Littering almost Killed my dog… again. 

So, there is no shortage of littering in the neighbourhood where I walk my dog, Riker. There are loads of festivals, carnivals, concerts and tourist attractions in the area all year long and while the need to do so is rage inducing, I have become quite adept at playing “dodge-the-death-pile” with Riker.

There have been overflowing garbage cans, garbage cans with holes in them or sometimes just not enough garbage cans for the amount of people (read trash) coming into the area. What ends up on the street and in our path when that happens? Well, next to the seemingly harmless paper wrappers and plastic bottles, there are used food containers (usually with left over, dirty, dangerous food waste) such as,  but by no means limited to: fish, sausage, bread, bubble gum, chips, crisps, chocolate and of course empty or even shattered alcohol bottles, the smell of which attracts dogs who don’t realize that both alcohol and glass can kill them. So we do our best to dodge these disasters.

But there doesn’t have to be an event for regular old ignorance to rear its ugly head and become the unwitting assistant to a swift doggy demise. Tonight’s attempted culprit? An entire bar of chocolate.

We were walking home along the back of the Odyssey Pavillon, when Riker went sniffing through what looked like fallen leaves. I had to bust into a sprint to get to him (he has an 8m long leash to allow for playing) when I saw one of the “leaves” go straight into his mouth. As I caught up to him he seemed super excited and anxious to stop me from wrestling what ever sneaky treat he’d found away from him. He jumped and twisted and even tried snapping at me, but that meant he had to open his mouth and that was just enough for me to get my hand in there – I had to go all the way back to his throat and I pulled out this monstrosity:

Here is the bar next to my hand for reference:

Do you know what chocolate and sugar do to dogs? If so, you’ll understand my horror… if not… let me break it down for you real quick:

“A small amount of chocolate will probably only give your dog an upset stomach with vomiting or diarrhea. With large amounts, theobromine can produce muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding or a heart attack. The onset of theobromine poisoning is usually marked by severe hyperactivity.

In large enough amounts, chocolate and cocoa products can kill your dog. The toxic component of chocolate is theobromine. Humans easily metabolize theobromine, but dogs process it much more slowly, allowing it to build up to toxic levels in their system.”

And sugar:

Xylitol – A sugar alcohol found in gum, candies, baked goods, and other sugar-substituted items, Xylitol, while causing no apparent harm to humans, is extremely toxic to dogs. Even small amounts can cause low blood sugar, seizures, liver failure, even death for your pup.”

So yeah – leaving that lying around is DEADLY!!!

Here’s the deal, if you litter, not only are you an asshole who doesn’t care about societal norms and the environment, but in 99% of cases you are endangering animals, including other people’s pets. End of. No excuses.

Oh, it wasn’t you? You think your kid dropped it? I’m sorry if this is a little blunt for you, but if your offspring is too uncoordinated to eat and walk at the same time (or too little to just not throw junk out of their buggies) they shouldn’t be eating junk while travelling then!!! By all means, give your kids snacks if they’re hungry; apples, bananas, carrots, celery sticks… you get the picture?

If you insist that they DO need to be eating sugary junk while in transit, through shared public spaces, fine, but you better watch them like a hawk and pick up any mess they make. I pick up my dog’s faeces for the greater good of society around me for crying out loud, you can bloody well pick up any garbage your mini human throws around. It’s not just dirty, it’s bloody dangerous and yes I am swearing because I am f*cking livid!! If I hadn’t have wrestled that piece of garbage out of my dogs throat… omg … the possible consequences aren’t even thinkable!! Why did this happen? Because someone was an ignorant asshat!

Just know this: if you litter, you’re an asshole. If you encourage children to litter, you’re an even bigger asshole, nay a cunt even, and if I catch you doing either, I’ll make sure to publicly shame the shit out of you. We clear on that? 😡

Holy crap…

Now, to watch my poor puppers for the next couple hours to make sure he has no side effects from what ever he did manage to swallow. 😢


You may never meet him, but his name is Robert.

Today, I met a man from Ballymena and his name is Robert.

I sat with him today, just for five minutes during my rush from lunch back to the office but I will never forget those five minutes for as long as I live.

You see, Robert told me a little bit about himself today and he struck me as a fascinating man. He spent 22 years in Her Majesty’s Navy, he told me, and then he asked me whether I could guess who his hero is. His hero is Jean D’Arc, the maiden soldier from Orleans. He didn’t tell me why, but he told me that before him and his wife separated, they had gone to Paris together, and at the Notre Dame cathedral he saw her statue, where he said he fell to his knees and wept at her legacy.

He went on to tell me that his favourite ever story is called Ballykissangel, a BBC television series. “You should look it up, if you have time.”, he said, “although I am sure you are very busy and that you won’t have time.” as he kindly patted me on the shoulder. He gave me a brief synopsis and then told me that the show had been filmed in Avoca, County Wicklow, which is a beautiful place. This last part was for my benefit because he knows that I work for Irish Tourism.

As I looked into his ice blue eyes, they were bloodshot around the edges. His clothes were dirty but his hands were clean and strong; firm in their grasp as he shook my hand. They were rough and calloused, yet gentle; like my grandfather’s used to be. The hands of a working-class gentleman.

Conversation about my accent and how I had come to live in Ireland prompted me to tell him that my Mum’s from Coleraine. “Ah, up at the coast.”, he noted, “most beautiful up there.” He mentioned these origins must be why I have such a strong name. Sáoirse. Freedom… He mentioned Avoca again and then finally remarked: “It is good, to be Irish.”

But as he said so, he wiped a tear from his eye and smiled a brave, but sad smile.

What you don’t know is this: Robert is homeless. I met him on the streets of Belfast.

As I saw him, sitting on the cold and damp stone pavement, in the same spot where he always sits, I couldn’t help but think “that can’t be good for your kidneys”; but something tells me that’s the least of his worries.

He went on to tell me then, that he remembered me from the last time I had stopped to chat and give him some money and that he had been to hospital since then. “I’m dying.” He said to me. “My doctor told me that I am going to die. I am going to die because I am on the street and because I drink too much.” and then they had sent him away. When I expressed my pity, he told me “don’t worry about me love, I’m past caring. We all die eventually anyway. The question isn’t whether we die. But whether we lived.”

In that moment I couldn’t blame him for drinking. Wouldn’t you want to forget the cold? The wet? The pain?

I wanted to hug him. Lift him up and take him home. Give him a meal and warm bed. Clean clothes for his back.

But that ruthless clock was ticking and I had to get back to the office. He took my hand once more and told me “Here’s a wee gesture from Ballymena.” He held my hand tight, and touched the back of my hand to his right temple, before kissing it and squeezing my fingers tight. I wanted to cry.

Instead, I kissed his hand in return and told him to keep his chin up. He thanked me for taking time, and for the pound I gave him. He said it meant a lot that I stopped and sat and stayed for a chat and that he was sad that I had to go, because there was so much more he would want to tell me.

I promised that I’d stop again next time I see him. And I will. I hope I can even take him out for lunch.

I stood up and left him there, cold and wet on the streets of Belfast. Here I am on my warm leather couch by the fire. Thinking about him. Thinking about Robert. A man forgotten by his family. Forgotten by his Navy and forgotten by society. A man who, like the rest of us, will die one day. But who will remember how he lived?

I don’t want him to be forgotten. I won’t let him be forgotten. Even if it’s just by telling you about him. You may never meet him but his name is Robert and he’s from Ballymena.


It’s not a very good sketch, but it helps me remember his features.