The following post was contributed by Shanil Samarakoon.
It includes some truly amazing work. Most importantly it serves as an inspiration and reminder for the rest of us with regard to our public land which, in many cases, is where we enjoy walks with our furry friends.
A by-product of this journey? Giving his Lappie, Zoe, an opportunity to put her scent work skills to use!
Have a read and be sure to watch the video produced by Shanil.
Greetings fellow Lappie custodians!
Zoe (pictured) entered our lives in September 2017 and we adore every day that we get to spend with her. In fact, beyond the abundance of joy and affection that she brings into our lives (which cannot be overstated), she has spurred us to play a more active role in our community!
How, you ask? Well, it all started with our morning walks. We live in Wentworth Point in New South Wales and are blessed in that we have a beautiful stretch of protected bushland and mangroves along the Parramatta River. It’s during our daily walks that we started to be confronted by the extent of littering in our area. As you’ll notice in the video below, this is waste that has accumulated over a long period of time. That’s not to say that there aren’t thoughtless individuals who don’t add to this pile up on a daily basis.
After weeks of being frustrated observers, picking the odd piece here and there, we decided to roll up our sleeves (literally) and tackle the challenge head on. Our reasoning was simple, “If not us, then who?”.
Our daily walks present us with an opportunity to consistently chip away at the waste that has accumulated alongside our paths, bushlands and mangroves.
With reusable bags and a picker in tow, our walks with Zoe have yielded some impressive results and have even inspired a few of our community members to take notice.
In addition to being extraordinarily patient, Zoe has also cottoned on to who the usual suspects are…. plastic bags, coffee cups, beer bottles, cigarette packs. She is getting better at sniffing them out!
Furthermore, as all of us know, a Lappie does not go unnoticed! I have lost track of the amount of times that Zoe has drawn someone’s attention and effectively set up a conversation about our efforts to tackle littering in our area. She’s the face of our little operation, that’s for sure.
To be clear, my intention in writing this post isn’t to be self-congratulatory. This is a small act. We are also acutely aware of how complex the issue of waste is in Australia. Our ‘throw away’ consumer culture is a wicked problem that needs a whole suite of bold large-scale solutions. While the recent ban on single-use plastics in major supermarkets is a great start, there’s still so much that needs to be done to reduce wasteful packaging and manage waste appropriately.
All this being said, I do feel that our Lappies (and dogs more generally) can spur us to make a difference! Picking up litter is not just a matter of beautification, it is a matter of protecting other living beings and ecosystems from the impacts of our waste (plastic in particular).
Our walks are opportunities for us to be more mindful and caring of the spaces that we enjoy together. I am conscious of the fact that some of you might have been doing this for years. My hope is that we can inspire more to do so.
I’m not denying that it can be frustrating to pick up after others! Though, in my experience, this frustration has eased into a sense of responsibility.
These morning walks with Zoe have, in addition to being good for our mental and physical wellbeing, given us an opportunity to be of service to our local community. My main motivation in sharing our story is that it might encourage you to consider if there are such opportunities in your day-to-day lives with your Lappies.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.