He goes by the nickname “Wolfdog.” Lives in Alabama’s great outdoors. And he spends most of his time, along with his dog, Bandit, picking trash — copious amounts of trash — out of the waterways.
It’s not a job. He doesn’t get paid. He says he does it out of his love for the planet and its wildlife.
“I’m not asking anybody for anything. I’m not a charity case. I ain’t a bum. I’m not a mooch,” says 55-year-old Cliff Skees. “But I do care about the environment. I care about wildlife. I care about human beings, but human beings, they take one look at me and they say, ‘Well, he’s just a piece of trash, you know.’
“Maybe I am. But then again, maybe I ain’t. I can look myself in the mirror and say I’m trying.”
We’ll go so far — despite the hard times he’s gone through in life — to cast a vote for “ain’t.”
And to point out that, most likely, a lot of those people who see him as “trash” are the same ones who so casually discard it, cluttering the waterways around Mobile, Alabama.
Skees is an unpolished gem, first discovered four years ago by Ben Raines, an environmental reporter for the Mobile Press-Register.
At the time, Skees was living the woods and was commonly seen with Bandit, gathering garbage from the shores from a canoe with these words painted on the side, “Be a critter, please don’t litter.”
Raines wrote a story back then about the man and his mission. He followed along as Skees — and Bandit, too — scooped up trash from the water and returned it to their base, where 140 bags full of garbage, stacked and numbered, sat.
“It was a startling sight, and a testament to just how trashy we Alabamians are, for even with that much trash picked up, so much more remained along the river banks,” Raines wrote.
Recently, Raines ran into him again — and found out that, while Skees’ mission remained the same, his situation has improved somewhat. You can read that second story here.
After the first story appeared, someone donated a pontoon boat to Skees, and he turned it into his base of operations.
Raines happened upon Wolfdog and Bandit again last week at a boat ramp on Chickasabouge Creek.
“They both looked prosperous and had a certain spring in their collective step. I immediately had the feeling some good fortune had come their way,” Raines wrote.
“Mr. Ben!” Wolfdog shouted, “You’ve got to see my rig. Things are different these days.”
Wolfdog then showed off the houseboat he had fashioned from the pontoon boat — one complete with solar panels, an electric motor, and other features that he fashioned out of recycled materials and some “backwoods hillbilly ingenuity.”
“The woodwork is top notch. Glossy marine varnish shines from every surface. There’s a bed, a table, a propane stove and several small windows. The framing for the insulated walls is aluminum, to better resist rotting. Everywhere you look, the craftsmanship is meticulous,” Raines reported.
An anonymous donor gave Skees the old 1979 pontoon boat after the first article appeared, apparently to support his one-man cleanup mission.
While friends donated items to the houseboat project, Skees receives no support for his efforts to keep the waterways clean — except that which Bandit supplies. When they are out in the canoe, Bandit will leap off to collect cups and plastic bottles in his mouth.
Wolfdog says he hopes to set a Guinness World Record for picking up trash, and he still dreams of finding some support from the local environmental groups.
“I can’t get nobody to help me. That’s what breaks my heart the worst. I can’t even get a thank you,” Wolfdog said. “I think they look at me and they see trash…
“I won’t give up. Get discouraged sometimes. But my best work, the best of my work, don’t come nowhere close to what I leave behind … There’s just no comparison. No comparison. Not nowhere close.”
Skees says it was on his first canoe ride that he fell in love with the solace of canoeing.
That trip is also when, seeing trash in the water, cleaning it up began his calling.
“For certain for sure,” he said. “There aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to talk about it.”
If you are interested in helping Wolfdog and Bandit with their mission, contact Raines at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo courtesy of Wolfdog)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 2nd, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: alabama, animals, bandit, ben raines, canoe, clean, cliff skees, dog, dogs, environment, garbage, guardian, homeless, houseboat, litter, mobile, pets, pollution, reporter, rivers, trash, waterways, wildlife, wolfdog
Sometimes, technology is little more than putting a bygone relic to new use.
