How Old is that Dog Poop, Anyway??

Choresapalooza Part 1 of 4

In this first of a four-part series, I outline an ingenious solution to dog poop scooping arguments.

Snowy the dog in the grassDog poop. It’s one of the less rewarding aspects of dog ownership. In our house, my two kids take turns scooping. And of course, being siblings, they argue. Or at least, they used to …

Not about whose turn it was that day (we keep track of that with my handy dandy chore charts–more on chore charts coming soon!) No, they used to argue about which piles of poop were OLD, and therefore, their sibling’s responsibility.

When it was 8-year old Etta’s day to scoop, she would march purposefully over to each pile, lips pursed, face screwed up in a fierce, determined scowl as she analyzed the poop with scientific fervor. Then the conversation would go something like this:

Etta:: “This pile of poop is old! You didn’t scoop yesterday!”
Otto: “I did so! That pile is NOT old!”
Etta: “It is so, it’s all dried up! You have to scoop it!”
Otto:: “No I don’t! You’re a LIAR and a CHEATER!”
Etta: “Am not! YOU are!”
Otto: “You’re a big JERK!”
[cue sounds of punching]
Both kids:: “MAMMMMAAAAA!”

These arguments did not end well. Generally raised voices and tears were involved. Even more seriously, threats were made to renege on hard-fought negotiations over who got the TV that day. (TV is serious business in our household.)

I tried to stay out of it. Really, I did. My philosophy is to let ‘em fight it out themselves. (Not that that always goes well.) But when they resorted to name-calling and punching, I figured it was time to step in.

One of these arguments happened while I was home reviewing an article for a colleague. Part of my job as a technical writer is doing peer reviews. It’s called Quality Assurance, QA for short. Yep, nothing like a second set of eyes on a job to make sure it’s being done well … 

… wait a second …  no it couldn’t possibly … but maybe …

“Hey kids, come here!” I called on that fateful day. “We’re going to try something new. It’s Otto’s turn to scoop today, right?” Otto nodded glumly. Etta smirked. “Ok, then, Etta, YOU have an important job too. When Otto is all done, you get to perform quality assurance. That means you need to make sure Otto has scooped ALL the piles.”

“And Otto,” I continued, “when it’s Etta’s turn, you’re on QA duty to make sure she gets it all.”

Amazingly, it worked!

But not without a few bumps along the way …

When I first introduced the concept, my daughter applied her characteristic zeal (and burning desire to irritate her brother) to the job. “Otto!” she would bark, pointing rigidly at the ground, “you missed some!” Otto would grit his teeth and drag the scooper over, only to find Etta pointing at a microscopic fragment of poop (or was that a pebble? hard to tell). More indignation, more yelling.

After a few more days of squabbles over how much QA was actually QOA (Quality Over-Assurance), things settled down. Remarkably well. Actually, a little too well …

“Remember our deal, Etta!” I overheard Otto saying quietly one day as Etta was getting ready to QA. “If it’s smaller than a quarter, it doesn’t count!”

Uh oh, wait a minute … did the little buggers team up against me?

“Kids,” I said, “Great job negotiating a solution to the doggie poo dilemma. I really appreciate how you two worked together to figure this out.”

I paused to let that sink in.

“HOWEVER. Even a quarter-sized piece of poo is a real bummer to step in. So sorry, quarter-sized or dime-sized, you still need to scoop ALL of it.”

Heavy sighs and eye rolling. But they complied.

Remember those arguments over “old” poop? Now instead, the conversation goes something like this:

Otto, on his scooping day, to Etta: “Ok, I’m done scooping. You can QA now.”
Etta, inspecting the yard with eagle eyes: “You missed some. Over here!”
Otto, after scooping the missed pile: “Ok, is that it?”
Etta: “Yep, thumbs up! Let’s go watch Star Butterfly!”

Thanks to my magical QA system, things are a lot more peaceful around here at poop scooping time. Which makes ME feel a lot more peaceful. And that, my friends, is what it’s all about. Peace in my home, peace in my heart.

Now if I can just get them to stop arguing over who has the most imaginary cookies …

Coming next: Choresapalooza Part 2: In search of the elusive, perfect chore chart!

Veronica Beck

Veronica Beck is a technical writer, blogger, and formerly reluctant parent.

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11 months ago

*This* is an amazing and clever solution!

11 months ago

I think the best part is that they encourage each other (Etta saying “Thumbs up” )

Jeanne Waters
11 months ago

Veronica, This story is a riot and a gem!
p.s. I might need some QA in my life from you sometime if you’re up for it)
Thank you for the wonderful story full of great solutions!
♥ ♥ Jeanne

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