A Crappy Gig

Loren Hoppens, 51, is the sole employee (save occasional help from friends) of Loren's Pooper-Scooper Service. His slogan says it all: "We're #1 in the #2 Business." Hoppens, a Wisconsin native who's called Tucson home since 1976, started the pet-cleanup/odor-removal business more than two years ago. He worked in such varied fields as desktop publishing, aircraft interiors and furniture sales before picking up the rake. The charge for weekly pick up ranges from $7.50 for one pet to $18.50 for four. To reach Hoppens, call 293-2399.

The obvious question: How in the world did you get into this?

I was working for Lear Jet, and at the same time, I had a neighbor who was blind, and I was picking up for him. I got laid off from Lear, and I got another job selling furniture. Then, the store was sold and bought. I didn't like the job anyway, so I decided to start my own business. I started making the logo and bought business cards, a rake and a lobby dust pan. I put my cards out at vets, and now, I have more than 100 accounts, and business seems to be picking up weekly.

How did you make the leap from selling furniture to deciding you wanted to scoop poop?

Something just told me the time was right. There wasn't anybody doing it in Tucson; I couldn't find one in the paper. I checked the phone book and vets, too. It seemed to be perfect. There are a lot of handicapped and ill people in Tucson who are unable to pick up their pets' waste and who don't want to get rid of their animals.

Is anyone else in Tucson doing it now?

A couple have come and gone. ... I just went to court to stop someone from using the "#1 in the #2 business" slogan.

Wait--you had to take someone to court over that?

Yeah. ... They were even using it in an ad in your paper. I got a cease-and-desist order, and they stopped. That was nice.

Do you enjoy your work?

Yeah, I do. I like the dogs, and all the pets. I also pick up after cats, potbellied pigs, a miniature donkey and horses. I pick it up and haul it away. The (owners) don't even have to be home; I just leave them this card (with "looks good" or "diarrhea" check-marked). Diarrhea is often a sign of problems.

Wow. So you sort of give out medical advice as well.

No, no. Don't say that. ... That would be a lawsuit right there. Some pets I see once a week, some twice a week, some every two weeks. I see them often enough to notice that there may be a problem.

Doesn't it get gross sometimes?

It can--it can get really gross and really smelly, but you just have to look away. All jobs have bad aspects. This is just one bad aspect of a job that has many good ones. At Lear Jet, I was stuck in that little tube all day; I hated it. Now, I have no problem going to work. Also, I donate my time for various associations that deal with pets.

You've got to see weird things on occasion.

There are a couple of mastiffs that want a piece of me. I just yell at them to go lay down, and they do. And picking up after pot-bellied pigs and miniature donkeys can be kind of messy.

Do you see yourself retiring from this job?

Yeah. I'd really like to hire somebody and maybe buy another truck. Then, maybe I'll sell the business in 5-10 years when I retire.

What would be the requirements for the person you'd hire?

He'd have to like pets. He'd have to like dogs; you can't be afraid of them. They'd have to know Tucson, of course, and be someone who's insurable. Hopefully, he'd know computers. I am kind of stagnant on that.

How do people react at parties when you tell them what you do?

What I do is give them my business card. They ask, "Is this for real? Are you kidding? Do you really do this?" Yeah, I get that a lot.