Witness the Woof Washer 360 — basically a Hula Hoop with holes in it that attaches to your garden hose, allowing you to squirt your dog clean with the kind of coverage Anderson Cooper might envy.
It’s currently being direct-marketed to consumers with the kind of goofy ad direct-marketers are famous for.
“Rover loves to play, but he ends up filthy from the day,” we are told, as if we are second graders who wouldn’t otherwise realize that.
Simply connect the magic wand to a hose, add soap, slip it over your dog and the “sudsy solution” will “scrub” Rover clean — in less than one minute.
The secret, we’re told, is the “360 degree design…Amazing…like a soothing massage for your pet.”
Somehow, we are supposed to conclude that “Rover” will not be as frightened by a giant hoop producing dozens of streams of water as he is by a garden hose.
We are supposed to “Act now!” of course, because this item is “not available in stores.”
And what would any TV/Internet only offer be without the ubiquitous added incentive: “But wait, there’s more” — in this case a bonus “Woof Washer 360 Microfiber Quick Drying Mitt” to dry your dog even faster.
Woof Washer 360 comes in two sizes — small ($19.99) and large ($24.99).
One one level, it makes a weird kind of sense. Then again it looks like the kind of contraption that ends up stashed in the corner of the garage, gathering cobwebs.
But worry not; decades from now, when its unearthed anew, the grandkids can always use it as a Hula Hoop.
Posted by John Woestendiek July 2nd, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: act now, ad, advertisement, animals, bath, bathing, clean, commercial, contraption, device, direct marketing, dog, dogs, garden hose, grooming, hula hoop, not available in stores, pets, technology, wash, woof washer, woof washer 360
Boulder City Councilwoman Mary Young wants to know how feasible it would be to require DNA samples from dogs, and create a registry so that, through DNA analysis, poop left on city trails could be traced to dog owners.
She’s not suggesting every dog in Boulder be tested (yet) — just the estimated 35,000 with so-called “green tags” that allow them to romp off-leash on some of the city’s trails and greenspaces.
Young has asked that the issue be discussed at tonight’s City Council meeting, the Boulder Daily Camera reports. (Yes, it happens to be an April Fools Day meeting, but nobody’s joking here.)
I would hope Boulder looks not just at whether it can be done (it can), but at whether it should be — that city leaders consider, in addition to the price tag of such a venture, the ethics and implications and utter goofiness of it.
There’s a lot of dog-related technology I don’t like (click the banner at the top of this page for one example) and poop-detection technology is near the top of the list.
Not just because of its Orwellian overtones, not just because it’s heavy-handed, dictatorial, silly, creepy, intrusive and expensive. It’s also because technology, unleashed, has a habit of oozing beyond the boundaries of its originally intended purpose — DNA-testing of dog poop being just such a case — and spreading into ever scarier realms.
The day could still come when your tossed cigarette butt, un-recycled soda can or expectorated phlegm could be traced back to you, which, come to think of it, might be a better use of DNA technology than that being offered by the dog poop sleuths.
Declaring war on poop, and bringing out technology’s big guns, is overkill. Especially when the real solution can be achieved by simply bending over and picking up what your dog leaves behind.
In case you haven’t been following our posts on this issue, here’s how it works:
Deciding unscooped dog poop is simply intolerable, homeowners associations, apartment complexes or government entities sign up with a company called PooPrints, which sends them the supplies needed for residents to take swabs from the cheeks of their dogs. Those are sent to Tennessee, and a doggie DNA registry is created.
After that, any pile of poop that is found can be gathered, packaged and sent to a lab in Tennessee, where it can be unpackaged and tested and, by comparing DNA markers, matched to an individual dog, assuming that dog’s DNA is in the registry.
