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.

  • TropicalPopsicle

    2007/12/11 at 9:26 pm

    As I was watching that episode I remember thinking how much Heather would love the piles of poo! Oh yes, and the snotties in the British version were my favorite!

  • themark

    2007/12/11 at 9:34 pm

    british accents… they’ll get you everytime… doesnt matter what they do or look like, you just want them to keep talking

  • Michelle

    2007/12/11 at 9:42 pm

    The biggest problem with guano is the smell. Ride your bike under a bridge on a hot summer day, and risk passing out from the pukey-sweet smell of baking bat poo. It’s BAD.

  • Wacky Mommy

    2007/12/11 at 10:11 pm

    That Leah-Peah is one heckuva good friend.

  • Doctor's Girlfriend

    2007/12/11 at 11:17 pm


    I love both shows dearly and I know exactly what episode of Planet Earth had the bat poo. It was quite an amazing pile…:-P

  • Anonymous

    2007/12/11 at 11:22 pm

    Comments? Open? Waaow.

    They have a new(ish) bat exhibit at the Oakland, California zoo with great big huge bats. For the commenter who wondered whether the bats poop while hanging upside down:

    We watched a bat that was hanging upside down by its feet from a horizontal rope reach up and grab the rope with its front claws, swing its feet and body downward, poop, then swing its feet back up and re-hook them on the rope, and finally release its front claws. All this in one fluid, graceful, practiced motion.

    Just occurred to me that there’d likely be something on YouTube — sure ’nuff. (There’s no pooping in the video, though.)

  • Kimberly

    2007/12/11 at 11:26 pm

    I just had to tell you that Marimo nearly killed me. I cried for 20 minutes straight. Sobbing till my head was pounding and my mascara was well down my face. It was so very touching. Thank you for sharing.

    PS I posted here because comments were not open on Marimo but I wanted to be sure to say thanks.

  • Dorothy Stahlnecker

    2007/12/11 at 11:38 pm

    This was so interesting..good luck reading all our rantings….fun to comment here once in awhile..

    Dorothy from grammology
    call gram

  • Susan

    2007/12/12 at 9:32 am

    Your posts crack me up…and now I wanna go on ebay and try and find a copy of that. And I just love Chuck.

  • Nhiro

    2007/12/11 at 11:41 pm

    I gave my friend Planet Earth as an early bday gift and he now thinks I’m kick ass.

    And I simply don’t think I’ve ever been so tickled by bat poo before.

  • Austin Jen

    2007/12/11 at 11:48 pm

    Come on down to Austin, where we have our very own bat colony living under the Congress Avenue Bridge. The smell is pretty pungent when running on the Town Lake Trail in the summertime, but it’s cool to watch the bats head out to the Hill Country every evening to have some dinner….

  • Chris

    2007/12/11 at 11:59 pm

    I have seen 2 of them I think, but the cave episode was one of them.

    Truly awesome series. I never got to the point of panty-tossing myself, but I could see how it could happen.

  • Karen Sugarpants

    2007/12/12 at 12:47 am

    I got that series for my husband for Christmas! Mike Rowe did a Dirty Jobs episode with Bat Poo and nearly lost his boots – now THAT was funny.
    Kiss and hug Leah for me! xo

  • Miss Manners

    2007/12/12 at 12:50 am

    Dude, Planet Earth is so amazing! Best holiday gift, hands down!

    Oh, and Dooce- I am hysterically excited that your Daily Style photo is of a wine that’s produced in my locale!! Bonny Doon Vineyard’s wines are sooo good! I highly recommend the Pacific Rim Dry Riesling, which also comes in an amazing bottle:

    Yeah, I get overly excited about local wines, but they are seriously the shit. Santa Cruz rules!

  • Undomestic Diva

    2007/12/12 at 1:05 am

    I wish my kid’s poo was as fascinating. Or at least as useful. Hell, I wish my kids were that fascinating.


  • Michellle

    2007/12/12 at 1:17 am

    If you like Planet Earth, you might want to watch David Attenborough’s “Life of Mammals”. I think it is a better series, although I like Planet Earth too.

  • Mark

    2007/12/12 at 1:23 am

    David Attenborough / BBC Version ++

    Torrent it dooce, your panties won’t last 5 minutes.

  • Megan Tidd

    2007/12/12 at 2:14 am

    Planet Earth is the best thing to happen to British television since Little Britain. We’ve seen all the episodes a couple times now (they’ve stopped reruns here, and I miss it), and I think my favourite is the episode where a magical flying machine crashes into Boabab trees.

    Also as enthralling is “Blue Planet” – but I think anything that has David Attenborough’s voice has a certain grativas. Thank GOD he never decided to advertise for toilet rolls.

  • jane

    2007/12/12 at 3:03 am

    yeah i clearly remember that amazing pile of bat poo from when it was shown on TV here in England – that and the slow motion of the shark coming out of the water.
    But David Attenborough is the man.

  • Liz

    2007/12/12 at 5:17 am

    Oh, we haven’t had this series over here yet (Ireland) but I have heard all about it and I am dying to. Not a big fan of cockroaches though.

  • Liz

    2007/12/12 at 5:18 am

    Megan and Jane — what channels was this shown on? I’m assuming the ones we get over here. I’m sad I haven’t seen it. I know you’re definitely not able to buy it in the shops in Ireland but I would love to.

  • Justine

    2007/12/12 at 5:23 am

    Just for Sadie…Penguin poo is also called guano… 🙂

  • MamaBear1001

    2007/12/12 at 5:46 am

    just b/c i’m compulsive…

    scat = any wild animal poo. scat is what one tracks when hunting. watching many wild animal shows through childhood and adulthood (kratz brothers!) teaches us much useful information.

