Monday, November 8, 2010

Mining for Dog Gold

World War II minesweepers have nothing on me.

For the last four years I have been performing a thankless task at great personal danger. The stakes? A pristine yard free of dog poop. The risks? My shoes. The reward? Being able to recreate in our yard without fear of a horribly gross incident.

If we militarized the family, I would be a full-bird colonel in the Poop Patrol. With two mid-sized dogs, the responsibility of clearing encroaching dog biscuits has been an endless battle. However, with dedication, grit and stoic-heroism, I have elevated the craft of removing dog waste to equal parts art and science.

Our two dogs are named Samson and Shelly. Samson is an eleven-year old German Shepherd mix. Time has been hard on this old man but he is a sweet and kind friend with the sad eyes of Alan Arkin. Bad hips has slowed him down but he still has the spirit of a puppy. Shelly is a nine-year old chocolate lab-mix. She is neurotic, energetic, possessive of food, extremely needy and constantly on the move. Think Lindsey Lohan on the prowl for narcotics. They’re both good dogs. I just never thought they could do as much damage to my yard in the course of a week.

There are a variety of tools you can use to collect your dog gold. Some use a shovel, others a rake and some even cruise the lawn with a bag. For my money, the only tool of the trade needed to successfully clear a large field of dog feces is the MidWest Poop Patrol Pan and Spade set. Built in the USA, it has the handling and control necessary for getting the toughest nugget out of the grass.

It’s not enough to just go wandering around the yard. You have to know your subject. Samson is the more conscientious of the two. He has read his Emily Post and knows it is not just bad form but outright rude to defecate close to the house. He does his business away from the backdoor out by the garden and far corner. Shelly, on the other hand, believes that if you gotta go, you gotta go. She relieves herself everywhere ranging from the yard, the raspberry garden to the decorative rocks. If given the chance, she’d probably do her business in the front seat of my truck.

Because of the magnitude of the work, I prepare myself for Operation Turd-Cutter by dressing for the weather, wearing sturdy shoes and getting my iPod. With my trusty pan and spade set, I set out into the yard with trepidation ready to clear the lawn. I always start near the apricot tree. I like to set-up a beachhead from where to base my attack. After securing the tree area, I set out into the main part of the yard. The dogs have ten areas which they use as bathrooms. I gingerly use the side of the spade to pry the stool from the grass and flip it into the pan. Roaming the yard on the balls of my feet, I sweep side-to-side cleaning up after the dogs always on the look-out for my next prey.

Seek and destroy. After dumping every full pan into the dumpster, I am back in the field collecting more droppings. It’s exhausting work. Between slumping your head down on the ground, carrying a pan filled with Satan’s work and dancing over the copious amount of waste, there’s the overwhelming feeling that it will never end. The yard looks like we have been giving the dogs nothing but bananas, coffee and cigarettes. How can two dogs with the combined weight of 140 lbs crap like John Candy?

Like a soothsayer reading tea leaves, I can interpret the individual collections and know what the dogs were doing. Beyond piecing together when the dogs get into the trash, you can tell where Sam goes by his bad hips, Shelly little deer droppings and the mysterious hybrid-plop of one of the dogs waiting all day to do their business. I don’t know if it is the tedium of the job but after awhile, I convince myself that I am some sort of Indian tracker trying to determine both the how and when of the poop.

If I do poop patrol once a week, I am usually done in about 30 minutes. After bagging up all my booty and putting away the pan and spade, there is a brief moment of satisfaction knowing the yard is presentable for a foreign dignitary. Invariably, as I look out across the lawn with my chest filled with pride, I’ll catch Shelly in the back-corner. At least I know where I have to start next week.

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