The company lets management know who the poopetrator was, and the owner is fined $100 or so — or, if a repeat offender, perhaps told they and/or their dog should move somewhere else. Thereby a community is made safe from scofflaws, as well as, say, a grandmother whose back might have been hurting too much one day to pick up every last dropping left by her Shih Tzu.
Here in my current home state, North Carolina, apartment complexes in Winston-Salem and Wilmington are among the growing number of property management companies and government entities turning to PooPrints.
Yes, dog poop can be hazardous to our health, and harmful to the environment.
So can the feces of all the non-domesticated animals we live among, but don’t feel compelled to prosecute for pooping.
So, too, can the dumpage of corporate entities, like the thousands of tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River by Duke Energy, coating 70 miles of the river with toxic sludge.
That’s a little harder to pick up after, and, I’d suggest, at least as deserving of society’s consternation and oversight and vigilance as dog poop — even if punishing the culprit won’t make them change their ways. (Big companies, unlike the average dog owner, can hire lawyers to avoid fines, and, if unsuccessful, they just pass the costs along to their customers.)
Finding clean sources of energy — that’s a use of technology I like. Using DNA to solve murders (and clear the wrongly convicted) seems a good use, too.
But gathering, packaging and mailing dog poop so technicians in Tennessee can comb through it and test it, by comparison, seems a silly use of our technological muscles.
In Colorado, Boulder officials say dog waste on public trails is one of the most common complaints the city receives, so it’s not surprising that they’d turn to a company that claims to have the solution.
Eric Mayer, director of business development for BioPet Vet Lab in Knoxville, Tenn., said the company’s PooPrint service is used by private property management companies in 45 states and in Canada. Franchises are popping up all over, like Burger Kings.
So far, the company doesn’t have contracts with any municipalities, but officials have been in talks with a half dozen different local governments. He said he expects to sign the first municipal PooPrints contract with Ipswich, Mass., sometime this year.
Maybe, if poop detection continues to catch on, it would be good for the economy. Maybe, you too could have a fulfilling career as a dog poop laboratory technician.
But there are far better ways to spend our time and money, and far bigger problems more deserving of our rage. Between all the emotion, and all the technology, we seem to forget that we can simply …
Pick it up!
(Top photo, fake poop question mark, from Big Mouth Toys; bottom photo, sludge from the Dan River spill, courtesy of Dan River Basin Association)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 1st, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: amok, animals, apartments, biopet, boulder, clean, coal ash, colorado, communities, dan river, detection, dna, dog, dog owners, dog related technology, dogs, duke energy, dump, dumping, enforcement, ethics, feces, fine, franchises, genetics, identify, laboratory, markers, north carolina, owners, pets, poop, pooprints, questions, registry, responsibility, samples, scoop, shit, spill, swabs, technology, waste, wilmington, winston-salem
When are you responsible for picking up the poop of someone else’s dog?
Apparently, in San Francisco, when it ends up on your roof.
When a building manager complained to the city’s health department that dog feces was piling up on top of the pet-free residential building — and that she suspected it was being left there by a dog from an adjoining pet-friendly building — an inspector came to investigate.
A week later, a “Notice of Violation” letter arrived in the mail — not to the offending dog’s owner, or even to the adjacent bulding, but to the manager who had complained. The notice declared her rooftop a public nuisance and threatened a $163 fine if the waste was not immediately removed.
The tale was told in the Bay Citizen, and reprinted yesterday in The New York Times, by columnist Scott James, who knows the manager, a fellow writer named Diane Archer who also lives in the building.
Before contacting the city, Archer — based on another resident having witnessed a dog crossing over from the roof next door — complained to the neighboring building’s owner. When it continued to be an issue, she went to the police, who sent her to the Department of Public Health.
On Jan. 13, Irene Sanchez, a health department investigator, toured the roof, took notes, and promised action — and, to Archer’s surprise, that action was against her, or at least her pet-free building.