  • Helen

    2007/12/12 at 5:50 am

    You must get it with the David Attenborough soundtrack. He not only did the narration, he made the programmes and is talking about what he knows, not just reading a script. I’ve had a crush on him since I was 9, which is quite a long time ago now.

  • CC

    2007/12/12 at 5:57 am

    I watched almost all of Planet Earth until I got to the caves section. That was last year. My New Years Resolution is to make it through the rest of the hour of watching cockroaches roll bat poo around the cave. Yum.

  • Chessy

    2007/12/12 at 6:04 am

    My husband and I LOVE that show. I try not to watch too closely because, yeah, they let you get attached to fuzzy little animals that are going to be eaten. So. Much. Eating.

    I am going to have to keep an eye out for the bat poo one. We have caught about four, ourselves, but so far, no bat poo.

  • jane

    2007/12/12 at 6:37 am

    Liz – it was on prime time BBC1

  • -=B=-

    2007/12/12 at 7:13 am

    I see where Leta gets her urges to yell POOP all the time. Poop poopy POO BAT POOP, poo is fun(ny).

    That cave episode is my favorite one so far andI think I’ve seen them all.

  • kris

    2007/12/12 at 7:22 am

    here i am with my first cup of coffee for the morning… and i am reading about a mound of bat poop. how clearly vivid.

    i am not sure it’s the coffee or that image that has cleared my thoughts…

    heellllooo morning! 🙂

  • becky

    2007/12/12 at 7:28 am

    I love the Planet Earth specials – I’ve seen them all several times each. The cave episode is one of my favorites! I know exactly what you’re talking about with the guy’s accent… I actually reversed it on the Tivo a couple times to hear him talk some more 🙂 And don’t you think humans would be much better off if our saliva glowed as beautifully as that of those glow worms?

  • Missy

    2007/12/12 at 7:33 am

    Yesterday my 20-month-old son discovered that I think his big sister’s plastic pile of poop is disgusting, so he proceeded to taunt me with it all day long. Less than 2 years old and he already knows poo is HILARIOUS!

  • Holly

    2007/12/12 at 7:37 am

    there’s no such thing as a British accent, it’s an English accent

  • Casey

    2007/12/12 at 7:41 am

    Is it just me or is Cesar Milan really sexy? I can’t lie: I kinda want him to say “tsss” softly in my ear. Mmmm!

  • in like a lion

    2007/12/12 at 7:43 am

    I love how the ad scanner searches your post, finds the word “champagne,” and then tries to sell me champagne while I read a post about bat poo.

  • Kristin

    2007/12/12 at 7:48 am

    I saw an episode of Planet Earth on Sunday night — it was an amazing show. Instead of a pet hippo, you should consider a southern pudu, a deer that stands only 40cm at the shoulder … they showed this place (sorry can’t remember the name. too ethralled with the mini animals) … where all the creatures were miniature. So freakin’ cute.

  • Rich

    2007/12/12 at 7:49 am

    I love Sigourney (ever since Alien actually) and her narration, especially the way she says “water”.

  • wendy myers

    2007/12/12 at 7:57 am

    Try with crackers, very tasty!!!

  • Lia

    2007/12/12 at 7:58 am

    In seventh or eighth grade, we read a book about some sort of explosion. The kids in the book took refuge in a cave where they slipped in the ‘guano fraiche’ and had to eat cave bugs. Our teacher had to explain guano fraiche and the entire class used that expression to various degrees. I bet if would work even now 15 years later, guano fraiche still makes me laugh!

  • natalie

    2007/12/12 at 8:02 am

    Oh man, I cried my eyes out watching the polar bear keep trying to pull herself out on ice that kept cracking underneath her. And the hubby couldn’t stop watching the shark jump out of the water to eat the seal. SUCH an amazing piece of work. Glad you found the most interesting part for the Armstrong household!

  • vanessa

    2007/12/12 at 8:10 am

    Wonder where Leta gets the urge to yell POOP?
    FYI, in (positive) dog training circles The Dog Whisperer is…hated. The man is an ass.
    But Planet Earth is awesome.

  • April

    2007/12/12 at 8:24 am

    chuck is fake

  • daisy

    2007/12/12 at 9:03 am

    Scottish. That’s the accent that gets my panties.
    That’s what we’re talking about here right?

  • ML

    2007/12/12 at 9:12 am

    I’d ebay my British accent for a Scottish one any day!

  • Stephanie

    2007/12/12 at 9:13 am

    My boyfriend has tivoed the Planet Earth series but for some reason I always end up watching The Hills instead.

  • Angela

    2007/12/12 at 9:20 am

    I’d really like to think our poo serves some similarly meaningful purpose.

    Yesterday I wrote about these “self esteem” pills that allegedly make you poo gold. No, I’m not kidding. Voila:

  • William

    2007/12/12 at 9:33 am

    Would that be Stalacshits or StaGaG-mites.


    2007/12/12 at 9:40 am

    Panties at the television? Yeah, Leah can be like that.

  • Alyxherself

    2007/12/12 at 10:11 am

    ooooh! Tiny elves!

  • Heather

    2007/12/12 at 10:14 am

    Accents are damn sexy!

  • Kate

    2007/12/12 at 10:23 am

    Obviously several people have beaten me to the punch on recommending the BBC Attenborough version over the US Sigourney Weaver version, but I’ll say it again just for good measure. If you like nature documentaries, you really should check out some of Attenborough’s other works — The Life of Birds is my favorite. It has some seriously great footage, and Attenborough is so gently and genuinely wacky that he makes it that much more fun to watch.

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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