Petworth Poop Patrol Featured in Washington Post

Petworth Poop Patrol
A regular poop patrol haul

Picture the loveliest, most inviting thing you can imagine: the cool crispness of a bed made with freshly laundered sheets, the warm peach fuzz on a baby’s head, the clink of ice cubes in a cocktail glass as you watch the sun set over the beach. Sadly, this column will not be about any of those things. No. I’m afraid it’s time to talk about dog poop again.

It is an unpleasant fact of life that dogs turn food into waste. Until someone genetically engineers a dog that can poop out diamonds or iPads or Berkshire Hathaway stock, dealing with doo will be one of the least enjoyable things about dog ownership.

Those of us who own dogs and clean up after them can’t understand people who own dogs and don’t. And if you don’t own a dog and regularly find “presents” in your yard, you get even more irate.

Since I started on the dog poo beat last month, I have heard numerous stories about neighborhoods torn asunder by the issue. Some stories end along the lines of: “And then he threw the poop at me.” I’m sure this only serves to confuse the dogs.

Some Washingtonians take the matter into their own hands in a more productive way. Wayan Vota lives in Petworth. He enjoys walking his dog, Taxi (a “Muttus Americanus,” Wayan said), in Grant Circle. He was alarmed by how much orphan poo they encountered.

“I started picking up other dogs’ poo, too,” Wayan said. “Finally, I got very annoyed, and on a very cold morning last year decided to pick up as much as I could and see how much it weighed.” He told his friends it weighed five to six pounds.

“No one believed me,” Wayan said. And since it was only an estimate, he had no absolute proof. So a month or two later, he went on another poop roundup. This time he videotaped the weigh-in. The bulging Safeway bag weighed a staggering 13 pounds.

“I put the poo on my wife’s scale,” he said. “We had to buy a new scale, but it was worth sacrificing to prove, yes, there were 13 pounds of poo. No one disbelieves me now.” (Wayan posted the video on YouTube. Search “picking up dog poo in Petworth.”)


Horrific, no? And yet Wayan, who is 37 and works in international development, has seen a marked improvement in his neighborhood’s fecal metrics: “I’d like to say there is almost no poo in Grant Circle.”

Wayan thinks the main reason is that, by cleansing the area of poop, he has made it less acceptable for others to poop and run. “If you see a lot of poop, you might think, ‘I can leave mine.’ If you don’t see a lot, you think, ‘I probably shouldn’t do that.’ ”

Wayan thinks it also helped that the Advisory Neighborhood Commission got behind his anti-poop effort. There are now signs in Grant Circle urging owners to clean up after their dogs.

“I’m a firm believer that if you believe in your neighborhood, you can effect change,” Wayan said. “Our neighborhood’s called Petworth. I want it to be worthy of pets.”


How to Get a Free River Birch Tree in Washington DC

My RiverSmart river birch tree
They even water and mulch it!
I’ve always wanted a tree in my back yard. While my neighbourhood, Petworth, has beautiful old trees, all I have is a tree stump in my garden. The previous owners of my house cut down the tree that was in my yard, and now my west-facing back yard gets hot! in the summer.

A tree in my yard would provide shade, visual interest, a place for birds, and be one small contribution to cooling the District of Columbia, replacing its tree cover, and reducing rain runoff. That last reason, runoff, is where the District Department of Environment comes in.

Petworth, like much of old Washington, DC, is on a single sewer line system, which means that when it rains, the rain water goes into the sewer system and overwhelms the Blue Plains water treatment plant. In the past, they just dumped raw sewage into the Potomac. Now the city is trying to stop this practice at its source – the hundreds of thousands of downspouts across DC.

Through the RiverSmart Homes program, the DDOE is installing:

  • Rain barrels to catch roof run off for other purposes (I use mine to water my lawn)
  • Rain gardens to let the earth soak up rainfall (mine will water my tree)
  • Trees to absorb rainfall and reduce heat-island effect
  • Permeable hardscapes to reduce storm drain runoff.

