There are roughly 50 million dogs in the United States and at any given time about half of them are in trouble for barking at night, biting kids, chasing cars, digging up lawns, harassing cats or tipping over garbage cans.
Then, there is Brentwood.
What they are in trouble for in Brentwood is, you will forgive the expression, do-doing on the sidewalk.
I received a telephone call the other day from a lady who said she is sick and tired of tip-toeing around the canine fecal matter in the vicinity surrounding Barrington Avenue, and she is going to do something about it.
Exactly what she is going to do was never made clear, although we talked about what she referred to as "filthy animal habits" for about 20 minutes on the phone.
I have never discussed filthy animal habits with anyone in my life for that long, except possibly during my undergraduate days at San Francisco State when scatology and communism were the prime subjects of after-hours debate.
But Brentwood, especially Barrington Avenue, is an area of upper-class homes and apartments, and the idea that its occupants might be at war over doggie-do has obvious appeal.
I don't believe I have ever written a do-do column before. The challenge is irresistible.
The Dog Lady wouldn't give her name because, she said, she lived next door to a psychologist "and you know how they are."
"Well, not exactly," I said. "How are they?"
"Just a minute," she said, "I'll close the window."
She feared reprisal, my caller said, if the neighbors knew she was talking to a journalist.
"I know what you mean," I said. "My wife gets the same threats."
The Brentwood Do-Do War began a few months ago on a quiet cul-de-sac when an unidentified canine of no doubt aristocratic pedigree did no-no on the sidewalk next door to the Dog Lady's home.
No-no, for those into slang, is a colloquial variation of do-do. I point that out only because I am paid handsomely to twist down the semantic streams of modern American journalism and feel you ought to somehow share in the creative largess. Poo-poo is yet another alternative.
Anyhow, someone circled the no-no with chalk and wrote, "The girl up the street let her dog do this."
That's when the do-do, as we used to say in the Marine Corps, hit the fan.
My caller thought that circling dog poo-poo was a tactless and disgusting thing to do, so she shoveled it into a plastic bag.
Then the question arose in her mind: What do I do with the do-do now?
"It wasn't in front of my house," she said. "It was in front of their house. It was their do-do."
Thus reasoning, she put the plastic bag on top of her neighbor's retaining wall for their disposal and let it go at that.
Well, sir, imagine her surprise when the next morning she went out to get her mail and there was the no-no in her mailbox.
"I was shocked!" she said to me, and I had to agree I would be shocked too, since overnight service is virtually non-existent in Los Angeles.
"You'd think a psychologist wouldn't do a thing like that," the Dog Lady said. "My husband and I wrote to her, saying it was a perverse thing to do."
The psychologist didn't reply.
By now the Dog Lady was so incensed that she decided something had to be done, so she telephoned the office of City Councilman Marvin Braude.
No one there knew what she could do, so she telephoned the police.
No one there knew what she could do, so she telephoned the Brentwood Homeowners Assn.
No one there knew what she could do, so she telephoned Santa Monica.
Well, they have an anti do-do law in Santa Monica. Unfortunately, however, even their statute is unenforceable, the Dog Lady was told, unless the offending animal is caught in the act. Not likely.
"I'm beside myself," she said. "I can't walk down the street without encountering dog feces. We're victims of our own success. Poor areas don't have the problem because they can't afford pets."
She was so angry that her final reference was to "doggie do-do-do," adding a third do to the do-do. You have to be really mad to do that.
It was just before she hung up that she vowed to take unspecified action on her own, if necessary, to solve the problem.
Wars precipitated by animal poo-poo can turn mean, I am told, and I hope to God sanity prevails in Brentwood before neighbor turns against neighbor and Lhasa apso against Brittany spaniel.
But, human nature being what it is, I'm not going to hold out high hopes.
It is, after all, a dog-eat-dog world.