By Mary Reid Barrow
Ever wonder where LRNow’s crazy Scoop the Poop garbage can sticker came from? You know, the zany one with the spot fish leaping over a Labrador retriever’s head framed by a life ring?
The image came from the equally zany brain of artist John Koehler who created the design for us, pro bono, almost two decades ago. The necessity for scooping the poop to keep the river clean was one of the first programs LRNow came up with to engage the community in our early days. And the program and the poster are still with us on our 20thanniversary!
Our scoop the poop program started soon after LRNow began to learn precisely how polluted our Lynnhaven River really was. One of the first things we learned was that up to 30 percent of the bacteria in the Lynnhaven came from dog waste!
Rain was washing the bacteria into the river from not only lawns on the water’s edge, but also from storm drains that flowed into the river from all over the northern half of the city.
Working with us and the Virginia Beach SPCA, John Koehler devised our head-turning poster. And our scoop the poop campaign was off and running.
We printed the design on stickers for homeowners to put on their black garbage cans. The stickers are like rotating billboards on garbage day to tell passersby to scoop the poop.
Jasper, John’s handsome lab, was the model for the poster. Sweet Jasper even suffered the indignity of wearing a fairy costume for a second poster, touting, “There’s no such thing as the poop fairy.”
At one point, we had a public service announcement on TV, produced by our great pro bono ad agency DIA. The premise of the ad was a play on the words, “pamper your pets,” and the video was of dogs, one them in diapers, cavorting in the river.
We came up with scoop the poop dog scarves and doggie bag holders to give away with the garbage can stickers at events. We created “photo booths” where large and small dogs could be photographed with their heads sticking through the Scoop the poop life preserver. We also started a Facebook page.
At one point we even had a holiday jingle, penned and sung by former staff member Tricia Imrich: “Scoop, the poop, Scoop the poop. Scoop it all the time.”
I enlisted my golden retriever, Sam, to attend LRNow events with me. With a scarf round his neck and his winning ways, he attracted lots of pats which and gave us time to get our message across. Other staff and volunteer dogs stepped in to help too.
Today, Coco, staff member Terri Gorman’s labradoodle, is our official mascot. Coco’s next gig is at a City Pup Pop Up from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on September 8 at Marshview Park.
When LRNow started 20 years ago, only one percent of the river was healthy enough for harvesting oysters. Now about 50 percent of the river is safe for oyster harvesting.
This has been due to hard work on the part of many people but I like to think that our long-standing scoop the poop program also has helped to raise awareness and bring a little humor and fun to our effort!
To see find out more about john Koehler’s art and to see some of his Coastal Virginia artwork and more, visit www.koehlerartworks.com.
Reach Mary Reid at firstname.lastname@example.org