Dogs are smart enough to find bombs and drugs. They're savvy enough to dig avalanche victims out of the snow. They're poised enough to star in movies and TV. They're versatile enough to sit, stay, beg, fetch and roll over.
So why can't they use the toilet?
Look, there was a dog on TV that could add and subtract, which is better than some teenage boys (who also have trouble using the toilet correctly). For all we know dogs could complete the 1040 Long Form and fly a 747.
But they can't use a bathroom? Dogs tend to leave their stinky waste everywhere, not unlike cigarette smokers and their butts, except they're not as disgusting (the dogs, I mean).
All of which means you have to clean it up.
Or you can call Tom Barry. Tom runs a "dog waste removal" service called Dr. Scoopy Poo. If you've got doggy doo in your yard, the doctor will take it off your hands, so to speak (or feet, whatever). He wanders around yards each day like a man on an Easter egg hunt.
Tom is a 38-year-old teacher with a wife and kids. To supplement his income, he started a business to clean up a dog's business (I'm running out of terms for family-appropriate names here). It's not much of a career move for a man with a history degree, but it pays and there's never a shortage of you know what. Also, people aren't exactly stampeding over each other to get into this field.
"No one was doing it here at the time," Tom says of his service. "I've been picking up poop since I was 5 years old growing up in Minnesota. It's no big deal to me."
Apparently it is for many people. After opening his business two years ago, Tom has 95 customers who are willing to pay him for doing the dirty business for them $7 per week for one dog, $10 for two dogs, $13 for three dogs.
Sometimes finding money is a process of elimination.
"It's no big deal to me, even if it's gross, and sometimes it is in this business," he says, as if this will be a surprise to us. "You've got to wonder what people feed their dogs."
He has clients all over the valley. After finishing his teaching duties, he makes his appointed rounds each afternoon and again on Saturdays. He has been retained by some clients to make bi-weekly visits. He bags it and takes it to the, um, dump.
"I wish there was something I could do with it," he says.
Actually, there is. Recently, it was reported that some people are trying to turn dog doo into fuel for stoves, heating and electricity. These people live in and this is a big surprise San Francisco. A company there has found a way to harness the methane gas emitted by decaying dog waste and turn it into energy. Sounds great.
Meanwhile, Tom calls his job a stress reliever. Some people play golf to relieve stress; he picks up dog stuff. He works year round in fair weather and foul, except when it snows, which makes it difficult to find the goods (bad choice of words). Spring is the worst, when the snow melts and he literally finds himself in deep, well, you know.
"My record is eight five-gallon buckets from one yard," he said.
Sometimes there is such a thing as too much information.
Doug Robinson's column runs on Tuesday. Please send e-mail to [email protected].