In an effort to keep putting greens pristine, and keep golfers from getting all poopy-shoed, some golf courses, like Rebsamen in Little Rock, have turned to dogs.
That’s where a 12-year-old border collie named Fern has patroled the grounds for 10 years – up until talk began about retiring her in the last month or so, and another golf course requested her services.
“She’s gotten a lot of attention the last couple of weeks because of what’s going on,” said assistant city manager Bryan Day. “I’ve gotten e-mails from people wanting us to loan her to North Little Rock,” Day told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Registration is required to read the story.)
About 200 geese are living at Burns Park in North Little Rock, feasting on the greens and using the grounds as their bathroom. It has gotten so bad that city officials decided to let hunters come in and take care of the problem.
Opposition from animal lovers has led North Little Rock to rethink the plan, and at least consider the far easier and less messy route of getting a dog like Fern.
Border collies are used across the country to keep geese away from airports, neighborhood ponds, golf courses and parks. Generally, all it takes is a prolonged stare from them to send geese on their way.
Little Rock bought Fern for $3,000 in 2001 from a North Carolina breeder. Costly as that sounds, it was far cheaper than the $20,000 in labor the city had spent on repairing goose-related damage.
Her presence alone keeps the geese away — and she’s earned some attention along the way. She was on the cover of Turfnet.com’s 2008 “Superintendent’s Best Friend” Calendar, which features working dogs on golf courses across the country.
Now, at 12, Fern spends her time mostly kicking back in the club house, or going for rides in golf carts. Because there are no more geese, she has it pretty easy. But because her presence ensures the geese won’t return, officials have decided not to retire her, and not to rent her out.
“She’s got 300 acres out here,” Jay Carnes, the golf course superintendent said. “She needs to stay here and be buried here.”
(Photo: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 28th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, arkansas, border collie, burns park, calendar, control, damage, deterrent, dogs, fern, geese, golf, golf course dogs, golf courses, hunters, little rock, pets, poop, rebsamen, superintendents best friend
Observing my dog Ace over the past year – at the beach, in the mountains, in deserts, forests, city streets, suburban lawns and campgrounds all across the USA – I’ve noticed that he is much more interested in some forms of wildlife than he is in others.
Between our travels and the five years we shared before that, I’ve been able to chart the degree of fascination he seems to hold for different species of animals — from those that seem to enthrall him to those whose appearances produce a reaction more like ho-hum, been there, done that.
When I say “chart,” I am not using the term loosely:
Using a scale of 1 to 10 — 1 being barely piquing his curiousity, 10 being the utmost peak of piqued — I have ranked Ace’s seeming degree of interest in cats, crabs, cows and other creatures. Keep in mind, every dog — based on his genes and environment — probably has a different scale of interest in other species. So your actual dog may vary.
I have no idea how much of Ace’s reaction is sight-based, as opposed to scent-based, but it seems he’s most excited about species he has never seen (or smelled) before, or only rarely sees (or smells), whereas those that are a part of every day, squirrels for instance — abbreviated as SQ in the chart above – are worth little more than a yawn.
If, however, there are two squirrels, and they are chasing each other around a tree, or along a telephone line, making squirrel noises, then Ace’s interest rises to an 8.
He was slightly more interested in the white squirrels of Brevard, but that may be because I didn’t let him out of the car, or because he detected I was more interested in them.
Where we are staying now, in a residential neighborhood in Winston-Salem, N.C., there are tons of chipmunks — OK, not tons, but a whole lot — and I’m pretty sure Ace had never seen a chipmunk before. On Ace’s scale, chipmunks rate a 7. He doesn’t that get excited when he sees one, but when they suddenly disappear from view, going down a hole in the ground, his ears prick up, his head rises, he scouts around with a look of concern in his eyes. Then a minute later he seems to have forgotten about them.
Ducks rate a 2, probably because he sees them often — basically everytime he goes to visit my mother (mom rated a 2 with him, but since she’s gotten into the routine of giving him treats, she’s now a full 10).
