A1 Poop Scooper cleans up after Creston Valley dogs

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A1 Poop Scooper owner Lana Horan at work in a Creston yard.

A1 Poop Scooper owner Lana Horan at work in a Creston yard.

Cleaning up after your dog can be a dirty job, but someone has to do it. And if you’d prefer that someone isn’t you, Lana Horan is more than happy to take on the job.

“I’d rather pick up poop than wash dishes,” said the owner of A1 Poop Scooper.

That’s a good thing for her customers, who range from those who can’t stand the smell to those who simply don’t have the time to do a thorough inspection of their yards during daylight hours.

She has the job down to a science, and knows the best circumstances to work in: long grass and leaves make scooping difficult, big dogs are easier to pick up after and winter is the best time to scoop, especially when the temperature is between –9 and –19.

“It’s sitting right there and it’s frozen,” she said.

Originally from Quebec, Horan moved to Alberta in 1977. She started A1 Poop Scooper in Calgary in January 1994, after she heard that young people in Vancouver were doing pet waste removal to make some extra cash. It was the only business of its type in the city, which necessitated a new listing in the yellow pages.

Her first client came through a friend who cleaned houses, and a second came after she put magnets with her logo and business name on her car — while Horan was paying inside a gas station, a woman who had three dogs ran in and said, “I need you.”

Horan made sure her business was easily recognizable, and soon had a small fleet of Dalmatian-spotted cars decorated with horns that sounded like dogs barking.

“The kids get to know you’re coming,” she said.

By the time she sold the business to move to the Creston Valley, she had nearly 600 customers, and had branched out into cleaning cat litter boxes for pregnant women. After seven years of living in the Creston Valley, she got A1 Poop Scooper back up and running earlier this year.

With most clients, she often gets to know the “hot spots” fairly quickly. At one home, she consistently scoops right in front of the house, and at a few random spots around the yard. With another, she may just have to look off in a far corner.

Horan’s job gets her up close and personal with part of a dog’s life that most people are happy to ignore, so she can often tell how healthy a pet is, or even if they’re eating well.

“I can always tell when they’re eating cheap food,” she said. “It just passes right through them.”

To know that much, she has to be a dog lover, a feeling that seems to be mutual.

“They come out and follow me around,” Horan said. “That’s the most fun part.”

And if there’s a day when she doesn’t have a client, Horan is still keeping her scooping skills in use.

“I have eleven of them, so I have a lot of poop to scoop,” she said. “I’m never out of practice.”