the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Captured by cameras for the first time

The last time Leah came to visit overnight we forced her to watch three-days worth of “The Dog Whisperer,” and by the time she left she was poking us in the neck with her thumb and forefinger to get us to stop chewing on shoes. We have since seen every episode of “The Dog Whisperer,” twice, and now our new obsession is “Planet Earth,” an 11-part series about our planet, filmed over a 5-year period in 200 different locations. We watched at least 4 of the 11 episodes while she was here, including the one dedicated to life in caves, and let’s just say that any misconceptions we may have had about bat poop HAVE BEEN CLEARED UP.

“Is that what I think it is?” she asked as the camera panned up a 300-ft tall mountain of bat droppings.

“That depends on what you think it is,” I answered.

“I think we’re looking at a heap of bat poo.” And for the next seven hours I had to resist blurting out BAT POO whenever there was a lull in conversation.

Up until that point in my life I hadn’t ever been confronted with the idea that bats excrete anything, let alone the fact that this excrement would perform such a vital function in their habitat. That mound of Very Important Bat Poo provides essential nutrients to millions of cockroaches who in turn serve as food for something else, and so on and so on, and years later you’re sitting there eating a chicken burrito for dinner that was made possible because some bat flying around in a cave in New Mexico decided to use the potty. SCIENCE IS AWESOME.

So we get to the end of the episode where they take a couple of minutes to show how the camera crews infiltrate these areas to get such interesting shots, and there’s this British camera man talking about the suits they all have to wear while filming so that the cockroaches don’t crawl into their pants, and he keeps referring and gesturing to the mountain of poo behind him. Except his accent makes it so that when he says POO, it sounds like he’s talking about some sort of rare, elegant cheese you might serve with expensive champagne, and suddenly Leah’s looking at me, and I’m looking at her, like, I know we’re supposed to be grossed out, but this man could be describing maggot larvae and I’d still want to throw my panties at the television.

  • drawer queen

    2007/12/11 at 3:57 pm

    Bats are very good luck. My crazy neighbor had one that lived on the beam in his bedroom and he collected the poo to fertilize his plants and named it and watched for it to come back each night.

    Okay, maybe only good luck if you are totally insane.

  • V

    2007/12/11 at 4:09 pm

    I just wanted to comment before it closed. I would read every day even if every post was about bat poo. Honest. Merry Christmas.

  • Tess

    2007/12/11 at 4:12 pm

    I saw only one episode – the starving polar bears in the artic. After 10 mins., I was ready to grab some seal meat from Costo, assemble an expedition and save these magnificent creatures. Husband no longer allows me to watch….

  • Rochelle

    2007/12/11 at 4:12 pm

    According to Guano can come from bats or seabirds. Especially seabirds off the coast of Peru. So I guess it wasn’t guano that nailed me while I was sunbathing in Huntington Beach.

  • Bryan Davis

    2007/12/11 at 4:13 pm

    Such is the power of an English accent. There’s a reason we only play the bad guys in Hollywood movies you know!

  • Jess

    2007/12/11 at 4:19 pm

    I tried to watch that series because it looked so beautifully shot… Unfortunately I only made it in 3 episodes before the requisite “adorable-baby-animal-or-old-lonely-defenseless-outcast-animal-meets-its-maker-
    in-an-incredibly-gruesome-and-tortured-way” scenes made me too depressed. They were literally spaced every fifteen minutes–have you noticed that?

    But yeah, guano, pretty cool stuff.

    Did you know the bat on the Bacardi symbol is there because the soil where the sugar cane grows is fertile from bat POO?

  • Catherine

    2007/12/11 at 4:24 pm

    I can’t get the terrifying thought of cockroaches invading the pants of an entire film crew out of my head…

  • mjf

    2007/12/11 at 4:33 pm

    I love that show!
    Thanks for the wonderful blog you provide us
    (people without their own life) with.

  • Tootise

    2007/12/11 at 4:34 pm

    You had me at POO and lost me at COCKROACHES. Now I’m itchy.

  • rebecca

    2007/12/11 at 4:34 pm

    i wonder if bats ever defecate while hanging upside down.. that would be rather troublesome. science is cool!

  • Sarah

    2007/12/11 at 4:38 pm

    So do Friday nights consist of the hubby saying poo repeatedly in a British accent? Hey whatever gets your motor revving. I’m not here to judge.

  • Bente Lilja Bye

    2007/12/11 at 4:38 pm

    I was going to say that Leta will continue to talk about poo for a number of years to come, when I realized that you are talking about your friend Leah and not your 4 year old daughter. Well, judging from the conversation you have with your adult friend, the period where Leta always will feel compelled to let you know exactly what she is going to do, pooing or peeing, will last a lot longer than average with her genes…:-)

    If you’re interested in the planet Earth you can always check out my site for some deep secrets. 😉 I even managed to make a documentary from China and Tibet, too.

