Georgia Garden Girl

Garden Great in Zone 8!

The Scoop: How (Not) to Dispose of Your Dog’s Waste

on January 27, 2013

This week’s article was going to be about proper pruning techniques.  But when I went to Target after church today, my conversation with the friendly cashier led me to the exciting topic of dog waste.  We have at least three weeks before we need to start pruning here in Middle Georgia, so pruning can wait.  Just don’t prune anything now (unless you’re cutting out some dead wood.  That’s fine).

So there I was at Target.  I only had two items, so I told the friendly cashier that I did not need a bag.  The cashier seemed concerned.  Cashier: “Are you sure?”  Me: “Yes.” Cashier: “Really?  You can use them again.  I use the bags for my dog.”  Okay.  So far, this makes sense.  I told the cashier that I like to use the biodegradable pick-up bags because they’re biodegradable and usually hole-free.  He replied, “Oh.  I use puppy pads for my dog.  I just trained him to go on the puppy pads.  Then I put the whole thing in the bag.  It’s a lot less work.”  Hmmm.  A lot less work than taking the dog outside to do his business?  “Yes!  The puppy pads aren’t just for one-time use.  I only have to clean it up once in a while, and I don’t have to walk my dog all the time.”  Um, GROSS.  I could see that it would be futile to attempt further discussion, so I said thank you, took my receipt and my two items, and left.  I figure it’s his journey if he wants to have a bored dog and a mess in his house.  But I don’t, and I’ve spent a good bit of time trying to figure out the best way to dispose of dog waste, and today I’ll share that saga with you.

A year after I bought my house, I got my very first puppy, Clementine.  She was the runt of the litter.  A tiny, sweet, precious little thing.  Well, relatively tiny.  Tiny for a Great Dane puppy.

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Clementine at 6 weeks.

As Clementine grew, so did her poop.  So what was I supposed to do with it?

CLC - YOTM 201106_2

Clementine all grown up.

Initially, I tried picking up the poop with a pooper scooper and flushing it down the toilet.  This was not an easy task, and there were a lot of potential pitfalls that made the job hazardous and unsanitary, so that idea was short-lived.  I realized that it would be a bad idea to leave Clementine’s land mines all over the yard, so I decided to do some research.  Could I use it in the garden?  Quick answer: heck, no.

The basics.  You should remove pet waste from your yard (well, from anywhere your dog poops) because it contains bacteria that can contaminate your local waterways and cause diseases in humans.  See, e.g., http://gardening.wsu.edu/stewardship/compost/petpoop.htm.  Nonetheless, I have read some internet articles that advocate composting pet waste.  Some articles say that doggie compost can even be used in a vegetable garden, but other articles suggest that it should not be used on vegetables because the compost does not heat up enough to kill pathogens like E. coli.  What do my trusted experts say?  The UGA extension service says, “Do not use human or pet feces [in your compost pile] because they may transmit diseases.”  Clemson’s extension service and Walter Reeves agree, and they are unequivocal about it: do not put pet waste in your compost bin if you will be using that compost in your garden or landscape.  So that’s it.  No Clementine waste in the compost bin.

In my research, I came across the Doggie Dooley Pet Waste Disposal System.  It’s basically a mini septic tank for your dog’s waste.  The instructions sounded pretty easy: “Just dig a hole, drop in the Doggie Dooley, add water and the Waste Terminator Digester Powder, and your system is ready to go.”  It even has a foot-operated lid opener.  Sweet!  I was convinced.  I ordered the larger steel “silver” model that is intended for two large or four small dogs (I figured that if the XL dog clothes at the pet store are for dogs under 70 pounds, my 130-pound dainty princess would be considered giant—therefore two large dogs).

When the Doggie Dooley arrived, I learned that the instruction “just” to dig a hole was a tad deceiving.  Really, you need to dig a hole that is 14 inches wide and four feet deep.  The instructions suggested that if it is not possible for you to use a post hole digger, you should use a “garden spade.”  I did not have a suitable garden spade for such a project, so I went and purchased a post hole digger (what a fabulous tool!  I now use it all the time.).  It took some effort, but I dug my 14 inch by four foot hole and dropped in the Doggie Dooley so that only the shoulder flange and the lid were above ground.  So far, so good.  I followed the remaining start-up instructions and then began depositing Clementine’s nuggets in the Doggie Dooley.

The Doggie Dooley itself is 16 inches tall – it has a tank that holds the dog waste, and the manufacturer claims that the system breaks down that waste with the enzymes and bacteria in the “Waste Terminator Digester Powder.”  When you add water, the treated liquid goes through the built-in overflow tube and into the hole below the unit, where it will seep into the ground.  One caveat: you have to make sure that you’re just depositing dog waste.  I was fairly confident the digester powder would not prevail against some of the nuggets Clementine produced during her sock-eating phase, so I did just bag those and throw them in the trash.

