Streets of merde

This post was written by admin on January 8, 2009
Posted Under: Daily Paris

It is possible to talk for endless days about the niceties of Paris, but one major problem here are the dog turd infested pavements creating obstacle courses only the observant and agile can navigate. This is not just a Parisian problem, but one that seems to plague France as a whole. The fines are rarely enforced; the French have no incentive to clean up after their dogs and well, here in Paris I think a lot of them are simply too posh to scoop that poop.

Fear not for I shall not subject you to any photographs despite my temptation by a particular gravity defying, vertical construction, rising up like the leaning tower of Pisa on my way to Lidl last weekend.

For the most part the art of safe passage is a subconscious affair. The eyes briefly scan downwards taking in the next six or seven metres of pavement before you (this can vary depending on whether other city dwellers obscure your view), and then you can walk forwards in moderate confidence before the process repeats. Occasionally you’ll see evidence of doggie doo victims: a large skid mark at the source and a pattern of diminishing patches where the victim has tried to remove the obnoxious filth from their shoe.

The problem is really quite severe with some pavements completely littered with the stuff. This becomes an even greater problem for those poor folk with pushchairs, white sticks, wheelchairs, or when dragging a trolley back from the supermarket. In the autumn when the leaves fall from the trees you have to refrain from walking over them or romantically kicking them about for fear of what lies beneath. When it snows and many feet turn the pristine white flakes to a brown slush you never quite know if you’re walking over mucky snow or a snow-merde slush puppie surprise.

You can glower all you like at a French person walking away from the scene of a crime, you might also try to reeducate them in the errors of their ways, but do not expect them to take it with good grace. The brown knolls of foul odour will adorn the streets of Paris for years to come.

Reader Comments

I’ve lived in Paris since May and I’ve yet to have to step over any dog poo – it’s been a pleasant surprise and a nice change after five years in Bretagne!

#1 
Written By ksam on January 8th, 2009 @ 5:45 pm

Hi Ksam, I don’t know which part of Paris you live in, but I think you’re doing exceptionally well, I’m swerving around it on a daily basis.

#2 
Written By admin on January 8th, 2009 @ 7:55 pm

I noticed in Paris that, indeed, the posher the neighborhood, the more dog poop one finds on the ground.
Which is not surprising knowing the Parisian bourgeoisie.

Then, not walking on dog poop is an acquired skill every French person learns through years of practice, as you mention, the trick is to scan a few meters ahead when one walks in the streets.

#3 
Written By David on January 8th, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

Hi David, I think you’re close to the truth. I’m stuck in the bourgeoisie part of the city. Here we have old lady’s in fur coats, upturned noses and little terrier’s treated like royalty. That does account for quite a lot of poop! Now with that said I’ve been to other French city’s like Perpignan and found some areas far worse than Paris.

#4 
Written By admin on January 8th, 2009 @ 8:55 pm

I don’t know, I live in the 5th, which isn’t exactly the ghetto…I walk a lot though, and as I said, rarely see poo! In fact, now that I think about it, I rarely even seen dogs pooping here.

#5 
Written By ksam on January 9th, 2009 @ 7:18 pm

I believe you, but perhaps there are less dog owners in the 5th, or they take their pooches for walks on a different route? If I gave you a guided tour of the 16th you’d see your fair share of the stuff. One of the worst experiences was walking along the street that borders the Seine to catch the tram one day.
As you go towards more central Paris I have seen street cleaning people and machinery which I have never seen in action over here on the west side.

#6 
Written By admin on January 9th, 2009 @ 7:27 pm

Hi Gavin, do you know the book “A year in the merde” by Stephen Clark? He has some interesting anecdotes about french dog poo and daily parisian life. It could cheer you a bit up ! :)
In my arrondissement (13th) dogs are good educated, I don’t see that much of it. On the other hand, in the 17th arrondissement where I work (a lot posher), it’s far more dangerous to stroll around looking at facades and balconies !

#7 
Written By SurfAnna on January 10th, 2009 @ 9:22 pm

Hi SurfAnna, I do know the book and have actually read it – couldn’t say I really warmed to Stephen Clark’s writing and attitudes. I do vaguely recall his piece on dog poo.
Glad to hear you have educated dogs – I think it’s the owner’s who need educating here in the 16th; they seem to have the same mentality as those in the 17th. I was in the 11th yesterday, and whilst I wasn’t consciously looking out for the stuff, now I stop to think about it, I don’t recall seeing any! I think certain districts need dog poo enforcement officers patrolling the streets. :)

#8 
Written By admin on January 11th, 2009 @ 9:27 am

Gavin,

I lived in Paris for one year while studying Aerospace Engineering at L’Ecole Polytechnique Femminine. I am about to head back to Paris for a job with Airbus. I had a great time despite the pros and cons of Parisian life and cannot wait to go back.