    I enjoy very much your sense of humor and Leta is absolutely adorable.

  • Kriss

    2007/12/11 at 4:48 pm

    I think there’s something in your water.

    I just made my Very British Husband say “Bat Poo”, and it did nothin’ for me.

  • John

    2007/12/11 at 4:52 pm

    When you say “bat poo”, you have to sing the theme from the batman and Robin TV show first:
    da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, BAT POO.

    Now wash THAT out of your head 🙂

  • Lullaby

    2007/12/11 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks all…you know what’s going to be running through my head tonight during the “very serious discussion’ with my husband……

    da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, BAT POO.

  • Becki

    2007/12/11 at 4:58 pm

    I, too, was confused over the similarity of Leah’s name to Leta’s. I’ve skipped a few weeks of reading the blog and at first glance I thought maybe you lost custody of Leta in some strange circumstance. I was ready to head up a fundraiser for your legal defense and rally around your cause to get your daughter back. But alas, it was your friend, not your daughter. Whewwww!!!

  • Betty

    2007/12/11 at 5:05 pm

    My 3 year old son is in love with Leta, can they get betrothed soon? He loves watching her video and the one underneath the bat poo entry he watches with rapt attention. His only comment, “She have wipees too!”.

  • mleiv

    2007/12/11 at 5:07 pm

    Meh. Only the Welsh accent does it for me. 😛

    BTW, Drupal *AND* recaptcha? That hubby of yours is DA MAN!

  • DM

    2007/12/11 at 5:11 pm

    I love Planet Earth. We watched the one about the seasonal forests yesterday and I wanted to adopt all of the animals, except for the pine marten with his eating of bird eggs and squirrels (I am quite fond of birds and squirrels). And yes, an English accent is the best. I think Alan Rickman is the sexiest man ever, especially as Snape.

  • Kathy

    2007/12/11 at 5:19 pm

    When I read the words “bat poo” the first thing I thought of was — and I think this is a Discovery Channel (love the Discovery Channel) show — “Dirtiest Jobs,” the vomit island episode. It was lacking a british camera man saying “poo” repeatedly, though.

  • Kate

    2007/12/11 at 5:25 pm

    I’ve been a complete and utter fan of Planet Earth since it aired in the UK with David Attenborough narrating…I think he adds a little something special to the episodes. I think in that cave episode (which is my favourite), there was a short feature on caves which had high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide gas. In those caves, instead of stalagmites and stalagtites, they had ‘snotites’. They’re like stalactites but basically just colonies of bacteria which feed off the gas, dripping from the cave ceilings, that really do look like snot. Except that they drip sulfuric acid strong enough to dissolve clothing.

    I LOVE Planet Earth.

  • Jen

    2007/12/11 at 5:27 pm

    My husband and I refer to “Planet Earth” as Planet Death, since it seems like we are watching way too many cute furry things being chased and eaten on the tube. The images are breathtaking, however, if I sense death is around the corner for poor unsuspecting creature, I must leave the room. The circle of life, although fascinating and a must, can be a bit hard to stomach.

  • Angelique

    2007/12/11 at 5:27 pm

    Great, now I am besieged by the Batman theme. My roomates and I in college used to call each other Derfla, Nibor and Namtab.
    … ya know, backwords.
    Try saying “I’m batman” circa Micheal Keatin in that low voice of his… but saying it as “I’m Namtab”. Seriously.
    As an aside, and while we are on poop, how has potty training been, Dooce. My son is fighting it with every ounce of his being….

  • Beckey

    2007/12/11 at 5:28 pm

    OMG! I hated the caves episode. I fastforwarded 78% of my way through it! Bugs are gross!

  • Clara

    2007/12/11 at 5:31 pm

    I’ve totally got to start watching that show XD

  • Heather

    2007/12/11 at 5:32 pm

    Here in Arizona, we call it Bat Guano – and it can be purchased at landscape nursery’s for use as fertilizer in your garden… You want I should send you a bag??

  • HouseofJules

    2007/12/11 at 5:38 pm

    Try being a 11-yr-old girl scout, amongst many 11-yr-old girl scouts who go exploring in a cave for some badge (probably the badge for BAT POO) and your guide is Australian. Everytime he said, “Stalagtites” or “Stalagmites” we all swooned. That was over 20 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday!

  • Velvet Verbosity

    2007/12/11 at 7:57 pm

    I share your love of the Planet Earth series….AND British accents. No lie, I definitely once went out with a guy for only two reasons. 1.) He had a fab British accent and 2.)he was a Shakespeare actor.

  • Magpie

    2007/12/11 at 5:39 pm

    I know what you mean about the accent. I’m so lucky to be dating an Englishman.

  • Donny Pauling

    2007/12/11 at 5:46 pm

    That series is pretty amazing. I’ve been watching it to. I have not, however, been fortunate enough to view the 300 ft pile of bat guano. I must witness this!

