I pull on my boots and stride purposefully to the backyard. Taking the shovel from its resting place, I grip it firmly. It is my minesweeper, and I am the Turdhunter – a bona fide suburban superhero. It is my mission to keep the premises safe for traversal, even in the dark.

I scan the grounds for stealthy brownish or blackish piles. The exact hue depends upon what sort of treats Boomer has been eating lately; charcoal treats are responsible for the blackish heaps, which are the easiest ones to locate.

The most difficult season for turd hunting is late autumn, when the yard is liberally strewn with Big Leaf Maple leaves. Confession: I would rather mow leaves than rake them, so our backyard usually remains covered until springtime when the awakened grass forces me to fire up the Toro. Until then, leaves camouflage Boomer’s creations, thereby escalating the danger factor during cleanup.

I step carefully and methodically, eyes peeled. In order to maintain a proper frame of mind, I must remember that pooping does not involve a moral dimension for Boomer. He seems to consider it a valid form of self-expression. And since I would rather clean it up outside than inside I verbally encourage him in his artistic endeavors.

Still, it is difficult not to resent a chore like this one. Tedious, hazardous, foul smelling… Of course, honesty compels me to admit that I too express myself offensively from time to time. This unsettling notion gives me pause as I slide the shovel beneath a semi-petrified, mold-bearded mound. Unbidden, an irreverent paraphrase leaps to mind: Forgive us our poops as we forgive those who poop against us.

Dog ownership entails poop management – it comes with the territory, so to speak. Relationships with humans are much the same (metaphorically speaking, for the most part – thankfully!). As I dispose of this expedition’s last shovelful I find myself faced with a messy question: Am I willing to extend the same sort of grace to the people in my life that I offer my dog?