Spring Prelude

by Jason Smith

In the stillness of the morning, the sun glared radiantly over the horizon. Dawn was breaking to the sound of rolling thunder from a timpani drum. The blue sky was crisp with wisps of cirrus clouds dancing across the atmosphere. It was an auspicious morning to the tune of a brass fanfare. Spring is here. To think, just two days ago a winter weather system made its way through our region, blanketing the earth with as much as four inches of snow in some places.

I loaded up the Jeep with my rake, dustpan, and tote of scooping supplies: towels, disinfectant spray, and trash bags. Wearing a winter cap, a neck gaiter, my hoodie, and a leather jacket, I climbed aboard the Poop Mobile and started my day. It was about seven o’clock in the morning on a Saturday and still only 36 degrees Fahrenheit. The weather did not trouble me because in a few hours, I would be scooping in favorable conditions.

Before I could start my day, I had to stop at Wal-Mart to reload the gas card and fill up the Jeep. With this task accomplished, I got on the road to Louisville.

Arriving at my first yard, I was greeted emphatically by Hunter and Nealy. Hunter is a yellow lab and Nealy a black and white boxer. Nealy was exuberant in his greeting, jumping up on me and getting my leather jacket full of muddy paw prints. “Down!” I firmly commanded, and he obeyed. I continued on my quest to find and collect all the dog waste in the yard. This was not an easy task with the position of the sun. It wasn’t very difficult when I was traveling north and west, but when I was walking eastward and southward the suns glare came right into my line of sight. The light was so bright in front of my face that the ground in front of me appeared to be in shadow. This is primarily why I conduct two passes on the yards I clean.

When I was satisfied that the dogs would behave, I paused during my yard pattern and petted Nealy while Hunter stood far off. Nealy stood there soaking up the touch as I stroked and patted his back and then began rubbing his ears and under his chin. “That’s what I wanted this whole time!” He gave me his paw to shake, “Thank you! Thank you!”

Finishing the yard, I drove to my second yard in Louisville. The newspaper was sitting at the end of the driveway. I brought it up to the porch and set it there as a convenience to my customer. After cleaning this yard, the next stop was a yard in Sonora, KY. The temperature was now up to 48 degrees and it was only about ten o’clock. The wind was absent, so I removed my leather jacket, and continued cleaning in my hoodie with my winter gloves, neck gaiter, and winter cap. After finishing this yard, I decided it was time to remove the hat, gloves, and gaiter. However, the sun was brightly shining so I donned my “pooper scooper hat.” It’s sort of a fishing hat. The brim was wide enough to keep the sun off my neck and face.

Finishing my fourth yard in record time, I headed on to a new yard. New yards are special cases, under usual conditions. A new yard requires special attention for a number of reasons. First, when a yard hasn’t been cleaned in a while, it’s not uncommon for there to be a large accumulation of dog waste that needs to be collected. Second, because I have never been to the yard before, I don’t know what to expect. Finally, I have to move slower on the first cleaning in order to be thorough and to ensure that I am collecting all of the waste.

This new yard was not very large. It was situated in a densely populated area, probably on quarter acre lots. It was the front yard only, so it was probably about an eighth of an acre if not less. A yard this size would take about ten minutes to clean on a routine weekly cleaning. However, today, this yard took exactly one hour to clean. I collected five bags of dog waste from this yard. Some of the waste had been sitting in the yard for such a long time, that it had flattened underneath the grass into a grayish dried out flake. Other piles were fresher and other piles had eroded from rain. It’s not uncommon for new yards to feature wide varieties of dog waste. The fact is, dog waste doesn’t just disappear. Dog waste is protein based, and protein is not easily broken down by rain. I had read somewhere that it can take up to one year for rain to eradicate a pile of dog waste. That’s a long time!

There will be many other yards like this one come springtime, which is why we offer spring cleanings. People who don’t want to commit to a long-term contract with us can purchase a spring cleaning. A spring cleaning is a one-time cleaning we offer in the spring. Because it is offered only in the spring, there is a special sales price for these. In fact, we are gearing up for high demand this spring, having already started four new customers in the last three weeks. We have a pre-spring sale going on where customers can save 10% off the price of a spring cleaning.

With the new yard finished, I continued on to finish my route. Before my next stop, I placed a courtesy call to my customer. This is not something I do; however, this customer specifically requested a call before each visit. Therefore, to ensure a positive customer experience, I place a call every week. I like this interaction, too, because it’s not every day that I see or talk to my customers. This adds a dimension to our relationship, an extra touch-point, so that I can listen to and learn from my customers. On this call, he told me that he was on his way home with his family from Louisville. He informed me that his dogs would have access to the yard. I told him not to worry as I had met his dogs before.

Something unexpected happened when I arrived at the house. The security alarm went off. I had pulled into the driveway, prepared my equipment, shut the hatch and a siren began to wail. At first, I wasn’t sure that it was coming from this house, but as I walked around the Jeep, it was evident that the blaring sounds were coming from the house. I thought, Surely the dogs must have set this off.

I walked around back to the gate, went in and I was greeted by three growling and barking dogs. As soon as I was inside the gate with it closed, I called the customer and informed him that the alarm was going off. After that, I turned to the dogs and said, “Alright. Let’s go!” They turned around and walked with me to the other end of the yard. Except for Gobi. Gobi is a Boston terrier and he was still barking and growling up a storm. I spotted a tennis ball on the ground, picked it up and watched as Gobi assumed the ready position. “Throw it,” he beckoned. So I chucked the ball high into the air as it soared above the hillside. Gobi took off after it, while the other two dogs went to the side gate and continued to bark at the new neighbors. Soon, Gobi returned the ball to me and I continued to pick it up and throw it, all the while walking and scooping the yard.

After a little while, Gobi’s breathing became labored. “This is so much fun! Throw it again!” he seemed to be saying to me. I looked at him and said, “Gobi, I think you may want to take it easy. You need to relax a bit and get your heart rate down.” I was concerned for his health because of his short snout. Dogs with short snouts have difficulty oxygenating, and it seemed that the more Gobi chased the ball, the more labored his breathing became. Despondent, he picked up the ball, walked it over to me, and set it at my feet. “Come on! Just one more time! Please!” I ignored his request and continued scooping.

This was an enjoyable activity, though. While I do get to interact with my customers’ companion animals week after week, every pack has its own personality. I really enjoyed my time with Gobi because I don’t have many interactions like this with my other customers. I look forward to seeing him again soon.

After that, I cleaned my last four yards. The temperature was now in the high fifties, but the sky was overcast with stratus clouds. I almost thought it was going to rain. Thankfully, it did not rain and I was able to enjoy the beautiful day. I finished yard number ten at 4:30 p.m. and headed home. It would be several more hours before the sun would set on Radcliff.

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