Before I became a mom, I never realized that the spray zone of an adult male dog is the same exact location a toddler strolling down a sidewalk will touch. But now I am all too frighteningly aware. Reader: It’s terrible. When we go outside, my son touches a lot — and I mean, a lot — of dog urine. And I must quelch my horror with a big phony smile while my completely unaware, delighted son practically hugs a fire hydrant.
Let me backtrack: It’s not like he’s splashing around in the stuff. But he does like to explore things while we walk down the sidewalk; things that I know, deep down, Brooklyn dogs spray on an hourly basis. The corner mailbox is a lot of fun to bang on. Touching the lamp post? Hilarious. The tree, which is practically the Grand Central station of dog toilets? A must. Having only been on this planet for 20 months, it’s as though his guiding life force is, “If it’s there, I must touch it.” Which is incredibly similar to the mantra of a male dog — “If it’s there, I must pee on it.”
So if I know it’s revolting, why do I allow it? Because even though I want to dip my son in a vat of sanitizing gel when we get home, it’s important that he not be afraid of things. If I rip his hand away from exploring just because of a few, very filthy and gross germs, what message does that send? He should know the feeling of a cool fence post, of tree bark, of the side of a building. He should know our wonderful world is worth exploring, even if parts of it are covered in excrement.
The other day, a friend and fellow Brooklyn mom posted a photo of her deliriously happy toddler son playing in a pile of leaves with this caption: “Trying not to think just how much dog pee he is sitting in right now.” I laughed but also shuddered. Even I, who lets my son touch urine coated outside surfaces, has yet to set Sam in a pile of leaves. Look: I have a dog. I know the nasty stuff that goes down in piles of leaves. We all have our limits.
Follow Metro’s editor-in-chief, Dorothy Robinson, on Twitter, @dorothyatmetro.