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Fargo kid answers call to doo-doo duty with poop-scooping business

During his poop patrols, Oscar Stebleton of Oscar's Pooper-Scooping and Dog Walking has unearthed the remains of numerous curious items which a dog has tried to digest. A leather shoulder strap to a purse. Socks. Slippers. Eyeglasses. Ear buds. Yarn. And even a sequined face mask.

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Oscar Stebleton of Oscar's Pooper-Scooping and Dog Walking shares a happy moment with one of his favorite "clients," Sophie, an 11-year-old Basset hound who will eat almost anything. It was a love of dogs that got the 10-year-old Fargo boy interested in the pooper-scooping business.
Contributed / Lora Stebleton
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Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in The Forum's Kid Bosses, an occasional series highlighting the entrepreneurial efforts of teens and kids.

FARGO — Oscar Stebleton is on a mission.

Eyes to the ground, the freckle-faced 10-year-old is canvassing the backyard of Troy and Sue Anderson’s north Fargo backyard like a prospector searching for the tiniest glint of gold.

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Oscar Stebleton covers every yard carefully, walking row by row one way, and then crisscrossing it the other way, to make sure he doesn't miss a thing.
Contributed / Lora Stebleton

Dressed in rubber boots and wielding a small rake and pooper-scooper, he walks in perfect adjacent rows from north to south until all the grass has been canvassed. Then, in an impressive show of diligence, he crisscrosses the lawn — east to west, row by tidy row — in search of his questionable treasure.

And then: pay dirt. “Look! That’s part of an ear bud, I think,” he says, crouching down uncomfortably close to examine a clump of dog droppings. Or: “What’s this sparkly thing?”

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The Andersons are so impressed with the boy’s business, Oscar Pooper Scooping and Dog-Walking, that they not only have him clean their yard weekly, they also throw in an extra $2 or so for gas. (Oscar doesn't drive yet, of course, so mom, Lora, chauffeurs. Most of the time, the extra tip does help finance a trip to the Dairy Queen for slushies afterward.)

“He does such a fantastic job, we keep having him back,” says Troy, a conscientious property owner who coordinates his mowing jobs to follow Oscar’s sweeps.

Oscar has at least six regular customers and 10 annual clients, but the Anderson job stands out for a couple of reasons. One: It allows him to play with their friendly 11-year-old Basset hound, Sophie. And two: Sophie seems to have the digestive system of a goat, which means her pickups are like fascinating forensic investigations.

During his poop patrols, Oscar has unearthed the remains of numerous items which would land any regular dog in the emergency room. A leather shoulder strap to a purse. Socks. Slippers. Eyeglasses. The aforementioned ear buds. Yarn. A sequined face mask.

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Oscar isn't afraid to crouch down low in order to investigate whatever inedible object Sophie managed to consume that week.
Contributed / Lora Stebleton

“Sophie is our most exciting customer,” Oscar acknowledges, with a proud grin.

“Every time Oscar comes over, we see what Sophie ate this week,” Troy says, smiling.

Called to doo-doo duty

Yet Oscar’s foray into doo-doo was fueled by a big don’t.

He loves dogs, but he can’t have one. He’s allergic to them, as is every other member of the Stebleton family.

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Lora and Brent Stebletons' Fargo home happens to share a backyard fence with neighbors who have two friendly bulldogs, Larry and Stoli. Two years ago, Oscar decided to volunteer one day to clean up after the two dogs. He so enjoyed his time with the pooches that he ran home and told his mom he could start a poop-scooping business.

With entrepreneurial zeal, he headed to the computer and made business cards, then went door-to-door throughout their cul-de-sac to hand them out. (He initially also included dog-walking in the business name, although he doesn’t get a chance to do that often.)

His business allows Oscar to interact with dogs for a limited period outdoors, where his allergies aren’t as bad.

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Oscar unloads a 5-gallon pail from his mom's vehicle in preparation for a clean-up job.
Tammy Swift / The Forum

In fact, Oscar usually remembers his jobs according to which dog — as opposed to which human — lives there. He’ll tell his mom they have an appointment at “Diesel’s house,” “Sophie’s house,” or “Larry and Stoli’s house."

“He’ll say, ‘We don’t even need to charge them,’” Lora says. “I got to play with them.”

Besides a great affection for the dogs on his beat, Oscar also stands out for his reasonable prices. Two years ago, he charged $2 for a clean-up. Last year, he charged $20 for “spring clean-ups” and just $5 for regular clean-ups.

This year, after realizing that one spring clean-up job could yield three 5-gallon pails of poo, the Stebletons raised their rates to $40. (Even so, his customers seem so appreciative of his prices that they often pay a generous tip.)

Oscar's regular weekly clean-ups are still just $5.

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“Other kid businesses doing the same thing charge by the pound,” says Lora, a vice president of loan servicing at Gate City Bank. “We don’t. He doesn’t need that much money. We just want him to learn what work is and he should work hard for things if he wants to buy Legos and remote-control cars.”

Although Oscar talks enthusiastically of stocking up on Legos when the family visits the Mall of America , he is, for the most part, a careful saver.

“The poop is ancillary to the true goal,” Lora says.

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Besides giving Oscar a chance to play with dogs, he also makes extra spending money. Here, homeowner Troy Anderson pays the 10-year-old for another job well-done.
Contributed / Lora Stebleton

When dealing with No. 1, quality is job No. 1

Oscar’s regulars have also grown to appreciate his thorough approach. His mother reminds him that if he does a good job the first time, customers will want to keep hiring him. And she isn’t above doing what she calls "quality control" if something was missed, she says, grinning.

The young businessman has also learned the art of delegation, and will occasionally subcontract jobs to his little sister, Eva, 8.

“I tell her to get a job,” Oscar deadpans, while playing with Sophie.

READ MORE FROM TAMMY SWIFT'S KID BOSSES SERIES
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He admits that the work does occasionally get kind of gross, especially if someone’s backyard is swampy or the temperatures have started to spike.

He’s also found a morbid treasure trove of nature’s wreckage, including dead birds, voles, fish and one bunny head. (Apparently, possessing a rabbit’s foot doesn’t always make you lucky.)

“I found an eyeball once,” he insists, with a twinge of pride.

“I don’t know about that,” his mom quickly adds, perhaps worried her son’s moment in the spotlight has gone to his head.

It's likely too early to predict if Oscar’s Pooper Scooping will go international someday. Way back when he first started kindergarten, his mom was preparing one of those Pinterest "First day of school" boards, so she asked him what he wanted to be someday.

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Oscar's "First Day of School" sign.
Contributed / Lora Stebleton

Although he initially said "Power Ranger," he soon decided that wasn't possible because he didn't know how to find the superheroes' lair.

Then, after more thought, he said, "Playing with dogs all day."

Which, in a way, is what he does.

“We’re allergic but I still love them,” he says. “No one can make me stop."

Those interested in hiring Oscar can text or call Lora at (612) 616-2491 .

Related Topics: KID BOSSESFARGO
Tammy has been a storyteller most of her life. Before she learned the alphabet, she told stories by drawing pictures and then dictated the narrative to her ever-patient mother. A graduate of North Dakota State University, she has worked as a Dickinson, N.D., bureau reporter, a Bismarck Tribune feature writer/columnist, a Forum feature reporter, columnist and editor, a writer in NDSU's Publications Services, a marketing/social media specialist, an education associate in public broadcasting and a communications specialist at a nonprofit.
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