It seems fair to say that most career choices are made based on several key factors: The job should pay well, it should allow us to apply our skill sets, it should keep us reasonably happy and certainly, last but not least, it should involve putting up with the least amount of ... well, let’s just call it poop. All this being said, most of us would find a job based around pet waste removal to be disproportionally at odds with all of these factors. Not Lawrence resident Dawn Terry, however.
On a recent Monday afternoon, Terry has her eyes focused on the ground as she keeps a steady pace scanning the backyard of Lawrence residents Sarah and Aron Cromwell. The Cromwell’s 1-year-old German shorthaired pointer Dez is there, too, doing feverish laps around Terry only before sprinting excitedly to the far fence and back again. The weather is nice, so Terry is wearing her bright green, short-sleeved work shirt. On the back is the contact info for her business. On the front is an oversized image of the poop emoji, wide-eyed and smiling with the “no” symbol striking through behind it.
What is LOOK?
“Look” is a monthly feature by Journal-World photographer Nick Krug that looks in depth at topics of interest — particularly visual interest — in our community. Email him at email@example.com.
When she decided she wanted a part-time job in addition to working full time for Amarr Garage Doors, Terry, who is 35 and lives in Lawrence, did not seek direction from any career assessment test as to where she should turn. Her only two stipulations were that she work for herself, and two, the job should have a low-cost startup. Couple both of these with a lifelong love for dogs and voila, Terry has her calling, or should we say her Call of Doody, the name she gave to her pet waste removal business.
Since launching Call of Doody this year, Terry has fielded plenty of questions as to why she would choose scooping dog poop from the myriad other part-time jobs that are considerably less messy and involve considerably less poop.
“I will gladly do it,” she says. “It’s not a big deal to me. People are always like, ‘Oh, you scoop poop? Oh that’s gotta be gross,’” laughs Terry, while mimicking questions posed by her friends.
Terry, who performs her job by way of a small rake with a long handle and an accompanying dustbin, went on to explain, “I don’t know if people think that I just use my hands and I’m like throwing it in a bucket or something. I never touch anything.”
All told, she estimates the average amount of time involved in scooping each yard is right around five minutes, with the exception of the first scoop.
“Some people will go a whole year without scooping their yard,” says Terry. “Normally, when it starts getting warmer they notice it. It can take an hour and a half to two hours to scoop, the first initial scoop.”
Naturally, Terry categorizes the scooping portion as the work, and explains that the real enjoyment she gets from the job comes from playing with the dogs when the yard is cleaned up. After enough visits to the homes of her clients, Terry says she has gotten to know her furry little friends that keep her in business and greet her with tails wagging.
On a recent Thursday, Terry greets Lawrence dog owner Christian Sanchez at the front door of his home, but beforehand, his young pit bull and English bull dog mix, Enoch, has already begun clamoring for Terry’s attention with whines and barks as he spots her through the slats of the fence. When Terry comes through the sliding glass door to the backyard, Enoch and Bear, the Sanchez’ beagle and Rottweiler mix begin wrestling for position for which one will get the lions’ share of Terry’s chin scratches and belly rubs.
“Some customers will lock their dogs up, but the majority of them I just tell them, ‘Hey, just leave your dogs out, it's fine,” she says. “I know all their personalities. Most of the (customers) that I scoop for their dogs are pretty energetic. (Dez) is high energy all the time. I’ve asked (owner) Sarah (Cromwell) if he ever sleeps because he seriously bounces off the wall.”
In addition to their levels of excitement, Terry says she’s also become quickly tuned in to the dogs' habits.
“Yeah, I know where they go,” she explains. “I cover the whole yard, but I know where all of it is gonna be.”
Since starting up in January, Terry has 12 regular clients whose yards she visits either once or twice weekly. She hopes to continually increase her client list to the point where Call of Doody eventually becomes her full-time gig.
“That’s my ultimate goal. I’ve got a wide range of customers, from single parents that just can’t keep up with it to older folks that just can’t get up and around like they used to. I market to everyone because, generally, nobody really wants to do it.”
On the personal side of things, Terry says she occasionally seeks additional scooping help from her now fiancee, Katie Wallace. On April 23, Terry got down on one knee and proposed to Wallace at the Mutt Run Off-Leash Dog Park at Clinton Lake, a year to the day after meeting for the first time at the same location. The couple would like to get married this year, but Terry might be the first to acknowledge that the little nuggets she finds aren't exactly made of gold.
“We want a fall, outdoor wedding and she wants it this fall, so I really need a lot of yards,” laughs Terry.