Help wanted: Puppy pooper scooper

My kids promised to help if I bought them a puppy. They kept their word, for the most part, but there was one job I couldn't get anyone to do.

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  • "Mom, please, can we get him, please Mom? We promise we'll help!"

  • I had to admit the puppy was darling. A black mask across his face, black spots and dappling on his tummy. He licked my hand. He loved me. Of course, I said, "Yes."

  • My kids kept their promise. They fed him, brushed him, took him outside to go potty and played with him. This is going to be easier than I expected, I thought.

  • Then, after about a week, I noticed a certain smell accumulating in the backyard. His little nuggets were scattered all over. However, no one was willing to pick them up. I had to do something to turn my children into regular pooper scoopers.

  • First, I turned to the obvious answer: Bribery. It's every parent's ace in the hole. I figured 25 cents a piece ought to cover it. Then I started doing a few calculations. That little guy was pooping 3 times a day. With 365 days in a year, I was looking at $273! Do you know how many pairs of shoes I could buy with that much money? How many date nights? How many boxes of chocolates? No way. That was too much of a sacrifice. I'd have to come up with a better way.

  • Next, I considered punishment. I remembered a story my mother-in-law told about how she used to potty train her children.

  • "If they had an accident, I'd simply rub their nose in it."

  • I stared at her in horror.

  • "Oh, wait," she said. "I think that was the dog."

  • Tempting, tempting. But, I love my children, I really do. I didn't want to have to relinquish them to Child Protective Services. So, I nixed that idea.

  • Finally, I tried guilt.

  • "It's only fair," I told my son. "Do you know how many dirty diapers I had to change for you? A million! At least. Maybe two million."

  • I narrowed my eyes and poked him in the chest, hard, with my index finger.

  • "You owe me."

  • He rolled his eyes and went back to his video game. Apparently, he'd heard the "I was in labor for nine excruciating hours, and they had to stick a needle the size of a baseball bat in my back just so I could stand it until you finally plopped out, then cried for nine months until I was a walking zombie" story so many times, the diaper changing account paled in comparison.

  • Then, one day, the puppy pooped in my flower bed.

  • Huh. Maybe this was a good thing. I mean, I paid so much for his dog food, that stuff had to be premium, right? I could save a lot on fertilizer. I'd just cover the little nuggets with dirt and hope they disintegrated by spring when I started planting my tomatoes. Maybe I could train him to pee on the weeds, too.

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  • Parenting is all about picking your battles. I might have lost the pooper scooper battle, but there were plenty more to be won. Maybe I can get them to learn to clean the toilet. I could always try my mother-in-law's method.

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Shelli Howells is a creative fiction writer, and a mother of six.

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