Tuesday, September 15, 2009

60,000 pounds a day really stinks. Humor columnist John Kelso takes a look at the city's Scoop the Poop campaign

A pile of dirt and a giant scooper are part of the city's Scoop the Poop campaign. The dirt represents the total amount of droppings in Austin in a day — 60,000 pounds, officials estimate.

ThJohn Kelsoat big pile of dirt on Auditorium Shores? Are you wondering what that's all about?

Well, it's part of a City of Austin campaign to get you to start picking up your dog's droppings.

"This is a pile of dirt," says the educational sign in front of the dirt pile, on the banks of Lady Bird Lake near the western end of Riverside Drive. "Imagine, if one day all the dog poop in the city were put in one big pile. It would be this big. It would weigh 60,000 lbs."

Really? That's the equivalent of a day's worth of Austin dog mess?

Yes, says Kathy Shay, the city's water quality education manager, who helped put together the $75,000 campaign called Scoop the Poop, Austin! It kicked off Thursday morning with a news conference headed by Mayor Lee Leffingwell on Auditorium Shores.

This 60,000-pound figure, Shay said, is based on the estimate of 120,000 dogs in Austin and the average weight of each daily dog bomb weighing a half-pound.

And the pile, she said, is five dump truck loads of dirt. "And they were big dump trucks."

But she said the estimate on the number of dogs in Austin might be a little low. So to be accurate, the pile perhaps should be bigger.

"It has to do with poop, and scooping the poop," said Shay, of the campaign. "We are trying to reduce the water bacteria we have in a few areas that have high enough bacteria to be a health concern. We're trying to keep it a little bit more fun and do our share to keep Austin weird."

How about that pile?

"For our year-old golden retriever, that's probably a week's worth of poop," said Matt Curtis, communications director for Leffingwell. "She's a big dog."

Shay said that the campaign spent $26,000 for a TV spot by a local company called Shiny Objects.

The 10-foot decorative trowel sculpture called the Scooper that stands in front of the dirt pile cost $3,500. It was made by an arts group called Austin Green Art. The dirt cost nearly $450. Signage cost about $400.

Then there was the $350 the city paid to local troubadour Woode Wood to perform a song for the dog poop cleanup campaign.

Wood was at the news conference Thursday singing the song to a group of about 50 people who showed up.

So how's that song go?

"There ain't nothin' like being outdoors," Wood sang.

"On a sweet Austin night,

"with someone on all fours."

After the mayor got up and said a few words, Wood sang the song and got the mayor to sing along with him — sort of.

"I say scoop it, scoop it up, don't be stupid, scoop it up — come on, Lee, sing with me," Wood sang and said.

"Scoop it up," the mayor chimed in with absolutely no musical tone as Wood continued singing. Every so often where it fit, the mayor would interject another timely yet wooden "scoop it up."

"You're doing great," Wood said, apparently exaggerating.

During his brief speech, the mayor pointed out that dog poop can be damaging to the water and "can do a lot more than ruin a new pair of shoes."

But even if this campaign turns out to be a bust, you won't be able to blame the mayor. Instead of a dog, he has a cat.

"I'm kind of off the hook," he said.

John Kelso's column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 445-3606 or

From the Austin American-Statesman

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