Back Bay’s Unsung Litter Hero
Foxie the dog was a beloved member of her Back Bay community, serving as a unique catalyst for change in her neighborhood’s growing litter problem through her owner and longtime Boston resident, Ali Foley. Foxie passed away this past June, surrounded by her loving human family.
A Florida native, Foxie moved to Boston six years ago after Foley’s mother could no longer care for her due to Alzheimer’s. Though experiencing a drastic change, Foxie took to her new home very quickly.
“I let her frolic in the grass and she was in love,” said Foley, “I just started to do little bits every day, bringing her out to social settings and walking her to different areas.”
While out on walks, Foley noticed that Foxie had keen people skills.
“[Foxie] knew her job and she knew how to read people and understand maybe what they were concerned about,” Foley said. “[I would] not necessarily want her to maybe approach somebody, [but] she would actually challenge me and want to help.”
Foley, recognizing this unique gift, created an Instagram (@foxieinbackbay) for people who grew to love Foxie and amassed a local following of over 500 people from the Back Bay area. The clever canine soon began attending events such as the Boston Marathon and the Boston Pride Parade, drawing people together and bringing joy to those around her.
Foxie’s influence went beyond this “sixth sense.” She had an uncanny ability to sniff out any litter on the ground. Though Foley was a long-time “germaphobe,” she would nevertheless let Foxie sniff the litter. When guiding her away, Foley felt that to an onlooker, it might look as though she littered and felt the responsibility to clean it up.
“I wanted to make sure that every place that we visited looked better than the way that we found it…we had a little routine between the Commonwealth Mall and the Boston Public Garden, where we would go in there every other day or so and do our snoop patrol,” Foley said.
Cleaning up Boston’s litter broadened Foley’s perspective on the issue of trash in the city, so she and her neighbor, Anne Swanson, got involved in removing litter and graffiti from the streets of the Back Bay. The pair joined the Neighborhood Association of Back Bay’s cleanup committee, which Foley said focuses on “revitalizing neighborhood clean-up initiatives and expanding these efforts by inspiring more neighbors to want to get involved in cleaning up the Back Bay neighborhood.”
Prior to the pandemic, NABB held “Alley Rallies,” which were organized community clean-up events in Back Bay alleys, typically held on a day or weekend in the spring, with shovels and rakes donated by the city.
“Because people realized that Anne or myself had this liking for litter and trash, they thought it would just be logical that, wow, Anne and Ali should run the Alley Rally,” Foley said.
Swanson as chairperson and Foley as co-chairperson revamped the Alley Rally for the first time since COVID, with the largest turnout in the history of this tradition of over 45 people.
Foxie the dog served as the furry mascot greeting everyone that came to support the event.
Boston’s litter problem has been criticized by numerous residents and petitions. Organizations like “Keep Massachusetts Beautiful” urges clean-up crews and new regulations. The Boston City Council’s Committee on City Services and Innovation Technology hearing that took place in April focused on the issue of excess trash and how, according to officials and residents, it has gotten reportedly worse since the pandemic. Since then, there has been an increase in spending to better deal with this issue.
Foxie the dog inspired people like Foley to keep Boston’s streets clean and advocate for community initiatives to fight this ongoing issue.
“Foxie served as my inspiration to take a passion for litter, which, if you had asked anybody 15 years ago if I would be touching any litter on the ground, the answer would be no,” said Foley.
Sofia Waldron (she/her) is a HorizonMass reporter. She is a student at Emerson College studying Journalism. In addition to her love of journalism, Waldron is interested in photography, music, art, and travel.