Maggie Stern went for a treasure hunt of sorts Tuesday, prospecting for nuggets left behind by the town’s dogs during winter.
A walk around Helms Loop Road and the old school corner at Third and Main had netted her a yield of several gallons.
“It bothers me to see dog poop everywhere, and I’m a dog owner, so I’m as much a culprit as anybody,” Stern said.
She used a trowel and an ice-scraper to pluck piles near Main Street, and discovered a new load every few feet. “Dogs really use this area as their toilet, like cats use a litter box. They get used to using certain areas. And probably because people feel no one owns this property, no one’s taking responsibility.”
Stern, who lost her sense of smell due to a head injury more than a year ago, figured she was ideally suited for the volunteer job. “It’s a good penance for me and it allows me to put my super-hero power to work.”
Scooping was teaching her about dog behavior, including the range of items dogs eat, she said. She’s found plastic BBs, sticks, aluminum foil and old condoms. She was also surprised by the apparent durability of her quarry. “I think we all expect rain to carry it away, but it takes a longer time to go away than most people think.”
If areas of town are cleaned of piles, owners may be more willing to clean up the one their dog leaves behind, she said. “It may show a little bit more that people care. One pile of poop does make a difference.”
The Haines Borough erected five pooper-scooper stations in public areas around downtown last summer, including plastic bags and waste baskets. Putting out bags also has been mentioned as a goal for Haines Animal Rescue Kennel, group secretary Renee Hoffman said this week.
“People also need to be willing to use them. That’s the bigger issue,” Hoffman said. “It’s a start. You just hope people will comply with it and appreciate a more sanitary town.”
For dog owners to use the bags, there need to be trash cans nearby, and those need to be bear-proof, she said.
By law, dogs are supposed to be on a leash or under a voice control, Hoffman said. “The more that people see (piles) and step in it themselves while walking their dogs, maybe the more they’ll become proactive,” Hoffman said.
Stern said she was going to collect 10 gallons and call it quits. “I don’t plan to make it my steady, day-off activity… I’ve never been part of the community cleanup, though I always thought about it. Now I definitely feel like I’ve contributed.”