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.”

Living the Beach Party Lifestyle in Lome

Beach bars make every day in Africa better

life on Togo's beach
Beach bars are the place to be
time to party
Its beach party time in Togo
When you think of Africa, do you think of picturesque palm-tree lined beaches? If you do not, you should. Though with an African twist.

There are beautiful beaches here, some of the best in the world. But you have to be careful what to expect. Despite the guidebook hype, I learned first-hand that Nungwe ain’t much really. Yet I’ve always loved a Labadi Pleasure Beach Sunday. At the same time, none said much about Togo, but it has a rocking beach.

The entire capitol city of Lomé faces a palm-lined boulevard with a sandy beach and deep blue sea beyond. The sound of traffic is quieted by crashing beach break waves and the thump of reggae from the many beach bars.

And like African everywhere, Togolese do not leave a beach bar to be empty. Every day, no matter the day, a party is happening on the beach. Hey, there is even a beach party early on a Sunday.

I was not one to go against the tide. Upon reaching Togo after a four-hour bus ride from Accra, I joined the Togolese because when in Togo…

Sitting there on the beach, reading Dr. Spock, I enjoyed the breeze, the beer, and a very unusual bottle opener. But that wasn’t all.

I was accosted non-stop by the usual beach vendors, trying to sell me all manner of personal sundries, from the practical sunglasses, to the possible DVDs, to the very random cotton swabs. One vendor I did take notice of is one you only find in Francophone African countries.

Francophone African countries take after French customs, as you would expect, but would you expect to be sold cigarettes, condoms, and porn while relaxing on a beach chair? In the Anglophone countries, all three are rare, but not in the lands of liberté.

Here you can enjoy yourself in many ways. One that I found the most, um, different, was the use of the gorgeous beach just past the beach bars. There, both bar patrons and passing Togolese relieved themselves. Right there. On the beach. Yes, it was down where the waves could wash the feces away, but still. Kinda ruins the desire to go for a post-beer swim.

Like I said, you have to be careful what to expect on an African beach.