Doo-doo diligence


March is the month of pooh patrol. Doo-doo duty. Poop scoopin’. Crap collection. Dung drudgery. Shyte shoveling. Manure maintenance. Doo diligence. Call it what you will, it’s the labor of cleaning up all the piles of dog poop that have accumulated over the winter months.

Doo-doo diligence

Winter in the North Country can end suddenly in mid-March. The transition time is often eight to 12 hours.

On March 5 the high temperature for the day was 5 degrees, a 25-mile-per-hour northwest wind was howling, and five inches of snow fell on the farm in winter’s final petulant temper tantrum, her theatrical slamming of the door to announce her departure and her outrage that we had not shown her more courtesy and gratitude during her visit. The bitch.

On March 8 the thermometer on the deck went bipolar, swinging from frozen depression to a euphoric 65 degrees. The wind came around to the south and brought a warm, wet air mass up from the Gulf of Mexico to drench us with a few inches of rain. We can hope that winter is over.

But spring has not truly arrived. We are in the season we call squck, that month to six-weeks period of time when four or five inches of mud lies atop the still-frozen subsoil, turning the farm into a squishy quagmire that makes the sloshing-sucking “squck, squck, squck” sound with every step you take in knee-high rubber boots.

Squck, if not necessarily better than winter, is at least a change to a different and less oppressive environment and therefore welcome. In two days the snow and ice are melted and gone, the dry runs are flowing full, the grass is taking on its first green blush, and the 152 piles of winter dog poop have appeared in the yard.

March is the month of pooh patrol. Doo-doo duty. Poop scoopin’. Crap collection. Dung drudgery. Shyte shoveling. Manure maintenance. Doo diligence. Call it what you will, it’s the labor of cleaning up all the piles of dog poop that have accumulated over the winter months.

Folks who live further south, I imagine, keep pace with the dog pooh clean-up chores through the winter just as we do in the summer. Scooping fresh piles of poop from the yard in warm weather is not a pleasant pastime but certainly much easier and less nausea-inducing than scraping and washing goopy poop off boots – and grandchildren – that have become smeared with the fetid stuff in a moment of inattention to one’s footing around the kennels. There are dog trainers who say, “Eventually, you get used to it.” I for one have not, even after 50 years of close association with dogs and their fecal deposits and defecation peculiarities.

Winter is a season of escape from, or at least delay of, the dog poop scooping duties because in the North Country the pooh piles freeze solid in less than an hour, sometimes less than a minute, and can be regarded with the same disinterest we have for the chunks of frozen mud and gravel brought up by the snow plow and scattered along the borders of the driveway. Come the thaws of March, however, and there is a distinct difference. I do not mind a few mud clods or a spatter of gravel tracked into the clubhouse on canine paws or human boots, but smears of fecal matter are another thing altogether.

A friend, female of course, once said the reek of melting dog turds is no worse than the smell of my cigar stubs lying cold and dead in beer bottles on the clubhouse window sills. She is wrong. The stench of dog poop is much worse. And the cigar stubs stay in the bottles while the reconstituted feces of dogs is a marvel of biological diaspora, migrating here, there and everywhere in an astonishingly short time: the rugs, the sofa, the easy chair, the sides and tops of the storage bins, even the shelf of the gun safe on one memorable occasion. If my reputation as a writer could spread in the same swift, ubiquitous, and revoltingly conspicuous manner of dog poop, I would have long ago achieved the fame I merit. Well, perhaps not the best comparison, but you know what I mean.

So as the temperature topped 60 degrees on this cloudy afternoon I set forth with bucket and spade to go treasure hunting. For the most part it is a simple if foul chore, certainly not as bad as removing the carcass of a raccoon that did not survive the winter and chose to expire in the foundation of the old granary.

We are down to just two dogs, our French spaniels Sasha and Abbey, so the number of piles in the yard is significantly fewer than those years when we had four or five bird dogs. We did have five dogs on the farm during Christmas week when family came to visit, so I had to scout beyond the usual “depositories” in the expectation that visiting canines would not know the standard protocols for evacuation around here. They didn’t. I found several in unexpected locations.

It was also interesting to conjecture how any of the dogs managed to poop in seemingly inaccessible places. I hope no one with a camera-equipped drone was video-recording my antics when I tried to emulate quadruped squatting postures while imaging how Abbey (or Sasha or Gus or Frank or Lizzie or Marva) could have dropped a perfectly symmetrical four-turd masterpiece on the third tier of the firewood stack. Marva has the dexterity to climb up there, but she could not possibly crap that big. So I’m thinking it was Lizzie or Frank.

Two buckets of poop in various stages of decomposition were scooped before this year’s doo-doo diligence was done. If only there were some use for this stuff, like if botanists would discover that heavy applications of dog manure would stimulate the growth of white oaks trees. I dump it into the crumbling concrete foundation of the old chicken house that burned down 30 years ago and will vouch that it is a wonderful medium for growing nettle and burdock. We have not found much market demand for either of those crops.

The garden spade was hanging on the rack, the bucket turned upside down on the garage apron, and my muddy boots tossed in the corner of the workshop when I congratulated myself on a job well done and wondered if it was too early in the afternoon for a celebratory beer. I whistled for the dogs and headed for the house. Wondering why Sasha was slow in coming I walked around to the south yard and there she was, taking a dump by the flower bed.

Crap! Not too early for a beer. Definitely not too early.


More stories about hunting and life in the North Country are published in my three collections of essays, Crazy Old Coot, Old Coots Never Forget, and Coot Stews , and my novel, Hunting Birds. All are available in Kindle and paperback editions at, and in paperback edition at the North Country bookstore Dragonfly Books in Decorah, Iowa, and through IndieBound independent bookstores.


About Jerry Johnson

Curmudgeon. Bird hunter and dog trainer. Retired journalist and college public relations director. Former teacher, coach, mentor. Novelist and short story writer. Husband, father, grandfather.
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1 Response to Doo-doo diligence

  1. Jessie says:

    My dog, you know, the mostly perfect one, likes to make his piles out in the woods and the long grass whenever possible. My husbands dog, the not at all perfect one, likes to go outside the back door. Apparently it was too cold for her to walk away from the door this last winter…

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