I also wanted to apologize for the actions of my partner and hope you will check your email for further explanation.

-Je suis désole monsieur, il faut que vous comprenez ce qui s’est passée. Lisez l’email s’il vous plait.

#9 
Written By Matthew on May 30th, 2009 @ 7:03 am

hmm i have been visiting france off and on for about 3 years, and living here for 1 year, and i have noticed and even more disturbing thing….its not just the dogs poo, its the peoples pee!! Paris smells of pee all summer long, as thought there are no toilets in the city!
but to be fare its not even just paris, its other french cities too, people dont know how to hold it in, and simply drop ther childrens panties in the street and let the pee in full public, even right outside a McDonalds!
What was the expression about pooing on your own doorstep? the french have no idea. xoxo

#10 
Written By laura Moodley on May 25th, 2010 @ 11:24 am

i am living in france for almost 8 years now, and i also have a problem about the people who never pick the pooh of their dogs on the street , it is everywhere in france, i just don’t understand why the goverment don’t make some law about this. i think it is more fun to do the protest about this …. who love to see and step on that thing?

#11 
Written By janice on October 22nd, 2010 @ 4:17 pm

Hi Janice – I think there are laws in theory – I’ve seen signs saying people will be fined if they leave it on the street, but in practice it’s like those who park their cars on zebra crossings, even when it’s brazenly done opposite a police station, nothing is done about it in practice alas.

#12 
Written By admin on October 28th, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

This hasn’t been my experience at all. I had read Clark’s book before coming to Paris, and now I know that although its amusing, its inaccurate. Its now been 6 years that we’re living in the 16th, just off Rue de la Pompe. You can’t get much more Parisian bourgeoisie than here. Lots of dogs (including ours) and while out walking them most owners tote baggies. When I do see poop, its not on the sidewalks, but in the gutters, where some owners direct their dogs when the latter begin turning in circles. Result: you have to be especially careful in exiting from a parked car. But its not bad; the streetcleaners pass daily with green, brushes turning, water shooting, gutter cleaning vehicles.

#13 
Written By billinparis on February 20th, 2011 @ 2:24 am

Hi Bill. I know Rue de la Pompe well, and you’re lucky if you’ve avoided the problem, and have regular cleaners. In my current 3 years of living in Paris, the problem has not diminished, and I’m only three metro stops further south from you. Between bourgeoisie mentalities and the the roads being extremely quiet at night, there’s plenty of inconsiderate dog owners out there, though of course they’re not all bad.
Now that I have a pushchair to take down the streets these days, the issue of mess is even more contentious.

#14 
Written By admin on February 20th, 2011 @ 9:49 am

I don’t wish to contradict your experiences, but I walked down Rue de la Pompe just two days ago on my return from the dentist’s, with pushchair, and there were doggie treats everywhere!

#15 
Written By admin on February 25th, 2011 @ 4:49 pm

CLEAN STREETS OF PARIS: It is possible. A concerted lobby from neighbourhoods, environmentalists, the biodegradable plastic manufacturers, the garbage can makers and others – especially responsible dog owners – to install poo-bag dispensers (free) and garbage cans throughout cities on every block where dogs walk. AND a movement (no pun intended) of dog owners and lovers to set the proper example: BAGGING and DISPOSING immediately after their canine poos. Here – BRITISH COLUMBIA CANADA – it is socially unacceptable to NOT pick up and may be against bylaws in some municipalities. Each responsible dog owner can set a good example for the uneducated dog owners who would walk away. When that does not work – “Excuse me Madam, here is a bag for your dog poo and there is the drop can.” It takes time but it works. Change begins with a desire. Surely Parisienne Society does not want to be seen as “dirty”. Paris is too wonderful to be “SHAT UPON”. For the hands: sanitary wipes are available here at most entrances to grocery stores, public buildings and restaurants. Begin with one neighbourhood…

#16 
Written By Lois on December 26th, 2011 @ 12:39 am

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  1. Random Paris Musings  on August 29th, 2009 @ 9:46 am

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