

It is believed that wolves were domesticated after they were drawn to human settlements by the smell of human waste. To me, and you, it is repulsive, as it needs to be, full of dangerous pathogens. To dogs, though, I am sad to report, it is one of the finest delicacies. (As is the aforementioned end product of canned cat food: people who have both species in their households know that the only reason most dogs desist from killing their smaller brethren is they don't want to harm the source of those Puppy Tootsie Rolls they love above all other hors d'oeuvres.) You don't truly know despair until you have to share a car ride home with a dog who has ventured into the bushes at the park and come out having rolled in human excrement. It would have been far preferable for him to have ingested it--though in that case you have to worry about not learning that fact until after the big sloppy kiss.

Although you might have known by the look on the dog's face: it's called "a shit-eating grin."

I don't hold much with Freud's sort of strange notions about children's purported feelings about their productions; one suspects, with a sinking feeling, his theories say something about his upbringing, a little bit aberrant (or was it just the age, or the Germanic milieu?)--and who wouldn't want to generalize, or normalize, something like that? Just to get it off you alone?

But we parents need to admit one thing: our own children's do does not not repulse us. Nor is it pleasant. It's just . . . very interesting.

I love to watch Nelly when it's time. Her lithe little spine inscribes a full "C." Her legs tuck in out of the way (her long tail feathers, um, not always completely, but that's just an error of nature). Her eyes get this faraway look. She is the picture of a vulnerability. And it pulls at my heart.

Who knew that pooping could let loose a tide of bittersweetness?

Then, I admit, and you might as well too, I make an inspection. It absorbs my attention. For this is where you will notice anything amiss. It's the same reason you should groom your horse every day: peering minutely at every little bit is when you'll notice tiny cuts, bumps, parasites. Plus, it brings you together.

Crap: our little bond.

This is also where I can become self-righteously proud of my dog's food: garbage in, garbage out. Because she eats Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, what she expels is smaller, less smelly, and disintegrates far faster (becoming an odorless white powder--a pile of calcium, I suppose--within two days) than that of dogs who eat kibble. In other words, crap.

We were just as interested in, and not offended by (well, usually . . . ) our baby's output. It's a good thing, too, since we had to be so intimately involved with it many times a day. This only pertains, of course, to your own baby. Anyone else's--yuck. Nature is beautiful, isn't it? Takes care of everything.

Then is this the place for me to ask the question that's been burning a hole in my brain for years now? OK. So why, alone among species, did humans end up needing toilet paper? What's up with that? Did our evolution arise to include the need for corporations too, to provide the products to finish the job nature wouldn't? Weird.

Weird, too, is this disquisition. I can't explain it. Like so much else that comes floating into consciousness. You mull it over, and it floats out again. I'm only going to bring this particular subject up once. And at that, it's once too much. As is the admission that I love Nelly so completely that I love watching her, you know, do her thing.