Sanchez, noting she never saw the dog in question, said she had no choice. Even though Archer’s building had been victimized, it was responsible for cleaning up the mess. A health department spokeswoman, said that, unfair as it may seem, “someone has to clean it up” — and whether it’s poop or graffiti, the building owner bears that responsibility in San Francisco.
Scott James, the columnist, said he had no trouble finding the suspect — Jane, a 50-pound, shepherd mix who appaprently was sneaking up to the roof. Jane belongs to the girlfriend of a resident of the adjoining building.
The job of cleaning up after Jane fell to Archer, the original complainant, who scooped each pile up with a plastic sack and disposed of it.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 11th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cities, clean, courtesy, dog, etiquette, feces, health, law, neighbors, pets, pick-up, poop, responsibility, roof, rooftop, san francisco, scoop, waste
Instead of pointing fingers at owners who don’t pick up after their dogs, surreptitiously photographing them, engaging in shouting matches and confrontations, or fining them $1,000 (aka the Baltimore way), Sandra Kaliga and her neighbors decided to go for the funny bone.
She and her friends now regularly hit the streets of Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district — under the auspices of their organization, Shit Happens — to place tiny flags featuring funny quips atop uncollected piles.
“Only humor is effective,” said Kaliga, a dog owner.
Shit Happens has 15 different flag slogans that they hope will alert innocent pedestrians and remind dog owners to clean up after their pets. “Well formed!” reads one. “100 grammes, just €1.99,” says another.
So far reaction in the neighborhood has been positive, according to an article in “The Local,” an English-language news website in Germany.
“Most people find it funny,” Shit Happens member Sabina Ruminski said. “But we also get some dim-witted commentary, which mostly comes from dog owners who feel like they’ve been caught.” Other dog owners rush to clean up poop when they see the group headed their way, members said.
According to the Berlin Animal Protection Agency, the city is home to more than 107,000 pooches, producing an estimated 30 million pounds of poop a year. Some dog owners in Germany, because they are required to pay a “dog tax” each year, reportedly feel that should absolve them of having to clean up after their pets.
Shit Happens members say they sympathize with Berlin dog owners, who are often forced to carry plastic bags of poop for long distances due to a lack of waste receptacles – a problem the group suggests be solved with dog tax money.
In the meantime, Shit Happens is filling tiny flag orders for communities outside Berlin and is creating new “Danke” flags to hand pet owners they spot doing their part to keep the streets clean.
(Photo from Shit Happens … “Haufen,” I think, means pile, but I don’t know what “Herrchen” means. Maybe some our readers in Germany can help us out.)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 29th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, berlin, campaign, citizens, clean, collect, dog, dogs, feces, flags, germany, group, humor, initiative, littering, organization, pets, pile, piles, poop, scoop, shit, shit happens, uncollected, waste
Wait, it’s both — a self-service car wash in Voorhees, N.J., where you can also wash your dog.
The White Horse Road Car Wash and Dog Wash belongs to Al Nicolosi, who purchased a six-bay car wash last April and, looking for a way to increase his profits, turned one bay into a dog wash, according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. He had heard about the idea at a trade show a couple of years ago.
“It was a perfect fit,” said Nicolosi, 37, of Lumberton, an entrepreneur who has been in the car-wash business for more than 15 years. It costs $8 for 10 minutes, and vending machines are available that supply shampoo, grooming aids and treats.
About 40 pooches per week are getting gussied up in the self-enclosed salon that accommodates two dogs, and Nicolosi expects the numbers to grow as warm weather approaches.
The combo is more popular than you might think There are more than 500 car/dog combo washes at about 100,000 total car-wash sites in the country, and a few of them even have a place to do your laundry as well.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 20th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: al nicolosi, animals, car wash, cars, clean, cleaning, combination, combo, dog, dog wash, dogs, grooming, new jersey, pets, voorhees, washing, white horse road car wash and dog wash