One of our volunteers gives below his personal account of an experience he had recently at Hodbarrow.

RSPB welcomes dog walkers at the Hodbarrow site. We do ask that they consider other visitors and the ecology of the reserve by clearing up any mess and keeping their pets under control.

One day - soon - I promise to blog about real dicky birds, I have the notes in front of me. For now  I’d just like to reflect on how much I enjoy a simple walk around RSPB Hodbarrow to escape the pressure of a busy week. You can really feel the stress melt away. You meet some really great people. All sorts of folk sharing this fantastic place, keen on a chat and a joke.  People with young families, some exercising their much loved pet dogs. Other peeps who are not so mobile on their feet enjoying the new path. A few eccentric souls clutching a carrier bag of other people’s litter. ( Good on you :-)

A young lad enjoys the view from the new path

Back to the weekend. As I arrived  I could see a lady was starting off on her walk from the car park and watched as her dog left a big something behind from his behind. (It was a lurcher I think - I’m not an expert, I can spot a labrador I walk my friend’s labrador sometimes.)

Let’s call the item Richard.

Hodbarrow’s very own Richard the Third in the car park. If you are a history buff, move along nothing to see here, this is about recent history not a medieval English King who gets a bad press..

Richard was hot and freshly squeezed. It had been quite a moving experience for the dog Richard and me. My heart raced. We were under starters orders. Chocs away. The blue touch paper was lit.

What would happen next? Would this dog tale have a happy ending?

Now just like those posh DVD’s where you can change the film ending here are some options.

To make it more interesting I’ve added a rather arbitrary point score:

Option A: 100 Points
She bagged Richard up and put him in the bin a 100 yards away [1]

Option B: 50 Points
She bagged Richard up and left him by her car until the end of the walk

Option C: 3 Points
She lobbed Richard in the nearby bushes

Option D: 2 Points
She scooped him up and threw him in the nearby lagoon - its pretty big after all.

Option E: 1 Point
She pushed him into the nearby short grass with a stick to show willing

Option F: 0 Point
She left poor Richard right where he would get squashed.

Unfortunately she was awarded (in a eurovision accent) ”nil point”

Despite my giving her and the gentleman she was with a heads up on Richard's arrival she explained that they were going to leave it there because it wasn't something she wanted to walk around with on a hot day.

I can’t say I blame her, in this respect we were definitely both on the same page. A big high five to the super people who do walk around with it but the point is this lady didn’t actually need to do that.

That’s why none of the options includes “walking around with it on a hot day”.

So she would leave Richard it in the middle of the car park there where everyone else could admire him.

I do have to admit he was a stunner, in some ways it was a shame to remove him, I even took a photo. Two actually. One of Richard,who by then had a fly on his head as he lay in the bright sunshine a bit dazed like a newborn baby and another one of the lady who got in the way as I took a snap of a what I was sure was broad-billed Sandpiper right behind her. (Two photos for one it was what Tesco call a BOGOF.)

“What if someone doesn’t see it and steps in it?” I ask.

“Tough” came the short, well spoken reply. Loud and clear, good diction.

So folks there you have it.

If you have a close encounter and have to clean up big time before returning to your new beige hall carpet then it is your tough luck.

Actually it is more likely it will be my teenage daughter’s tough luck.

You see she can’t spot it because she can’t see. So she can’t avoid it. She does have a pretty good knack of unwittingly sweeping these stinky obstacles out of the way with her white cane but the success rate is about 50-50.

The vast majority of dog walkers at Hodbarrow are great at clearing up. They will be the ones that are also aware of the health risks and worm their dogs. Toxocariasis an infection caused by roundworm parasites. It can be spread from infected dogs across to anyone but mainly children, via the very thing this lady wanted us all to waltz around.

I believe about 1 in 5 dogs carry it - I’m seeing the VET on Friday I’ll ask.

Unfortunately amongst other vital organs these nasty little blighters quite like eyes. Cloudy or blurred vision can indicate they really like one of yours and have decided to move in and make it home.

An eye examination will confirm an infection. Surgery may be need if there is a retinal detachment. Toxocara damage will be permanent. Life may well get a bit complicated and a lot less 3D.

So long as this lady leaves her pet’s mess where it is really accessible and can be spread about then it is pretty easy for this parasite, or to be more precise its larvae, to get into kids mouths.

Dad gets larvae  on shoe, shoe goes in car, child puts hand on floor, child puts hand in mouth.

Child rides bike along path, tyres pick up larvae, child touches typres, child eats picnic lunch.

You get the picture. They get the parasite.

Now the lady was adamant that it wasn't actually her responsibility to do anything. RSPB should put more red bins in [every 100m perhaps?], the black bin is not for dog mess as goes to landfill [1], etc

One really has to wonder if it would  it make much difference if there were red bins every 10m in this case.

I have to say in one respect I do agree that we can all take some responsibility to minimise the relatively small risk. Not only from dogs, but also wild animals who also carry toxocara. The larvae can hang around in sand and soil for ages.

The advice is for children to use a hand sanitizer or wash their hands before using the picnic bench and be aware of symptoms so appropriate treatment can be administered.


[1] The black bin near the feeding station can accept dog waste. No really folks its official. Honest. In any case the nearest red bin is two minutes walk away.  To get to the car path this lady had to drive past it.

Happy ending by the way. The dog mess fairy had been. Richard is no longer in the car park. Photos are available for those who missed him.

Out of interest I was in South Oxfordshire recently. They take this quite seriously, my daughter really appreciates that.

  • Well done on getting across an important point in an amusing way. I bet the local authority there will also take dog fouling seriously, it should and now it has responsibility for public health it may be more interested in helping with some signs to tell such inconsiderate if articulate ladies like this that they will also be prosecuted.  

    Personally I would have been tempted to put it on her windscreen!