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On the rebound, George Cook wants to be Whistler’s pooper scooper

It’s a crappy job, but somebody’s got to do it. George Cook wants to be the guy.

It’s a crappy job, but somebody’s got to do it.

George Cook wants to be the guy.

After losing his job – and the accommodation that came with it – as maintenance man at a condo complex last fall, Cook planned on shovelling snow off walks to pay the bills this winter. But the bare ground and dwindling piles of dirty snow beside the roads are evidence that the snow clearing business has been a bust this year. There was also no interest in a household garbage pickup service he proposed.

So Cook went looking for other work, and came up with something else to shovel: dog poop.

It’s not glamorous, in fact it makes most people chuckle (or gag), but dog feces could become a big problem for Whistler if it isn’t dealt with. The numbers tell the story.

Cook has estimated there are about 2,000 dogs in Whistler. Each dog produces about half a pound of fecal matter a day. That’s 1,000 pounds a day; 365,000 pounds a year.

Bob Vanengelfdorp, animal control officer and Whistler bylaw officer, believes Cook’s numbers are low. He thinks there could be as many as 5,000 dogs in Whistler. If that’s the case, they could be producing more than 900,000 pounds of dog doo a year.

"For people walking by it’s a visual issue," says Vanengelfdorp, who encouraged Cook to get into the business of cleaning up after dogs.

"But as our ad campaign last spring said, it’s what’s inside that counts."

E-coli, salmonella, giardia lambia and roundworm are some of the unpleasant things that can be transferred from feces to humans. Those things can also end up in Whistler’s surface water systems and lakes.

And feces in lakes can lead to increased bacteria, which leads to algae growth. Algae chokes oxygen from the lakes, which defeats Whistler’s efforts to re-establish trout populations in the lakes.

Municipal parks crews clean up the dog poop daily in Whistler’s parks but there’s still lots of doo that is left undone.

"It’s something we can fix," says Vanengelfdorp. "It’s a matter of education. It’s not something people think about."

It’s also a growing area of business. There are more than 400 companies in the U.S. and Canada that remove animal poop. There’s an Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists – aPaws – which lists a directory of professional scoopers and has established a code of conduct for professional animal waste specialists. They even have an annual convention.

Cook sees his market as dog owners and property management firms whose properties are used or owned by dog owners. He is proposing a one-time spring cleaning of yards for about $45, and a once-a-week service for yards that would cost about $58 a month, similar to rates charged in the Lower Mainland.

Cook and his crew would use a spray disinfectant on themselves after cleaning up each yard, so that parvo virus and any other diseases that could be in the feces would not be transferred from one yard to another.

The municipality may consider hiring Cook to clean up trail-heads and other public areas not covered by parks department staff.

For Cook, who used to run a hauling service called George’s War Wagon, the new business is almost prophetic. Some years ago when he was recovering from chemotherapy, out of work and needed to put some bread on the table he told people he’d "shovel shit" for a pay cheque.

He’s now seeking public input on a name for his service. Call George at 604-935-6072 or Paul at 604-905-8406 if you have an idea for a name.

Some of the more colourful names from American professional animal waste service companies include: Doo-ty Calls, Yuckos Pooper Scooper Service, Dr. DooDoo’s, Scoopy Doo, Scoop Masters ("Scooping since 1990"), Entre-Manure, Uh-Oh Patrol, On Doody, Minesweepers, Rover’s Leftovers, Sir Scoop, Hate to Doo and Doody Dude. The last company is, of course, cleaning up after the surfer dogs of southern California.

Unfortunately one of the best names for a Whistler service has already been taken. NIMBY is cleaning up after dogs in Washington state.