For Couples and Neighbors, They're Your No. 1 Friend in the No. 2 Business

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By Petula Dvorak
Thursday, September 17, 2009

They swoop in when marriage counselors have failed, when all negotiations have broken down and Congress can't step in to help.

They are the nation's poop scoopers.

Just last week we watched these valiant men and women fan out across the Mall, executing their flawless flick-and-scoop technique to banish the goose droppings and doggie doo that are fouling the nation's front yard. They are the very workers who bring marital harmony and neighborly love, knotted up in biodegradable baggies, to communities across the country.

As more Americans expand their families in four-legged increments -- 40 percent of U.S. households have dogs -- frequent conflicts arise over what gets left behind. One dust-up in Fairfax County reached a fevered pitch online last month when a Cedar Lakes resident issued his ultimatum: "I have had a problem with a dog owner repeatedly allowing their dog to go on my property and sidewalk during the day. . . . I will be obtaining an arrest warrant when I do catch them."

Signs are posted, police are called, and homeowners stalk their grassy yards with flashlights and cameras to catch a wayward Fido in the act. There are DNA testing kits marketed to nab an offending pooch CSI-style (called Pooprints, for those who might need it), and mediators and lawyers who specialize in these fetid fights.

Even the commander-in-chief has to grapple with who does the dirty work. President Obama recently told a reporter that the first lady takes presidential pup Bo for his morning walk on the White House lawn, while he has the night shift.

"I'm picking up poop," the president said.

Mike Rothman can relate.

The Rockville lawyer has a voracious black Lab named Marley that was producing "so much poop, I basically had to put my waders on." His wife wasn't happy. Until he called in the scoopers, neither was his marriage.

"My life is harmonious now," Rothman said.

Perhaps it was inevitable that the annual spring pageant staged by the Bannockburn neighborhood in Montgomery County would include a musical number called "Scoop the Poop," which crescendoed with dancers clanking their pooper-scoopers in unison.

I am a veteran of a dog-inspired dispute in my home. And it was a poop scooper -- a brooding, long-hair guy who looked just like Silent Bob from the movie "Clerks" -- who totally saved my marriage.


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© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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