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/ Source: TODAY
By Meena Hart Duerson
Out in the Arizona wilderness, a very good boy is doing his part to save the planet.
Meet Chipper, the 8-year-old rescue dog who loves to recycle.
Chipper and his owner, Katie Pollak, are on a mission to help the environment, picking up garbage wherever they spot it near their home in Mesa, Arizona.
Pollak, 31, realized her pup had a passion for plastic shortly after adopting him from a shelter back in 2011, when he demonstrated a fascination with disposable water bottles.
“He started picking them up immediately, so I encouraged it and rewarded it,” Pollak told the 3rd hour of TODAY. “And he motivated me to do the same. I really started getting out and picking up more than I was before, so we created kind of a team.”
The pair love to get outdoors, hiking, paddleboarding and going for walks together in their area. Over 28,000 people follow their adventures via Pollak’s Instagram account.
Chipper’s special skill has made him something of a celebrity; his talents were recently highlighted by The Dodo and Pollak’s social media followers are thrilled when they happen upon him in real life.
“He really has been an inspiration,” Pollak said. “I’ll go to group cleanups in the area, and when people see him they’re like, ‘Chipper’s here!’ So everyone gets to come meet him and see what he’s all about.”
Everywhere they go, they collect bags and bags of garbage — beer cans, plastic bottles, discarded pieces of clothing and more — that other people have left behind. Pollak always comes prepared with bags to collect the waste, and has been shocked at how much garbage she and her friends can pick up on any given day.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she said, “but we love this area so much and we really want to do our best to keep it wild.”
Pollak and Chipper — and Pollak’s other dog, Quinci — often meet up with friends to do big cleanups. Many of them are part of an effort called “Wild Keepers,” which vows to collect 1 million pounds of litter by the year 2023. They’ve been at it since 2016, and have collected over 200,000 pounds so far.
But a cleanup doesn’t have to be huge to make a difference. As Chipper knows, every little bit — or plastic bottle — helps.
“He reminds me all the time to be my best self and do everything I can,” Pollak said, “and he’s so much fun to do it with.”
Take the TODAY pledge: What’s the one green thing you’ll try this week to help the planet?