By Mike De Felice — Kitsap Daily News
PORT ORCHARD — For dog owners, nothing beats coming home and being greeted at the door by your tail-wagging buddy and being showered with excited smooches. The benefits of having a four-legged companion in the family are many but cleaning up after the pooch is not one of them.
Enter Kitsap Poo Patrol, a business aimed at taking the mess out of pet ownership by sending someone to do the dirty work of cleaning up after your pup does its “business” in the yard.
“I had no idea this was even a service,” said Lexi March, of the Southworth area who with her husband are paw-rents to two sizable German Shepherds: 85-pound Nikki and 130-pound Doug. “Between the two of them, [they leave] Jurassic Park-like levels in our backyard,” she said of the stinky stuff.
“We live in a rural area of Port Orchard. We end up taking our garbage to the dump once a month. So, picking up our own dogs’ poop and having it collect somewhere for a month is just not a workable solution. When we saw this company, we thought, that is the way to go.
“It’s a luxury, I won’t pretend that it’s not. But I feel the job they do — they are out here once a week — is well worth the money,” March said.
Kitsap Poo Patrol has been cleaning up dog poop in yards since August 2020. The company is run by the husband-and-wife team of Miranda and Jon Richter, recent transplants to the area. The idea of stepping into the poo clean-up biz came after the couple sought out a pooper scooper service for their household.
“We have an active lifestyle with two young children, a teenager and two rescue dogs — Copper and Scout. We wanted to spend more time with our family and dogs,” Miranda said. “Cleaning up after our dogs was a chore we wanted off our plate.”
In 2020, the couple moved from Wisconsin to Bremerton for Miranda’s corporate job with a national health insurance company. Back east, the family had employed an animal clean-up service.
When they arrived in the Northwest, Jon had planned to start his own pest extermination business, a field he had been in for 10 years. However, licensing issues for the pest business in the state were complex, so that plan was put on the back burner.
With the couple unable to find a suitable animal clean-up service for themselves and Jon getting restless to get back to work, the idea of starting Kitsap Poo Patrol was born.
Not a lot of forethought went into starting the unique business.
“As odd as it sounds, it was not very well thought out. We didn’t create a business plan and launch it. We started it with a business license, a few basic tools and marketing. Down the road, it became a very serious endeavor,” she said.
The basic tools needed to begin included a reliable vehicle to get to clients’ homes and a few standard yard tools — a shovel, rake, bucket and garbage bags. “And maybe gloves if we are getting into a soupy situation,” Miranda pointed out.
“You don’t have to mortgage the house to start up a business like this.”
Initially, the company served homes in Kitsap County and the cities of Belfair and Allen. When word of the clean-up business spread, the number of clients moved from a trickle to a flood. Today, the company has expanded south to Gig Harbor, Tacoma and Olympia.
Since the company first began shoveling up doggy landmines two years ago, the business has experienced a 300 percent growth, according to Miranda. The business was piling up enough new clients that Miranda was able to quit her corporate job last April and join Jon in patrolling yards.
“I took a leap of faith,” Miranda admits. But the daring move proved to be the right one for her.
“This business fills my emotional needs. It makes me feel good about what I do. I’m involved with local people, local resources, local pets. I love dogs. I’m doing something that I love. I feel very fortunate.”
When the couple had decided to step into the poo collection business, the news was met with some head-scratching by friends.
“Some people’s first reaction is, ‘You are doing what?!’ But I think that mostly comes from, ‘I’ve never heard of that service. I didn’t think that was a thing.’ But, people are genuinely interested. They want to understand what we do, how we go about it. They are genuinely curious,” Miranda explained.
When traversing a yard, Miranda and Jon use some basic strategies to make sure they do not miss any doo-doo.
“I walk every yard in a pattern,” Jon reveals. “It’s real simple. It’s like a coloring book. I do all my edges first and then I fill in the middle,” he chuckled. He walks a lawn the same way someone would when mowing the lawn — he goes down a row then moves over a foot or two and returns the other direction until the entire yard has been covered.
“If I were one of those cat clocks you see in the kitchen with the eyes going back and forth with the tic-tock, that is essentially how I am walking through yards. But, when I see something off to my right or left, I don’t necessarily walk over there and grab it because that is going to throw me off. I take note of it and get it when I walk the next lane,” Jon explained.
There are times when on patrol that they have to contend with an unexpected dilemma that calls for some ingenuity.
Miranda described a recent sticky situation: “I went to a yard and ‘Pretzel’ had a very liquidy accident on the pavement. I thought, “How am I going to get this up?” The yard had a patch of very fine mulch made of woodchips. I went and got some. Without getting too technical and kinda gross, I kind of padded it into the liquid. This gave it some substance and I was able to effectively scrape it all off the pavement and put it into the bucket. These are things we run into.”
Despite the occasional messy challenges, the Richters enjoy the job.
“We get to know our clients’ dogs by name and get to know them by attitude and the things they like. They bring us a lot of pleasure and joy during the day. Jon and I come home and the conversations we have over the dinner table are like, ‘Oh, did you get to see “Popeye,” what color was his sweater? Was he happy to see you?’”
The Richters have been approached to clean up after a variety of animals, including cats, goats and horses but they have turned down the jobs.
“Somebody wanted to hire us for their parents’ property on Bainbridge Island. They had just gotten a new puppy and the Canadian geese poop on their property was completely out of control and the puppy was eating it. There was fear of a health problem,” Miranda said.
The couple turned down the request due to the unpredictability of the job.
“If you tell me you have two dogs and a standard city-size yard, I know exactly what I’m walking into every week. I can anticipate how much time I’m going to spend on your property and how much waste I have to dispose of when I leave. Now, if you have a Canadian geese problem in your yard, there is likely a large ebb and flow to that. I have no idea what I’m walking into.”
Cats are also a no-go with the poo patrollers. “We don’t have the facilities to wash and sanitize cat litter boxes,” Miranda explained.
Kitsap Poo Patrol certainly seems to be a win-win enterprise. It enables dog owners not to have to deal with their pooch’s messes and Miranda and Jon, who always carry treats in their pockets, get to enjoy working around four-legged characters like “Pretzel” and “Popeye.”