One of Canada’s prominent novelists is the enigmatic Farley Mowat, and among his classic productions was Never Cry Wolf. It was a book that, in many ways, changed the way people thought about wolves, bringing an appreciation for the life and value of an iconic Canadian predator.
Mowat, however, was not only an incisive writer but he leaned heavily on humour to tell his tales. Such was the case about wolves, where he went into great detail about his role as a scatologist, a collector of droppings of which he dissected to determine what wolves ate – from mice and lemmings to caribou.
The story was fascinating, as was his description of the ‘family’ bonds wolves held within their pack hierarchy, and how they cared for their young ones.
But the story of the wolf, and its elevation from a perceived scourge to a valued component of the environment, was but part of the memory I hold of the book. What also remains were his humorous reflections on gathering wolf poop, and those references to canine defection were made all the more poignant when I read a week or so ago in the Vancouver Sun Stephen Hume’s column about urban dog deposits.
Unlike Mowat crawling on hands and knees across the tundra to discover a small pile of poop, Hume relied on scholarly information to describe the vast accumulations of dog deposits that hit our lawns, streets and other places your shoe might inadvertently land.
And what he discovered, and revealed in his column, was truly enlightening in its quantity.
According to Hume’s research there are something like 145,000 dogs living within Vancouver, and based on each dog’s daily production of defecate of some 340 grams, he determined the canine pets drop about 50 tonnes of doggy doo every 24 hours.
Extrapolate that to 24/7, 365 and you’re talking some 18,000 tonnes a year which is, according to Hume, more than 1.5 times the weight of the biggest ship within B.C. Ferries’ fleet.
Hume went on to describe the quantity of excrement generated by the more than 500,000 dogs estimated to reside within Metro Vancouver, which for all intents and purposes might as well include Abbotsford, and my two dogs!
Seems that your pups and mine, and those of everyone else living between tide-water and here, dump some 167 tonnes of scat every 24 hours, extending to 61,000 tonnes a year, which is equal to five super-ferries the size of the Spirit of Vancouver Island. Now that is one ‘shipload’ of poop.
Farley Mowat, if there was to be book to written today about urban dogs and the effect they have on the environment, wouldn’t have to crawl very far to find source material.
We worry out here in the valley about air quality, and the aim of Metro Vancouver to incinerate its garbage. It’s one thing to be inhaling airborne chemicals, quite another to be breathing carbonized essence of dog feces.
However, the burning of same might be a lot better than burying it, or leaving it on the lawns of parks and pathways.
Hume’s research revealed that Metro’s (and our) dogs also produce on average 100,000 litres of urine a day.
Based on the huge population growth we can expect in the Lower Mainland over the next 20 years, and its complementary expected increase in the number of dogs, we can expect our four-legged friends to be depositing something like a million tonnes of excrement during that time frame.
Thus, while Mr. Mowat helped engender an abiding interest in environmental balance, Mr. Hume has provided a remarkable appreciation of an issue that, unless discovered under foot, is too often overlooked.