The system seemed to work well for a while, but then I noticed that when the water overflowed from the overflow tube, it did not look very deep.  Either the treated liquid was not percolating through the ground or the hole below the Doggie Dooley had caved in.  I decided to extract the Doggie Dooley to investigate.  I did have sense enough to refrain from adding water for about a week before the extraction, but it was still not a pretty task.  Don’t worry.  I wore gloves, long sleeves, safety goggles, and a mask.  When I dug up the Doggie Dooley, I learned that one of my theories was correct: the hole had caved in.  I have fairly loose, sandy soil, which has been great for my garden but is apparently not ideal for the Doggie Dooley.

I decided to come up with a way to reinforce the hole underneath the Doggie Dooley, but I needed some back-up.  Enter my parents.  Daddy and Mama are smart people, and they are both very handy.  The three of us concurred that we needed something like a “stent” to hold up the sides of the hole.  But what could we use?  We were unable to find a 14-inch diameter pipe, so we decided to look for a round trash can.  Unfortunately, we did not find a tall trash can with a 14-inch diameter, so we settled on a 20-gallon galvanized steel trash can (diameter = 24 inches, height = 29 inches).  We had to cut a hole in the thing.  For this project, Daddy bought me a jigsaw.  Then Daddy remembered the time in sixth grade when I injured my finger by sewing right over my fingernail with the sewing machine.  He also remembered the more recent time when I cut my finger while trying to pit an avocado (three stitches!).  Therefore, Daddy determined that I should not have any part in actually cutting the hole in the trash can.  Mama and Daddy took turns and did a beautiful job of cutting a hole in the bottom of the trash can, and they decided to cut a hole in the top, as well, so that the top of the hole for the Doggie Dooley would be reinforced.  Mama and I dug a bigger hole, buried the trash can, and re-installed the Doggie Dooley.

The Doggie Dooley worked great for several months.  The bacteria in the system appeared to be happily digesting Clementine’s waste and then the treated liquid went into the ground.  No odor, no mess.  But then I noticed a problem.  The shoulder flange, which is made of plastic, began to crack, and I decided that I should probably stop making deposits.  I’m so glad I did.  Slowly but surely, the shoulder flange cracked all the way around, and the Doggie Dooley fell right in the hole (which, BTW, was not nearly as deep as it had been initially).  That was the end of the Doggie Dooley.

I was able to extract the Doggie Dooley and dispose of it without a lot of hassle, but I had that darn galvanized trash can still in the ground.  And that thing was not coming out of the ground without a fight.  I dug around it and pulled and pulled and pulled.  Mama tried to help.  Even the handyman was stumped.  In all, I tried for at least a year to get that trash can out of the ground.  Finally, when I had local horticulturist Dewayne Gallatin help me with a landscaping project, his excellent team was able to remove the trash can.  Thank you, Dewayne.

Now, it is possible that the Doggie Dooley is a great idea if you have the right soil.  My sandy soil was not conducive to the Doggie Dooley, and the manufacturer specifically warns that it will not work in clay.  I now realize that I should have done a little more research on the Doggie Dooley system before purchasing it.  According to Walter Reeves, Larry West of UGA hypothesized that the system would not really work unless the “Waste Terminator Digester Powder” is actually a magic potion.  And Walter Reeves himself warns that it may just be a bad idea because of the danger of flooding or improper installation.  Oh, well.

After the epic fail of the Doggie Dooley, I tried burying the poop.  But my yard is not that big, and I quickly ran out of burial sites.  Now, I tend to make sure that Clementine poops when we’re on a walk in the park.  I just pick up her poop in a biodegradable plastic bag and deposit it in a park trash can.  That is what Walter Reeves says to do, anyway.  But if you have other suggestions (that are backed by good research), I’m certainly open to them.

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7 responses to “The Scoop: How (Not) to Dispose of Your Dog’s Waste

  1. Jen says:

    And I thought I had it bad with the diapers!

  2. Cindy Dickson Sharitt says:

    Absolutely hilarious Caroline! 🙂

  3. What a beautiful dog, she was so cute when she was little.My dog poops where he wants but he has a certain spot in the yard he likes to go.Here it gets hot but also when it rains it washes alot of it down.I have noticed the grass comes up spectacular in the spring in his poop spot.I don’t know if that helps but I know his poop spot is pretty thick with that greenery!

  4. Nancy Williams says:

    seeds 101 is great … loved it .. this is my first try

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