Don’t get me wrong. He likes the ducks at Arbor Acres, but they don’t seem to stimulate him as much as they did the first time he saw them.
Baby ducks are another story.
He was fascinated — a 9 on the scale — by those my mother was harboring in her room a couple of years back, perhaps because they were babies, perhaps because they were in her room, or, again, maybe because we were so interested in them.
He seems to be very interested in all forms of babies, with the possible exception of human ones, who rate a quick sniff and only a 2 on the Scale of Interest.
Cats rate the maximum 10. While he has seen a lot, and co-resided temporarily with a couple — Miley, for one – his fascination with cats has never diminished.
No other animal species makes Ace perk up as much as a cat. They tend to avoid him (except for staring contests from afar). In our travels, we stayed with at least three. He befriended those who let him. Those who avoided him only made him more intrigued. The only thing more interesting than a cat in full view, it seems, is an almost hidden one whose, say, tail, is poking out from under a chair.
But I’d probably be wrong.
Rabbits rate an 8 with Ace.
He saw several while we were staying in our trailer in the Arizona desert, and lots more — though they seem a shorter and stubbier, slightly more fluffy variety – here in North Carolina.
I don’t know how skunks rate with Ace, and hope I never find out. I don’t know how bears rate, and would just as soon avoid learning that as well.
As for bugs, it depends on what they’re doing and where they are. A cricket in the house can rise to an 8 on his scale. An ant on the sidewalk rates a 1 or less. A bee or fly hovering around his face gets his attention, but is more an annoyance to be snapped at than a species to be studied.
Cows rate about a 4, while horses come in at an average of 6. Horses in a distant pasture aren’t too exciting to him, but one that’s up close merits his scrutiny. He was all but smitten with, and only slightly wary of, a horse named Goblin that we met in Maine.
Turtles rate a 9, in large part — and again I’m using my human brain to guess — because of their novelty and the way they move, taking a few steps, disappearing into their shells, sticking their heads out and taking a few steps more.
Crabs are a curiosity as well, rating a 5 when they are alive and moving, only a 2 when they’ve gone to the great beyond, leaving their earthly shells behind. Then they are but flotsam, part of the potpourri of beach muck that, while definitely worth a good long sniff, is otherwise like a bad summertime novel. After a chapter or less you move on.
That leaves humans, who in some ways are difficult to rank on the scale.
A baby human, to Ace, is like a crab — about a 5, worth sniffing but not lingering with. A baby’s cry must be checked out, but once it is, Ace no longer appreciates it. A human with a bag — no matter what’s in it — is a full 10.
Humans aged 5 to 12 rate a 7. Adult males rate an 8. Adult females rate a 9. Humans with treats rate a 15.
Homeless people rate an 11. I don’t know if it’s because of more interesting scents, or because they usually have bags. Maybe, too, it’s because they often sit on the sidewalk and dogs seem to appreciate it when humans are at their level.
In every town in our travels that we encountered homeless folk — and that was pretty much every town in our travels — Ace seemed to feel the need to at least say hi, if not take a seat or lay down next to them.
I hesitate to add to all my previous anthropomorphizations — assuming that’s a word, and I spelled it right — but permit me one more unscientific human interpretation of my dog’s behavior.
Most dogs experts will tell you compassion is not in a dog’s emotional repertoire. But this is what I like, and tend, to believe:
I think he can sense when somebody needs a friend.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 13th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, adults, america, animals, anthropomorphism, behavior, cats, chart, children, chipmunks, cows, crabs, creatures, curiosity, dog, dogs, ducks, fascination, females, forms, geese, graph, homeless people, horses, interaction, interest, males, observations, pets, rabbits, rate, rating, road trip, seagulls, social, society, species, squirrels, study, travels with ace, turtles, wildlife
Over at Arbor Acres, the retirement community where my mother lives, there’s a population explosion looming.
Our duck friends, whose importation we told you about last summer, have produced a second generation, and several mama ducks are now poised atop their eggs.
