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Remember, every litter bit hurts

"I don’t want the roadsides and ditches to be used as garbage receptacles, but places where birds can make their nests, foxes, their lairs and toads, foraging grounds for insects."

A golden retriever dog holds a Busch Light beer can in her mouth
Nova, Ann Bailey's golden retriever, finds a lot of trash along the roadsides on her daily walks.
Contributed / Ellen Gregoire
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During a walk with our three dogs on a cold late winter day, I saw Nova, my young golden retriever grab something from alongside the road. I called to her, and when she turned around, I saw she was carrying a long-necked beer bottle.

Now, while it may be amusing to see my dog galloping toward me with a beer bottle firmly grasped in her teeth, it also is dangerous. Nova has a strong mouth with the ability to shave the edges off of toys labeled for “excessive chewers,” and I worried that she might bite the bottle too hard and slash the inside of her mouth.

I grabbed one of the treats I always carry with me in my coat pocket when I take the dogs on walks and held it out to her while I commanded her to “drop it.”

Nova is a typical food-motivated retriever, so she let go of the bottle and sat up on her haunches to get the treat. Anticipating that would be her move, I had my foot ready to step on the bottle neck as soon as she moved toward the treat.

Score one for the human, I thought, as I quickly picked up the bottle and put it in my coat pocket. My second thought was less positive as I silently mumbled to myself about why in the world people use the rural roadsides to dispose of their trash.

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Unfortunately, it's not the first time I’ve asked that question. In fact, on almost every walk with Nova, she finds something. A plastic water bottle here. Vaping devices there. Aluminum beer or pop cans in between.

The amount of trash she finds is likely to grow when the snow that has been covering it melts.

A couple of years ago, my daughter, Ellen, disgusted by the number of items we saw on our daily walks, brought a trash bag with her. By the end of our two-mile round trip walk, she had it full of collected cans, fast food containers, plastic bags and assorted other items that she picked up with her gloved hands.

Anyone who has no problem with taking out their own garbage, knows that there is something about picking up someone else’s trash that is much more distasteful. Not only does it move the dial on my gross meter to”high” to handle something that once was in someone else's hands or mouth, but it also offends me because I care about my natural surroundings.

I grew up on a farm where my parents considered themselves stewards of the land, and I adopted the same attitude. I don’t want the roadsides and ditches to be used as garbage receptacles, but places where birds can make their nests, foxes, their lairs and toads, foraging grounds for insects.

I understand that a bottle or can might get tossed out of a vehicle by someone who does it on the spur of the moment without thinking about the consequences. However, judging by the amount of trash we find along our roadsides, people are consistently tossing it out their windows.

Meanwhile, there is absolutely no excuse for dumping large items, like washing machines in the ditches, as people have done in another nearby ditch. That takes a person with an attitude that rural areas don't matter.

At its core, respecting our environment does not have to be a “left" or a “right” issue. It’s a simple matter of taking care of the natural surroundings that God entrusted to us. Sometimes, as in the case of trash along the roads, we can do that by keeping it in our vehicles until we get somewhere we can deposit it or hauling it to proper disposal sites.

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That way nobody else, including Nova, has to do the dirty work.

Opinion by Ann Bailey
Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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