Glimpse | No Need to Fear, Trash Dog Is Here!

Arya Roerig, photos by Sarah Word

It is no question that when students are in town, Water Street gets a bit messy. Anne Vaini and her service-dog-in-training, Emma, noticed too.

“The week students got back, Water Street was just trashed,” said Vaini. “At first I was just irritated, but then I realized this could be an opportunity.”

That opportunity was to get Emma, a 16-month old American pit bull terrier, some training in a crowded environment and help people on Water Street notice the impact of all that litter. Once or twice a week, usually during the busiest times, like Friday or Saturday nights, Anne walks Emma as the dog picks up, and throws away, garbage.

“People definitely react,” said Vaini who has been training pit bulls, like Emma, in various categories for years. “It would be faster if I just did it myself, but people notice a cute little puppy picking up and throwing away trash a lot more than a person.”

So far the reaction to Emma and Anne has been positive.

“The most common response is ‘Whoa! Did she just do that?’” said Vaini. “I have to tell her what to pick up; otherwise she’d be eating cigarette butts and leftover pizza the whole time.”

Emma will eventually be placed with a person in a wheelchair where the skills she has developed with Vaini, such as opening and closing doors and retrieving and depositing, will help her new owner live a more independent life. Until then Emma will be a staple on Water Street, though probably more obedient than most you’ll meet on Saturday night.

“She really likes to drink beer,” said Vaini. “I just hope people don’t start leaving her presents when they hear that.”