Remembering Betty Boop: a Poo-lution Solution Champion
Interview with Jen Brodbeck by Lauren Magee, Friends of the Blue Hills Social Media Intern

Betty Boop, a female German Shephard, was our #1, Bone-afide Super Sniffer for the Poo-lution Solution team. Betty Boop was a German shepherd who resided with her beloved human roommate, Jen Brodbeck.  The Poo-lution Solution team surveys bio-pollution (dog waste) in the part using an app.  The data collected helps evaluate our communication campaigns to encourage people to ‘Be Kind’ and respect each other, the wildlife and the park.  Properly disposing of dog waste is one way to ‘Be Kind’ to wildlife and visitors.  The photo above pictures Betty with her fellow Poo-lution Solution Team members.

In the event of Betty’s recent passing, we sat down with Jen to honor Betty’s legacy and contributions to the Blue Hills.

Q: Can you first tell me a little bit about yourself and your involvement with the Friends of the Blue Hills?

I didn’t really get involved with the Friends of the Blue Hills until I think last year or maybe the year before when the poo-lution solution campaign started.

Prior to that, I was in the military and I got out and I started working in a prison, which wasn’t exactly the best suited job for me. I ended up retiring from that job, and hiking was the only thing that was very similar to the military, and so I started hiking through the Blue Hills for a long time, and I brought the dogs there often.

I started doing things like picking up a lot of dog poop on my own, long before I got involved with the Poo-lution Solution Team. When I finally saw that campaign on the Friends of the Blue Hills, I kind of secretly followed because they always have good information about the areas you are hiking. So, I joined after seeing that.

And Betty or Honor [Jen’s other German Shepard] usually went with me when I went hiking in the Blue Hills.  Betty seemed to really just pick up on what I was doing. Betty just kind of made it her job to help with the campaign. And from there I basically just tried to help in whatever ways I could. It’s been hard with the Poo-lution Solution campaign since Betty died, so I haven’t been as involved with that as I was originally.

What’s your favorite memory with Betty in the Blue Hills?

I can’t think of one off the top of my head because we spent like every day there and I probably have like 500 pictures of her in the Blue Hills. But I did like to go to the top of Rattle Rock in the fall and sit there and look at the colors of the trees when we had them. When Betty was younger, she would hike up the hills a little bit more. She always got so thrilled about the hills; she just loved going.

Were there rituals that you had so that Betty would know she was going to the Blue Hills?

She knew if I was putting on my hiking bag. Well, if I was putting on my Camelbak, or I had this other backpack I would use to bring some balls and like long leashes with me. If I put on any one of those bags, Betty knew she was going, and if she thought for a second she wasn’t going, she would plant herself in front of the door so I couldn’t get out of the house without her. There were like many times I was trying to go like, pick up trash on the side of the road with the Friends, and Betty wouldn’t let me go without her. She would just run out the door and stand by the car, or she would just block me like, just block the door, so I couldn’t get out the door without her. So I ended up having to bring her with me.

Can you talk a little bit about letting her be a dog rather than working?

She still found work. Like we’d go walking and she loved the woods. We’d go walking through the Blue Hills and she would constantly bring me face-to-face with deer. I assume before I got her, that she had some type of hunting training because she would find all the rabbits.  She would find all the deer. And I would just be sitting looking at deer all the time. I’m like, I don’t want to be face-to-face with the deer. I don’t wanna find all the rabbits in the world.

Betty Boop sniffed out dog waste to help Jen Brodbeck survey bio-pollution for the Poo-lution Solution team.

She would also find fires in the Blue Hills. She found several fires and she found the dog poop. She just always kind of gave herself a job and when there were people around, if they needed some sort of comforting, Betty would know. She’d go up to people, and if they were crying or, you know, sad or something, she would put her nose under their hand and flip their hand on top of her head and make them pat her. It would just make people so happy.

Can you tell me about how Betty helped you volunteer for the Blue Hills with the Poo-lution Solution team?  (As part of the Poo-lution Solution team, Jen and Betty surveyed dog waste in the park.  The data volunteers like Jen and Betty collect, are geo-located using an app on their phone and used to evaluate whether communications campaigns to encourage visitors to take care of the park are successful.)

So Betty, she found all the dog poop. It’s like, you know, When it was blatantly obvious, like it’s snowing and there’s dog poop. In the fall, when the leaves were falling, the dog poop wasn’t really that easy to find, but Betty would find it for me. She kind of just picked this up on her own and I just reinforced it. If she found dog poop, I’d give her a piece of food.

And that was all it took; then she would find dog poop everywhere. If I wanted to go on a hike and I didn’t wanna find dog poop, I still had to find the dog poop because Betty was gonna bring me to all the dog poop. It almost became impossible to hike with Betty because if I wanted to ignore the dog poop for that day, she just didn’t let me.

Do you have an anecdote about Betty’s personality or something memorable about Betty that you would like to share?

She’s just very intuitive, loving, and she just knew when somebody needed her. You know, whatever it was, if somebody needed a hug, she was able to kind of figure that out and just go over and make them give her a hug. If they just needed to pat a dog, she’d go over there and make them pat her.

And she was intuitive about other things too. If somebody was having low blood sugar, I mean I, you wouldn’t really know it at the time, but she would. She just started doing certain things and you wouldn’t really know why she was doing it, but you’d end up figuring it out later on, after the person realized they had low blood sugar. She was just so intuitive and just so loving.

Can you tell me a story about Betty and Honor?

Betty was the older one, so we had this little rule: Betty was older, so Betty would go out first, but they would kind of fight over that every now and then. Even though they’re not really related, they were very sisterly, like in the same sense that Betty would try to protect her, but then a second later they’d be fighting over a ball or whatever other thing they were fighting over, but they could get along so well.

Are there other memories or experiences you had with Betty that you would like to share? 

We had a string in the last two years or so, a string of fires that have been happening.  This past February we were walking through an area where not a lot of people go to or they don’t know about, or they can’t get through that area. We were walking through there and Betty’s just bringing me to this place. And so I just had to let her bring me there. I just came to find out this area was just recently burned. I mean, I can smell it because it still smells bad. Every time we’d go, there’d be different burnings in different areas. That just became another one of her bits of work.

She would help find the fires, you know, and I’d let the DCR (Massachusetts Department of Recreation and Conservation) know cause this area was burned, and find out if they knew that that fire had taken place. At that time, DCR didn’t know. I wasn’t really sure if the fire department knew, or what exactly had happened. There was another fire she brought me to that we ended up putting out and then calling the fire department just to make sure they knew.

Because of all of that, we had a list of information that we’d all put together and were able to call Arson Watch and give them a lot of information about some of the fires that had taken place in certain time frames. Hopefully it helped the investigation.

One of the things I do remember is that I took her in my car one day, and I just threw her in the backseat of my car with air conditioning. She loved the air conditioning in my car. From that day forward, she owned the backseat of every car I had. Nobody could sit in the back seat. My mother would try to get in the backseat and Betty would push her out. That was her seat. Nobody could sit there. I had to actually get a bigger car because when I got Honor, Betty wouldn’t let her sit in the back seat… She just loved it. I have no idea why. Probably the AC, but I got a portable AC for my room. She still just loved the backseat of my car.