**Don't say you haven't been warned. If you're put off by discussions of poop, don't read another word.**
We sort of skipped church today. Little Man coughed all the way there, so I just sat in on my confirmation class, then we headed home before he could cough all over the rest of the congregation and their children.
It has been a beautiful day, sunny, started off slightly chill but has warmed up throughout the day. Perfect day to catch up on yard work.
Every parent, at the arrival of their first child, is thrust (often reluctantly) into the role of scatologist. Poop is a fact of life for everyone, but it plays a monumental role for parents of babies and not-yet-potty-trained toddlers. If you've got animals, you deal with it constantly as well. If you're me? Your life is pretty much full of shit all the time. Litter boxes here are cleaned daily, stalls weekly, back yard poop-scooped every couple of days. Thank God the kids know how to handle their own bodily functions now. (I was so relieved to see the end of diapers. Both of my children were late bloomers in the potty-training department. In fact, I had to tell Little Man that little boys aren't allowed to turn four until they can use the potty, so if he wanted to celebrate his fourth birthday he'd better get with the program. Changing babies never bothered me, but changing toddlers...blech. When things start resembling something that might come out of an adult, its time to either get them out of the pull-ups or start making them clean up their own mess.)
You can tell a lot about a person or an animal by what they excrete. You can tell if they're eating too much or too little, if they're eating the right things. You can tell if they're adequately hydrated. With horses you can even tell if they might have dental issues based on how well and evenly the hay or grass is ground by their molars. Its rather fascinating when you get right down to it. At the winery we have lots of coyotes and foxes around, as well as badgers and deer. You can tell when the rodent population gets scarce, because when we're on our vineyard walks at lunchtime we can see the grapes start showing up in the coyote piles.
With the dogs, I can tell what non-food items they've been into when I scoop the yard. Today was no exception. I saw crayons, ribbon, bits of plastic toys (Roscoe destroys about ninety percent of the toys that come in the Happy Meals), some (ahem) feminine products (the boxer goes after feminine hygiene products like a junkie chases the needle), and even what appeared to be some blue painter's tape. Nothing too out of the ordinary for this household. (Once I had a lab mix with an underwear fetish. She would get into the laundry and dig out panties, then chew them up. One time on a walk in the local park, she actually crapped out a pair of green lace thong panties, right in front of several people. Yeah. Totally NOT EMBARRASSING. I HAVE NO IDEA WHO THOSE BELONGED TO. >.> That same dog also survived chowing down a Gillette disposable razor. When I realized she'd eaten it, I called the vet, who advised feeding her heavily to put lots of other product in the system that might help to surround the edges of the blade. I still have the xray he took of her intestines. You can see the razor blade clear and stark as the day. I shudder to think about what could have happened, but eventually she passed it. It was a relief to have it out of her, plus I was glad to be able to stop rummaging through piles of feces in search of it.)
Cleaning the yard today wasn't as bad as it has been in the past. I recently started giving the dogs a diet of half raw and half dry food. The amount they're pooping has been cut nearly in half. The amount of poop a dog (or anyone, for that matter) creates is directly proportional to the amount of waste products in their diet. Low-end dog food, which are mostly fillers, give you dogs that create a large amount of poo. We had a neighbor back in NJ who had a big rottweiler. Occasionally he would poop in my front yard, and from the looks of it, that dog must have been eating 10 square meals a day. I've seen smaller piles come out of HORSES for heaven's sake.
The higher quality food you feed, the less the animal produces in waste matter. For dry dog foods, I look for anything that has actual meat products as the first ingredient. The ingredients are listed in order of largest percentage to smallest percentage contained in the food. Even some of the so-called "premium" dog foods have corn meal or corn fillers as the FIRST ingredient on the ingredients list. Corn is not a natural food for a carnivorous animal to eat, and some vets and researchers attribute the high incidence of renal failure in otherwise healthy dogs and cats to an excess of grains in the diet. The really high-grade food is also high-dollar, though, and out of my budget. I look for dog food in the middle price range that lists its primary ingredient as meat or meat by-products. Recently at the Fred Meyer grocery store (they're a Kroger chain) I was happily surprised to also find a reasonably priced raw food. By feeding my guys half raw I can afford to incorporate it in their diet for about $8 a week. The biggest benefit, of course, is that I know I'm helping them to stay healthy longer by feeding them what their system is designed to eat. I'm not going to complain about the OTHER side benefit either -- smaller poop. It makes it easier to spot the underwear.