Growing up on the east side of Bangor, Jason Lubitz earned his weekly allowance by cleaning up after his beloved family pet, or to put it plainly, he scoured the yard for his dog’s poop.
The unsavory task, familiar to most dog owners, was his job alone — and he hated it. Yet today, Lubitz has chosen to return to his first form of employment, on a much larger scale.
Scoop Dooty, a business recently established by Lubitz, now 30, and his high school friend Justin Gibbons, 29, is exactly what it sounds like — a team of “scoopers” tackling Bangor-area yards, ridding them of pet waste.
Their motto: “Making Maine green one scoop at a time.”
Scoop Dooty opened for business in November 2011 in Bangor. It joins other pet waste management companies, such as Portland’s Poo Patrol, that exist in southern Maine and in other states.
“It’s 100 percent new to us and our customers,” Lubitz said. “There’s a big learning curve.”
Scoop Dooty now serves more than 20 Bangor area customers, the majority of whom require a weekly yard cleaning.
“People who call us are often timid and strained talking about it,” said Lubitz, who in a matter of months has grown completely comfortable talking about “scooping dooty.”
Looking at national statistics, they are tapping into a huge potential customer base.
People in the U.S. own approximately 78.2 million dogs, according to the 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey, which also reveals that about 39 percent of U.S. households include at least one dog.
“More than 2,000 dogs are licensed in Bangor,” Gibbons said.
But who will pay to have their dog’s poop scooped?
They imagine much of their business will come from people with busy work schedules and summer homeowners looking to relax on vacation, not clean up after their pets.
“Some people have just had enough,” Lubitz said.
Seniors and veterans, as well as people with disabilities and people with service dogs, are offered a 20 percent discount.
“Some people don’t even use their backyard because it’s for the dog,” Gibbons said. “I’ve always liked helping people. And essentially, we’re pleasing the animal as well.”
Both men grew up in families that cherished animals. After graduating from Bangor High School, the two parted ways.
Gibbons went to Vergennes, Vt. to attend the Homebuilder’s Institute, where he learned construction skills that landed him jobs in Vancouver, Wash. and Arizona to design kitchens. In 2010, struggling in the poor economy, he returned to Maine.
Lubitz enlisted in the Army in 1999 at age 17. He spend the majority of his military career at Fort Bragg, N.C., and deployed with special operations to Afghanistan. After receiving an honorable discharge after nine years of service, he returned to Maine and worked in sales. He also attended The International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Atlanta.
Last summer, the two friends reunited and embarked on a variety of outdoor adventures, from hiking in Baxter State Park to harvesting periwinkles Down East. That’s also when they hatched business ideas.
Scoop Dooty combines their love for the Maine outdoors with their love for dogs. Gibbons owns a Golden Retriever named Maddie, and Lubitz has two mixed-breed dogs named Jager and Max.
“I want to do this for my family, so we can all be stable,” Lubitz said. His 9-month-old son, Malakai, is just getting ready to take his first steps.
Early on, Lubitz’s half-brother, Matt Pardy, 22, of Bangor, joined their team to help with office work and develop the Scoop Dooty website. Pardy, also a dog lover, cares for an old Black Labrador Retriever named Lady.
Already, lessons have been learned.
Gibbons, who often finds himself immersed in research, is fascinated and concerned by the health issues that arise from neglected pet waste.
Pet waste often contains parasites and bacteria that can cause people to become violently ill. Gibbons came across diseases linked with pet waste such as toxocariasis, campylobacteriosis and cryptosporidiosis, all of which have a long list of scary symptoms.
In addition to polluting lawns, pet waste can run off and contaminate water supplies.
The Scoop Dooty team shares this knowledge with customers during their first consultation, during which they discuss the customers’ needs and learn about their pets.
They’ve learned to ignore stigmas about certain dog breeds. One of their clients owns three of the friendliest pit bulls, dogs reputed for being aggressive.
“During the consultation, one jumped up and licked my face,” Gibbons said.
The team also has learned that somehow, two dogs can produce 13 gallons of waste in just two weeks — a startling amount to a service that offers a flat fee, regardless of the size of a person’s yard or the amount of waste they find (though they can’t guarantee there won’t be exceptions for enormous properties).
They dispose of the waste in a Dumpster back at their office, in accordance with city regulations.
A weekly cleaning for one pet costs $9, and $4 is added for each additional pet.
Though they’ve started their business on private residences, their goal is to expand to care for public property.
“We can go to any park right now, and within 100 feet of the entrance is a pile [of dog waste]. I guarantee it,” said Lubitz, who with Gibbons and a camera has visited several parks to research the cleanliness of the public spaces in the Bangor area.
“We’re hoping to make a better environment for the community. I stepped into a pile right on the sidewalk on York Street and I couldn’t believe it,” Pardy said.
They start out each morning in their office at 96 Harlow St., surrounded by nearly 100 blankets they’ve collected to donate to the Bangor Humane Society. But they soon enter the field. Daylight is a necessity for their line of work.
Since snow hinders their ability to see and therefore retrieve all of the waste, this year’s dry winter has been ideal for business. They guarantee “110 percent customer satisfaction,” even if it takes an hour for them to safely dispose of all visible waste on the property.
“Essentially, we want to make dog ownership easier,” Gibbons said. “After you call us, all you have to do for your dog is love it.”