I signed up for three of these, which will work together in a self-watering system that will reduce my roof runoff and power a beautiful back yard. My rain barrel will catch the first 130 gallons of rainfall. After that is full, the rest of my roof runoff will go into the rain garden, which leads to the base of my tree. The tree will be watered by the rain garden – hence the reason I chose a river birch as my tree.

I’ve actually got a Betula Nigra “Dura Heat” river birch from the city, and the process could not have been easier:

  1. I signed up for the RiverSmart program online and then a DDOE staff came out and looked at my yard, approving me for all three things I wanted
  2. Last summer, they installed my rain barrel – connecting it to my downspout and everything
  3. This spring, they planted my tree – even putting on the top coat of mulch.
  4. Next, I’ll get a rain garden – installed by professionals as I watch

Now I do have to be honest – the tree wasn’t exactly free. I paid $50 for the tree, $30 for the rain barrel, and $100 for the rain garden. But compared to the retail price of each ($300 for barrel, $500 for tree, $1,000+ for rain garden), its close enough to free for me.

And for you – if you’re a homeowner in the District of Columbia, sign up for your RiverSmart home today!


Petworth Dog Walk Halloween 2009

A chicken dog?!
2009 marked the second year of the Petworth Dog Walk Halloween – a celebration for dogs and their owners. Domku Restaurant in the Petworth neighborhood hosted pooches from all over Washington DC in a fun and furry competition for the best costumes and tricks that dogs and their owners could perform.

And the best way to really appreciate the tail wagging good time is to watch this video:

A special thanks goes out to Petworth Dogs listserv and Domku Restaurant for their annual support of our Petworth Dog Walk Halloween.


Petworth’s July 4th Fireworks – Does Yours?

Taxi, waiting to pounce
Taxi, moving in for the bite
Washington DC has a peculiar tradition of intense 4th of July fireworks. Now, I’m not talking about the national spectacle that you see on TV. That tourist-only event on the Mall is far removed from our lives in Petworth. I’m talking about the neighbourhood-based fireworks that put the Mall to shame.

From mid-afternoon on July 4th, to well past midnight, the city is besieged by amateur fireworks displays, each block showering the night sky with hundreds, if not thousands of dollars worth of fireworks. And as luck would have it, our neighbourhood congregates at the end of my block for fireworks central.

Every year, the center of the intersection is taken over by the kids all amped up on sugar and excitement, the bottle rockets and roman candles bought over the last month taunting them with anticipation. From this humble launch pad, they illuminate Petworth with all manner of gravity-defying lights and blasts.

But don’t think for a moment I dislike this display. Oh much to the contrary, I look forward to the madness with joy. Yet, even my enthusiasm is nothing compared with Dog Taxi. She goes positively crazy at the sight of fireworks. And not with fear either.

As a child approaches the next star burst tub, Taxi will start to bark, wanting so bad to participate. Then, once lit, she wants to run at the canister. And if I let her charge it after the rocket has launched, she’ll bit the tube, seeking to “get” the fireworks. She’ll do this for firecrackers and sparklers as well. A real fire-eating Taxi Dog. She’s so crazy, I can’t take her off the leash for fear she’d loose a nose trying to eat a jumbo rocket.

And with a show so close and dog so nuts, why would I ever go downtown on the 4th of July. I know Petworth’s fireworks!


Running Past My First Father’s Day

Best Use of A Bike Lane
Today is the first of what I hope to be many happy Father’s Days. And even though she is too young to tell me what she’d do for this special day, I knew what would make both of us happy: a long run through Petworth.

No, Hanalei isn’t running yet – she gets the easy ride in a baby jogger. Better yet, in the car seat, in the baby jogger, protected and after the first few blocks, asleep. Then its up to daddy to keep the speed, so she can have a cool breeze while she sleeps.

Daddy got his own reward, for as he ran around the neighbourhood, everyone called out “Happy Father’s Day” for which he responded “Thanks, its my first!” to hearty congratulations. I so love that my neighbourhood is so friendly.

It also has long straight roads with little traffic, allowing me to run my 7 miles without turning the stroller too often, or worrying about cars. Best of all, a few streets even have bike lanes, for which I usurp for Hanalei and I.

Soon, I hope she’ll be big enough to face forward in the jogger as I run, enjoying the view and talking with daddy.