The tension was in the air. You could smell it. Or maybe that smell was the 525 pounds of dog doo in the back of a nearby pickup. The heap was worth its weight in dog biscuits Saturday.
A $100 gift certificate to Wag-N-Wash Healthy Pet Center and a year’s supply of biscuits were among the prizes awaiting some of the 40 dog owners who spent the morning trolling Bear Creek Regional Park for dog poop. As the contestants waited — “with bated breath,” one of them said — one question dominated: Who had collected the most poop? Seriously. It was “April Stools Day,” an annual cleanup at the dog loop, a popular pet area at 21st and Rio Grande streets, where dogs roam free and apparently leave quite a mess. Marti Cooksey, it was announced, was the grand-prize winner with a whopping 70 pounds of poop scooped. “We came pretty early, and there was a pretty good supply,” Cooksey said. Dog owners are supposed to clean up after their pets, and plastic bags and trash cans are placed around the park. But from the size of Saturday’s haul, it’s safe to say plenty are ignoring the rules. “A lot of people clean up after their pets, but sometimes you miss some,” said Nancy Hobbs, community outreach coordinator with El Paso County Parks. “Your dog runs off, and you might be talking to someone, and you don’t know if your dog has pooped or not.” The cleanup was formed by the department’s Dog Park Advisory Committee and a group of dog owners called Lovers of Off-leash Parks. The contestants, who had with them a total of 51 dogs, fanned out across the gently sloping park, eyes scanning the brush for the treasures left behind. “You just put a glove on and turn your nose, and you don’t smell it,” explained Margaret Lozar. “If you’re a dog lover, you have to do it at home anyway.” “It’s pretty dried up. It’s usually not so bad,” said Laura McNamara. But, she added, “I’m glad I have a rake. I’m not picking it up with my hands.” The park has become so popular — between the contestants, a pug enthusiasts’ meeting and other park visitors, there were hundreds of canines running around — orga- nizers are planning a new cleanup in October. They’ll call it “Stools and Ghouls” and encourage dog costumes. Seriously. Though there were $500 in prizes, many contestants were doing it for the love of the park. “We care about this place. We don’t want to see the park go away,” dog owner Gerri Anne Reed said, between gloved scoops. The work isn’t without its hazards, because sometimes the feet find the piles before the eyes do. “The nice thing is there are plenty of sticks to clean up your shoes,” Reed said. “It comes with the territory. We step in it in our backyard, too.” Most of the time, they didn’t have to wander too far to find the poop. “You can clean a spot, drop it off and come back and find some more,” said Sherry Daniels. “There is no shortage of stool.” After 2½ hours, the garbage bags of poop were hauled away, the trails were immaculate, and the shoes of El Paso County dog owners were safe once again. But for how long? CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-1605 or firstname.lastname@example.org