Scooping poop in the backyard I noticed, quite clearly, a barcode sticking out from one of Bernie’s turds. Being on doodie duty, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how far-reaching the packaging phenomenon has spread. When crap comes out of your dog’s butt already assigned a specific code, we’ve either taken a great leap forward in biotechnology, or Bernie’s just gotten into something he shouldn’t have. I almost wanted to wrap it in a Ziploc bag and take it to one of those freestanding store scanners and see what rung up. Clean up on aisle five.

But that’s not the most insane thing I’ve ever troweled into an old shopping bag. A few Christmases ago, my daughter’s nativity calendar was plundered and she immediately blamed her younger sister. It wasn’t until a few days later when, again on doggie duty, I noticed a trail of carnage of biblical proportions. There, sticking out of various backyard scat was, in no particular order, The Star of David, a present, a camel, an angel, two of the three wise men, and the Hamburglar. Speaking from my somewhat fuzzy recollection of the New Testament, I can account for most all of the aforementioned characters except the Hamburglar.

“We’ve brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, would you like fries with that?”

The weird part is, I salvaged the players from their turd tableau and brought them inside to our laundry tub and began the process of rehabilitation. I used a lot of water, far too much bleach and even some Febreze. They dried out over the ensuing days and I put them through the process again with my wife’s encouragement. And there they sat, on the rim of the sink for days, weeks, even months.

Along about April, when spring had finally spread across Michigan, I had a heart-to-heart with my wife and we decided that there was no stinkin’ way these figurines were ever going to be revered like they once were. So we did what we should have done back in December and tossed them in the trash. I don’t think the daughters noticed, or cared.

It reminded me of our earlier dog, the magician. He had extreme separation anxiety and we couldn’t leave the house without him getting nervous that we’d never return and start trashing the place like a 70s rock star on acid. We’d go to the corner store for five minutes and when we’d return, the kitchen was in tatters, drapes pulled down, plates broken on the floor, the water running somehow and a knife set half-chewed with a little blood spattered on the linoleum.

He once ate half a bottle of aspirin that was, we thought, hidden on top of the microwave. He didn’t even leave a suicide note. Luckily, he was just down and depressed for 18 hours, then back to his abnormal self. It was a day or so after yet another one of his wilding episodes that I took him out for a stroll. He seemed normal at first, but as the walk progressed, he started doing that hilarious little butt drag that cracks me up every time I see a dog do it. He got in a sitting position and then with his hind legs lifted off the ground, pulled his ass along the grass with his front legs. People say they’re trying to get rid of worms. Personally, I think it’s a great way for worms to get into his butt, but anyway, he kept doing this every ten or twenty steps until I noticed something odd and amazing.

Little by little, something started snaking out of his behind. By the third time, there was an unmistakable inch-and-a-half piece of blue and white fabric hanging out. I seriously had no idea what to do, so I turned back for home. As we made our way past subdivision homes gleaming in the afternoon sun I realized that they had no idea about the miracle that was taking place right out on their front lawns.

As we got closer and closer, the fabric got longer and longer and I realize, with shock and awe, that my dog was pulling a dishrag out of his behind. By the time we’d taken another several steps, the magician had produced a full foot-long blue and white (and yes, slightly brown) scarf. Nothing up his sleeves either. Doggy Copperfield.

It appeared that, for the moment, he was done and happy. His walk was back to normal and he seemed — for lack of a better description — to almost have a smile on his face. But yet, the blue Handi Wipe still dangled from his butt as we headed towards home. And here, here I did something that defined my mission to make the world a better place.

I knew that the rag was stuck and couldn’t just stay there. But I also knew that I had no desire to pull it out with my hands. So I found a stick, told him to heel, and twirled the twig around the dangling doo-rag and pulled. The first tug produced nothing. The second tug brought out not only the remnants of the Handi Wipe but a little, guttural, satisfied yelp from my dog. I half-expected him to turn and bite me, but its passing left nothing more than a vague memory on his doggie conscience.

Leaving the rag by the side of the road we headed home. Him with his intestines squeaky clean and me with an indelible mark on my psyche. Yeah, I should’ve bagged it up and been a good neighbor. But I just couldn’t deal with it.

I’ve shared this story with my family and some college buddies. They said I needed an ending; a conclusion to pull it all together. This April — after another long, gray winter — I was back out on the lawn scooping up Bernie’s backyard bowel movements. And there, staring out at me was Abraham.

Lest you think, dear reader, that Bernie had sent both New and Old Testament through his digestive tract, I must inform you that the Abraham I speak of was on the face of a formerly crisp, clean five-dollar-bill that went missing from our kitchen counter months earlier. Also in the same scat was half of a George Washington in the shape of a cylinder. The five fifty feces.

So yes, I’ve taken up money laundering and hopefully the IRS won’t mind. In the sink that formerly washed the Wise Men, there now sits another project awaiting my attention. Whereas we eventually tossed the advent figures, throwing money away is another story. But I can’t think of a plan for passing off the fiver, right now. Maybe the U.S. Mint has a special spot for curious currency.

My wife says we can’t get rid of Bernie, no matter how much of a pain he is. He makes for great stories. He’s cuddly and lovable.

And he’s got money coming out the wazoo.