The inspiration came in 2000, when Jacob D’Aniello was sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the outskirts of Washington.
He heard a man talking on the radio about his job, which entailed picking up dog waste from neighbors’ yards. D’Aniello was dissatisfied with his work as an information technology consultant and looking for a second job that would bring in some extra cash to pay off student loans.
“I couldn’t believe nobody was doing it in D.C.,” said D’Aniello, 29, from Palmyra, Va. “There are so many households with dogs, and I was sure that none of those households look forward to picking up dog poop on Saturdays.”
At first D’Aniello and his wife-to-be, Susan, a nurse, spent their weekends carting cardboard boxes lined with plastic bags to the nearby suburbs. Within two years, they quit their day jobs and became full-time poop scoopers. In December 2004, their business, DoodyCalls, became the first canine waste removal company to spread across the United States. Franchises, which go for $20,000, have taken root in Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts and Oregon. The company says it serves close to 1,000 households and makes up to $20 for each pick-up job.
Scoopers sport crisp khaki pants and teal polo shirts bearing the DoodyCalls logo of a cheery dog sitting atop the slogan, “When nature calls, we answer.” They drive blue vans with the same emblem. Equipped with garbage bags and long-handled dustpans, they scrupulously clean yards on a weekly, biweekly or monthly schedule. They also disinfect patios, decks, dog runs, kennels and kitty litter boxes.
“I have two grandkids and I don’t like them going out there if there’s stuff they can step on,” said Jacki Pearlman, 58, a real estate settlement processor with two dogs in Gaithersburg, Md. “I used to clean it up myself. But unless you follow the dogs around you have to look for it, so it can be pretty time-consuming.”