Gates tried to stay positive. "I was lucky, I guess. Other people were losing their houses, I was just losing business. Unemployed people have the time to pick up dog poop themselves," Gates said. "The ironic part is, all that do-it-yourself poop scooping is time away from the job search."
Then, Gates read about the US Government's "Cash for Clunkers" program. "I just thought that was a great idea that could easily be scaled down to a local program," Gates said.
Gates printed fliers promising free filet mignon for local pooches, and distributed them in his neighborhood. His neighbors were skeptical of the program at first. "I thought he was nuts," said Maria Cantrell, one of Gates' neighbors.
In his front yard, Gates provided separate dining areas, a common area for the dogs to do their business, and, of course, a big tray of the expensive meat for the few adventurous neighbors who took him up on his offer. For the little dogs, who couldn't finish their entire meal, Gates even provided doggie bags.
But word spread quickly, and over 200 dogs waited patiently in line when Gates appeared the next morning. "My wife had to go to the meat counter with a credit card twice that day. I've never scooped so much poop in my life," Gates said.
Gates had originally budgeted $1,000 for his "Filet for Turds" program, but quickly burned through his credit limit. Stunned at the program's success, Gates and his wife, Tonya raided their children's savings accounts for $2,000 more.
"When that money's gone, we'll probably have to stop," Gates said. "I could sell the car, but then we couldn't get to and from the store for more meat."
Gates says eventually, he'll have to haul the poop to the dump, but for right now he's just happy to have a big pile of it again. As for the neighbors, they're just happy to have a successful, socially-conscious neighbor on the block.
"I still think he's nuts," said Cantrell.