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Yard Guards on Doody


Inside scoop on the business of poop

By Sandra Eckstein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 02/03/08

People who pick up dog poop for a living need to have a good sense of humor. A convention of pooper scoopers last weekend confirmed that most of them do.

The first hint is some of the company names: DoodyCalls, LawnDoodles, Yard Guards on Doody and ScooperDude, whose truck says "Business Stinks ... but It's Picking Up"

Companies like these go to homes or businesses, such as apartment complexes and veterinarian offices, on a regular schedule to pick up dog waste from yards. Some also will clean cat boxes. Fees for their service range across the country from about $6 a visit to about $15, members at the convention said.

About 20 of the nearly 200 companies that are a part of APAWS, the Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists, attended the conference, held Jan. 25-26 at a hotel near Hartsfield-Jackson airport. It was a lively group that said it loves the profession.

"I was working at BellSouth and I hated sitting in a cubicle, selling people things they didn't need all day," said Randy Emkey, who started Canine Cleanup with his wife, Melissa, almost three years ago. They service north Atlanta and parts of Cobb, northern Gwinnett and DeKalb counties. "I like being my own boss and I like being outside, even if it does smell sometimes."

The other Georgian attending was Christopher Trauco, 19, who came up with the business plan for his company as a school project when he was 16. His teacher told him she thought it would work, so he launched Scoop D'Poo on the southside of Atlanta. It grew so quickly he decided to do home schooling his last two years of high school to spend more time on his company.

"I really just wanted a job and I didn't like working at Chuck E. Cheese," he said.

To grow his business, he put out fliers at local veterinarians' offices, started a Web site and bought a dog costume off eBay that he'd wear while holding a sign for Scoop D'Poo. He attended the conference, he said, to get more ideas for expanding his business.

The convention had seminars on bill collection, marketing and the screening of a new commercial members can use. And thanks to fund-raising efforts, the group also donated 18 sets of pet oxygen masks, used to revive animals found inside smoky homes, to the Atlanta Fire Department.

"We had some donated before, but with this donation, now every truck in the city will have a set," said Mike Beckman, chief of EMS for the department.

Between the serious business, the conventioneers also had fun. Souvenirs were turd-shaped pens and shovel-shaped pins. The convention T-shirt proclaimed "We Came to Learn, Bond and Scoop Dog Dirt. We left Wiser, Closer & with this 'Crappy' Shirt."

And then there was the grand finale of the event —- the Turd Herding contest. The contest allegedly came about after much debate among members on what is the best method for picking up pet waste. Some swear by the rake and pan, while others prefer a bucket and shovel or a jawslike device. A few, like Trauco, do it the old-fashioned way —- with a gloved hand.

Nearly everyone took part in the contest, which gave them two minutes to pick up as many fake piles of poop as possible. In the end, Trauco, the rookie, nailed a convincing win by snatching 28 piles, beating the second- place finisher with 24 piles.

The prize? A one-year feature ad on, a pooper scooper service directory, and an acrylic award.

Oh, and the title of course. Trauco can now proudly proclaim himself the aPaws 2008 King of Crap.