By Tom Gresham
They walk briskly, their heads tilted down, their eyes scouring the grass for samples. When they spot the treasure they seek — months-old piles of dog waste — they lean eagerly forward and scoop it carefully into a plastic bag, like scientists recovering rare specimens. Their smiling faces belie neither disgust nor agitation.
“It’s a little mushy, a little more aromatic than you’d like,” Allan Kunigis says analytically. “It’s great to get it when it’s still frozen.”
Kunigis and two fellow dog lovers, Jan Lawson and Pam Boutin-Adams, toured the bike path behind Williston Central School on Friday, cleaning up the waste left behind by a year’s worth of labs, hounds, collies, shepherds and mutts.
It was the third year the trio has performed the service. Each frequently travels the path with their canines, and they have become well aware that not all dog owners are diligent about cleaning up after their pets. Every spring, when the snow melts, mounds of the waste become visible along the bike path.
The group said the situation had simply grown unbearable two years ago, and they felt compelled to make some improvements.
“I don’t like getting in the car and finding poop on my shoe any more than the next person,” Boutin-Adams said.
The group was embarking on its mission a bit later in the season than was ideal, Kunigis said. In previous years, they timed the trip for when the snow had only partially melted. Consequently, instead of the poop standing out against the white backdrop of the winter’s remaining snow on Friday, it was hidden among leaves and mud spots in the grass.
Kunigis and Boutin-Adams used garden trowels to scoop the poop into plastic bags in buckets; Lawson employed a pair of tongs. When a bag filled, they tied it off and left it along the side of the path. Lawson later drove down the path in a pickup truck, collecting the bags.
The three appeared to be having fun during their unenviable task, laughing and joking along the way. Boutin-Adams said the three were the sort of friends who identified each other by their dogs.
Lawson’s dog, Poppy, and Boutin-Adams’ dog, Clay, joined their owners on the search, playing rambunctiously along the route. Clay occasionally pointed out a sample for Boutin-Adams with his nose.
Although the threesome seemed to be constantly reaching to pick up new piles, they said the path area seemed cleaner than it has in recent years.
“This is way better than I’ve seen it before,” Kunigis said.
“I think the poop fairy may have come,” Boutin-Adams said.
Two years ago, when they made their maiden run on a cold, rainy day, the group “couldn’t go five feet. It was just disgusting,” Boutin-Adams said. Last year, the group filled five five-gallon bags with unretrieved poop.
Lawson, Kunigis and Boutin-Adams say they do not resent those who fail to clean up after their dogs, noting that sometimes people just do not realize their dog has “gone.”
However, Lawson said the three areas where the dog poop was most concentrated abutted residential neighborhoods.
“That seems more deliberate,” Boutin-Adams said.
Some passers-by thanked the trio for their work, and Kunigis said they have heard that people appreciate their work. Kunigis said a nearby day care worker who regularly walks along the path sent word to the town in the past year that the poop removal was beneficial.
The group also received praise from Williston Public Works Director Neil Boyden, who extolled the volunteers to the Selectboard this winter.
“They do a real service to the town,” Boyden said. “That’s not an easy job at all.”