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I Scoop Dog Poop for a Living

Everyone hates cleaning up poop. So I founded DoodyCalls. The business is now in 23 states.

 |  May 17th 2013  |   2 Contributions


I find there's something elegant about simplicity in a world complicated by bits and bytes. As the founder of DoodyCalls I attest to this firsthand. My company is the nation’s largest provider of pet waste removal services for homeowners and their communities.

DoodyCalls provides a simple service that makes our customers’ lives a little nicer. We help busy pet owners take care of the most unpleasant and time-consuming aspect of pet ownership -- picking up where their furry loved ones “drop off.”

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Jacob and Susan D'Aniello, founders of DoodyCalls.

Here's how it started out: In late 1999, I was a recent college grad. I was commuting home from my new IT job, listening to the radio while sitting in traffic on the notorious Beltway in Washington, D.C. I almost changed the channel when I heard an interview with a man singing praises about his wonderful career picking up dog poop, but then it hit me: This is a great idea.

My future wife, Susan, thought I was crazy, but she soon became a convert. Poop disposal wasn’t rocket science or brain surgery, granted, but the more we looked into it, the more excited we became. The next week, we began placing classified ads.

Our very first job was a housewarming gift for a guy who wanted to buy the service for six months for a friend who really needed it. His dog had left far too many “presents” in the yard for him to get off to a good start in his new home.

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If only dogs would use toilets -- and flush them afterwards. No fouling sign by Shutterstock

When Susan and I arrived, we realized that while we had spent plenty of time researching the industry and planning the business, we hadn't actually thought much about the down-and-dirty art of picking up poop. 

It was a cold winter day and the ground was soaking wet from melting snow. Armed with cardboard boxes and trash bags, we began haphazardly going around the yard and picking up doggie deposits. It took a long time -- a very long time -- and it was far messier than we ever imagined. Susan, who was studying at Johns Hopkins to become a nurse, had a much stronger stomach than I did. She carried us on that first job; I had trouble keeping down lunch.

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DoodyCalls pet waste technician Aaron Sheffield cleans up after Scout.

We quickly realized that not only were we in the poop-scooping business, we were also in the healthy relationship business. Cleaning up after pets is one of those chores that no one wants to do and can lead to friction -- or worse. One of our clients, a columnist for The Washington Post, even wrote about how DoodyCalls saved her marriage.

Soon I was leading a double life, scooping in the mornings before going to my computer job and changing clothes in my car in the parking lot. Then calls started coming in during business hours from people wanting to sign up. Success, I discovered, has its own timeline and does not always follow a steady growth curve. In 2003, I left my job to focus on DoodyCalls full time.

As you can imagine, we’ve seen our fair share of dirty jobs over the years, from houses overrun by cats to backyard compost mounds containing years upon years of collected dog waste. Topping them all is a massive cleanup event in late August, as thousands of prized livestock animals converge on the state fairgrounds for the Minnesota State Fair. 

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Now THAT's a big job: DoodyCalls' Mike Kuehnhajder empties some of the manure from the Minnesota State Fair.

Our franchise partner in the Twin Cities is the official pooper scooper for the fair. From bulls to bunnies, he and his 50-strong team are tasked with cleaning up and disposing of the waste for nearly two weeks straight. Last year, they hauled away two tractor-trailer truckloads of waste.

Never in a million years did I expect to devote my life to dog poop, but that’s exactly what I’ve done. Over the past 13 years, alongside Susan, my amazing wife and business partner, and a dedicated team of entrepreneurs, I have worked tirelessly to pioneer an industry that is now estimated to have an annual market potential of $2.6 billion. Together, we have succeeded in bringing to life a concept that seems so simple that it has somehow evaded entrepreneurs, even in a nation of business empire builders.

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Until dogs learn to use the toilet, I think there'll be a need for DoodyCalls. Chihuahua tangled in toilet paper by Shutterstock

By and large, our customers are busy families and professionals who would rather spend their free time doing the things they enjoy instead of picking up poop. In our experience, 100 percent of dogs poop and exactly zero percent of their owners enjoy picking it up -- so that’s where we come in.

The way it works is really simple. You tell us how often you want us to come -- twice weekly, every other week, or a one-time cleanup. One of our technicians will come to your home, walk your yard, collect what your pup has left behind, then bag and dispose of the waste. You don’t even need to be home when service occurs. Pricing for DoodyCalls services varies depending on the size of your yard and the number of dogs owned, but on average, it’s about the same price as ordering a large pizza.

Beyond scooping for man’s best friend, we have you covered for every animal that walks on four legs or flies. We also clean cat litter boxes and provide services for pot-belly pigs, llamas, goats, chickens, geese, and deer. (Unfortunately, we don’t provide any waste removal services for humans.)

DoodyCalls now has 45 locations in 23 states. I hope it won’t be long now before calling a pet waste removal service will be just as common as having a landscaper or housecleaning service come to your home. As our tagline says: When nature calls, we answer.

We want to hear your poop stories! What's the worst scooping situation you've been in? Let us know in the comments!

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