Arianne Weiner took her dog Chessler for a walk last Friday up at the end of Old Mammoth Road where the through-access to the Lakes Basin is still closed.
Weiner let Chessler, her 12-year old Cairn Terrier, off-leash during the walk.
By the time the pair returned to the car, Chessler was a mess.
“I thought he’d had a stroke,” said Weiner. “He couldn’t stand. He was vomiting. He had diarrhea.”
Weiner drove Chessler down to the Bishop Veterinary office and saw Dr. Talbot.
Rather than leave Chessler there overnight (“He was snapping, jerking … like he had an uncontrollable tic.”), Ari snuck him into the Best Western so she could keep an eye on him.
According to Weiner, Dr. Talbot told her his suspicion was that Chessler had gotten into some marijuana-laced human feces, and that this wasn’t an isolated case.
As Arianne added, “Even for dogs who don’t normally get into poop, pot-laced poop may have a different smell or attraction.
She’s also concerned about edibles, particularly edibles that might be left in open areas (like in climbing spots), or even trash associated with the edibles, like oils on the wrappers.
“We’re just ignoring it,” she said, the “it” being the increasing number of folks living and/or recreating in the surrounding forest, and the impact that has on the environment.
As Weiner said, the initial worry about dispersed camping was fire. Now there are additional concerns.
“Maybe we should place random port-a-potties in the woods,” added Weiner. “I don’t go to Shady Rest Park because I don’t know what’s dogshit versus human shit anymore.”
At Monday’s Bishop City Council meeting, Mayor Pro-Tem Laura Smith mentioned that “Several people and a local vet hospital have reported that dogs are getting sick from ingesting marijuana in feces.”
Robert Calvert, owner of Ascent Supply Co., a cannabis dispensary located in Mammoth Lakes, thinks there may be a rush to blame cannabis for a whole gamut of possible toxic substances to be found in human waste.
“I’m envisioning guys in lab coats taking samples in the woods and marking locations with GPS coordinates,” he said. “The more we know, the better decisions we can make,” he added. And right now, it’s more speculation [as to what’s in the waste] than anything.
Interestingly, Ascent does sell cannabis products tailored to dogs.
The Dogshit Issue
A more recognizable issue within the community has been the sheer volume of dog waste, especially as the snow has melted.
The Mammoth Lakes Recreation Commission discusssed the problem at its June 4 meeting.
As Parks and Recreation Director Stu Brown state in his staff report, “The prevalence of dogs off-leash at Shady Rest Park and the overwhelming amount of dog waste is not only a major safety concern for staff, but an escalating environmental issue for the community.”
Brown noted that a Dog Waste Task Force led by Trails Coordinator Joel Rathje had literally removed several “buckets” of waste.
And if you don’t believe the health hazard part, Rathje said the reason his team did the cleanup is because the state forbids its prison inmates from cleaning up dog waste because it is considered a “biohazard.”
Brown does not want Mammoth to become another Boulder, Colorado.
He quoted a recent study by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. That organization tracked “canine defecation events” in Boulder’ sopen space and mountain park lands for a little more than a month last summer.
“The area sees over 5.3 million visitors across 45,000 acfres, resulting in 60,000 pounds of dog waste left behind.”
And dog waste is anything but harmless fertilizer.
“Dog waste is full of bacteria and parasites, poisons grass and lawn, transmits human diseases and pollutes waterways.”
Recreation Commissioners Dan O’Connell and Laurel Martin believe that enforcement of the leash law (which can carry a fine of $150) would eliminate a lot of the problem.
Chapter 12.20.340 of the Town’s Municipal Code prohibits dogs on park property unless kept on a leash at all times. Removal of feces is required by the owner/custodian of the animal.
But do you really want your Public Safety officers spending their time on leash citations? And do you really want to send home visitors with a $150 penalty?
Stu Brown suggested signage, public education and a leave no trace/personal responsibility campaign might be a better idea for starters.