  • Katie

    2007/12/11 at 5:56 pm

    I heard a great story on a Nature Conservancy NPR special that I think may apply to you:
    Sean Cole’s “Nature Junkies.”
    It’s all about people who are obsessed with nature programs.

  • Manda

    2007/12/11 at 6:26 pm

    Growing up, we had a blood plum tree in our yard, conveniently located right next to the car space at the top of the driveway.

    Bats used to come and eat the plums and then poop on the car, so each summer morning mum would be out there with a bucket of hot water scrubbing the bright red blood coloured poop clots off the car.

    The fruit acids in the poop caused the paint to discolour, so after living there for a decade, the old blue car look like it had been tie dyed – with uneven faded purpleish spots all over it, and chip marks in the paint from prying off plum seeds.

  • Gigi Griffis

    2007/12/11 at 6:27 pm

    Gotta love those accents. I had a British man lecture me a couple times when I used to work for a British company. I had to try really hard not to smile throughout the entire lecture.

  • John Dickerson

    2007/12/11 at 6:39 pm

    I hate to think what this information might do to you, particularly if announced by an Australian but it is also a natural fact that bat guano is used for nest making by the Peruvian Booby.

  • Lene

    2007/12/11 at 6:52 pm

    I’ve always been fascinated by BAT POO (sorry, the capitals just slipped out). Well, bats in general, but once I found out about the guano, it all became much more enthralling. I hear it’s one of the most awful smells in the world, right up there with that tropical fruit thingy.

    I have the Planet Earth series and am saving it for the holidays. And now I’m even more excited because of the promise of sexy British cameramen. There may be a panty-throwing incident or two because dear lord, that’s a seriously sexy accent.

  • braine

    2007/12/11 at 7:00 pm

    I used be to totally gaga for bat pooh my own self, until a few weeks ago when I dislodged a chunk of it from the insulation in the crawlspace under — oh yes, UNDER — my living room. Not so excited about it, now.

  • Joy

    2007/12/11 at 7:03 pm

    Damn those english men, if only they had better teeth…

  • Charlotte

    2007/12/11 at 7:11 pm

    For Sadie:

    Scat = Bear Poop

    Its the only other poo I know that gets its own special name.

    Just thought I’d share.

  • Deva

    2007/12/11 at 7:27 pm

    LOL, I loved watching Blue Planet almost as much as Planet Earth. I should have been a biology major and studied the aminals and all their poop.


    2007/12/11 at 7:30 pm

    While I was working in Canada there was a guy from the UK there.

    I wanted to stuff him in my suitcase and take him home. I really like UK accents.

  • laura

    2007/12/11 at 7:30 pm

    But maggots ARE larva!

  • val cox

    2007/12/11 at 7:48 pm

    I love it, you have a great way of making even the mundane topics of day to day life so darn interesting!

  • Anonymous

    2007/12/11 at 8:02 pm

    I love Planet Earth so much that when we bought a new high def DVD player this summer I made my husband buy it on high def DVD despite the fact that we already had it on regular DVD.

    The caves episode was my favorite and yes, when we watched it we were all amazed at the pile of bat poo in that cave. It was deranged amount of poo.

  • pogonip

    2007/12/11 at 8:17 pm

    We tune in Dog Whisperer every Friday night so our puppy can watch. She, like Chuck, is so well-trained that she watches the “bad dogs” with interest and disapproval. So far Kharma isn’t interested that much in Planet Earth. Perhaps her tastes will evolve as she grows up and learns to appreciate the British accent as much as I do.

  • Karen

    2007/12/11 at 8:19 pm

    I have to comment just because comments are actually still open. I really enjoy your blog and your take on life. Thanks for all the fun stories. I especially enjoy your takes on Utah/SLC because it’s my home too.

  • ALF

    2007/12/11 at 8:24 pm

    It’s so great that your new design allows for comments more often. I never have anything witty to add but just wanted to say that I love reading what you write.

  • Kara

    2007/12/11 at 8:27 pm

    But seriously, how many times an episode do you just want to die when suddenly the music goes minor and one more adorable animal with big eyes and baby fuzz, the one we’ve been admiring for the past five minutes- Look! Look at it yawn!- GETS EATEN ALIVE.

    Oh Planet Earth you drag me through the trenches.

  • Patti

    2007/12/11 at 8:39 pm

    Heather-thank you and your family for my daily laugh-i absolutely LOVE your blog! keep it up! oh, and give Chuck a hug for me!! noodlehead!

  • jo-anne in vancouver

    2007/12/11 at 8:47 pm

    Not too long ago I had an amazing British lover. Because of her accent, she could recite a bloody bus schedule and make we want to drag her to bed!

  • Cissy Harklerode

    2007/12/11 at 9:06 pm

    YAY for comments! i haven’t seen the cave episode, but now i’ll definately have to!

    GUANO! Bat poo! Bat POO!


    Much love to you and yours!

    Merry Christmas!

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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