Steve Ferse has picked up trash from Spokane’s streets since shortly after he arrived in the city from the West Side more than five years ago.
But his bad back limits the weight he can carry, so he wanted a solution that allows him to stay active while cleaning up the streets.
Enter Max, a 1-year-old black Labrador retriever mix.
Ferse, 73, said he and his furry companion take a stroll through his neighborhood four days a week collecting various types of litter from the streets, sidewalks and other areas.
Ferse picks up the garbage with a trash pick-up tool his father had and drops it in one of two vinyl bags hanging from a lightweight wooden frame on Max’s back. Ferse said he dumps the collected garbage along his route in garbage cans and dumpsters.
“I think it’s a good idea somebody cleans up the mess, because it’s out there all the time,” he said.
Ferse said the trash-carrying apparatus weighs 3 or 4 pounds and Max carries no more than 10 pounds of garbage. He said he started out with cardboard boxes and then plastic containers before deciding the vinyl bags were the best solution.
Three days a week, Ferse cleans up trash with Max in a 1½-mile loop from his home on Euclid Avenue to Post Street, then Garland Avenue, Monroe Street and Dalton Avenue before returning home. The trip takes about an hour to 90 minutes.
He said they’ll venture down side streets if Ferse sees trash, which is sparse when snow is on the ground. He and Max also grab garbage from the Corbin Park area once a week. Ferse said he and Max go for a regular walk with no trash pickup the other three days.
“It’s just where I decided to walk,” he said. “I can’t clean up the whole city.”
He said he’s had Max, a mix of a Labrador retriever, German shepherd and possibly other breeds, for about five months and has used him to assist with his garbage collecting for at least three months.
Ferse said he doesn’t know how he came up with the idea to use his dog as a trash carrier.
“It’s easier for him to carry the weight than me,” said Ferse, adding that he’s had two back surgeries.
He said a veterinarian told him Max won’t have issues as long as he doesn’t carry too much weight.
Ferse said the garbage he picks up includes fast food containers, face masks, scraps of paper and plastic and cardboard.
He said it might take 10 or 15 minutes to pick up plastic scraps from a car accident.
If the trash is too big and heavy, he leaves it.
Sometimes he’ll come across valuable items. Last year, he said he found three $20 bills and a $10 bill.
Ferse said he receives comments from people walking and driving by him and Max. Most people thank him for what he’s doing.
“One guy out of a car, he said I restored his faith in humanity by doing this,” Ferse said. “That was a pretty good compliment.”
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