Over the years, we have had a number of dogs, birds and even a cat.

A major issue with pet ownership is the fact that the animals have to answer the call of nature. Cats can be fairly easy to deal with since a litter box can be sequestered in some remote location for the cat’s privacy and your convenience. Dogs are a little different since they don’t use litter boxes.

Since our first dog, we had a pen for the dog to go outside. This started out as a simple fenced in area with a double gate that allowed us to let the dog out by just opening the door. The dog was in a secure area that could be cleaned up when the weather was reasonable.

Having a proper place and way to deal with pets and their excrement is important to the pet’s health, your health and your neighbor’s. I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who walk their dogs and clean up after them. This is challenging for the pet owner and truly demonstrates their respect for the property of others.

I once had a neighbor who would only walk his dog after dark in order to hide the fact that he would not clean up after his dog. It certainly is not the dog’s issue, but the pet owner’s. It is a crummy job and people who do it are truly responsible pet owners.

A dog pen eliminates this problem. It also provides a clear area in snowy times for your animals.

Our first pen was chain link fence and was pretty easy to install. It didn’t look great but was extremely functional and could be easily moved. As time went on, I tried a lot of different pen designs and usually made them with a wooden fence with pavers on the ground. An easy to clean ground surface is important when building a dog pen.

The last pen I built was at my current home. At the time we moved in, we had two geriatric dogs, including one who was blind. I built a small deck off a side porch, which I named after a certain deck on a ship. The deck was built with a composite decking material. It was off the ground. This allowed water to pass through the decking and it was easy to keep the surfaces free of ice in the wintertime. When we used pavers on the ground, many times there could be frozen urine on the pavers. This made scraping ice a whole new experience. (Note to self: drainage is good in a dog pen.)

Another simple feature for a dog pen is a motion detector outside light. Whenever the dog went in the pen, they could see what they were doing.

A lot of people like to open the door and let their cats go outside and deal with the call of nature themselves. This is the ultimate in convenience but does present some problems. Cats seem to like to do their business in your garden. If you wind up in the garden, doing some work, it is likely that you will discover this. When we lived in Bangor, we had tons of neighborhood cats that used our yard for a litter box. This was somewhat frustrating given the fact that we had a cat for 17 years who always used a litter box.

Given the fact that the technology of litter boxes has come into the 21st century, there are some really impressive self-cleaning boxes that free the cat owner from most of the task. The one that has caught my interest is one called the Cat Genie.

It does not use litter, but rather ceramic beads that are cleaned, and the litter box empties itself. It is not inexpensive, since it costs about $280, but you do not need litter and it eliminates smells. It is a fair bit less than a dog pen.

Regardless of whether you are a cat person, a dog person, or just a person, proper sanitation is a good thing.

Questions for Tom Gocze should be mailed to The Home Page, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329.