Arbor Acres has always had ducks and geese — sometimes too many, sometimes not enough. They stay along a pond and an azalea-lined canal that feeds the pond. The geese come and go, but most of the ducks seem to like it enough to make it home.
The ducks serve as conversation pieces, and much more. They give residents something to watch that’s far more interesting than television, let them stay in touch with nature, and take part in the excitement of a new cycle of life starting up. When the baby ducks start showing up at Arbor Acres, all other news takes a back seat.
(I am of the opinion that every center for the elderly, a group I am in hopes of joining one day, should get massive and regular doses of two things — young people and animals, and that bringing them together greatly benefits all three. )
Last year, when the numbers dwindled and most of the newborns were being gobbled up by predators — a turtle who lives in the pond is the top suspect — one resident took steps to re-establish a flock.
He bought 16 of various breeds, cared for them at home and released them when they were old enough to get by on their own. The new ducks were all named after residents — one of them after my mother, Jo Woestendiek, whose room overlooks the canal.
For a week now, Jo Woestendiek, the duck, has been laying atop her eggs in a nest she made with pine needles — just outside the window of Jo Woestendiek, the human, who leans over her couch and cranes her neck in hopes of getting a glimpse of them.
The births are always followed by a period of concern for the residents — walking on eggshells would be one way to put it — as they wait to see how many of the eggs, then ducklings, are going to survive the turtle, coyote, fox and heron that see them as breakfast.
One summer a few years ago, my mother — apparently not the first to do so – took a group of newborns in, secretly keeping them in a cardboard box in her room. (Ace, during a visit, was fascinated by them, slowly approaching and giving each a delicate sniff.)
This year, a good batch of eggs has shown up around campus and, depending on how many escape the predators, the duck population could triple, with a strong contingent of what my mother has already taken to calling — even before they hatch — the Woestenducks.
There aren’t too many things in the world cuter than baby ducks, and how they steadfastly follow their mother, on land and water, no matter how much she zigs and zags.
As I watched them Sunday, mother duck swam across the canal, her babies following closely. When the mother duck climbed up a series of rocks and into the pine needles under a bush, the baby ducks struggled, falling over each other, off the rocks, then fighting to get up again, almost reaching the top only to tumble back down.
I wanted to lend a hand, especially to the last one trying to make it up — clearly the klutz of the bunch. He’d slap a webbed foot on a wet rock, only to have it slide off as he somersaulted back into the water.
I kept thinking his mother should get up and help him.
Then I realized, by not going to his aid, she was.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 23rd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, arbor acres, assisted living, babies, baby ducks, birds, birth, communities, cycles, dogs, duck, ducklings, ducks, eggs, elderly, explosion, geese, hatched, independence, instititutions, jo woestendiek, motherhood, mothers, nature, nursing homes, pets, photography, population, retirement homes, survival, wildlife
Here’s one way to reduce the number of birds at airports, and cut down on accidents like the forced Hudson River landing of US Airways jet last week.
Her name is Sky.
Sky (click the link above for the video) is a 1-year-old border collie about four months into her job shooing birds away from Southwest Florida International Airport.
“She’s not aggressive at all, but to the birds, she looks like a predator — a wolf or a coyote,” said James Hess, airport operations agent and Sky’s handler. Big birds or flocks of birds, in addition to getting sucked into jet engines, can disable wing tips, dent the fuselage and break windshields.
Southwest Florida International is among about 20 airports nationwide using dogs for some form of wildlife control, according to Rebecca Ryan, owner of Flyaway Farm and Kennels in North Carolina, which has supplied dogs to both military and commercial airfields.
Southwest Florida International was among the first U.S. commercial airports to employ a bird dog, beginning in 1999, according to airport director Bob Ball. Sky is the third generation of her breed to patrol the airport southeast of Fort Myers.
According to USA Today, Charleston (S.C.) International and Canada’s Vancouver International also use dogs for wildlife control.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 19th, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: accident, accidents, air, air safety, airports, birds, border collies, control, crash, damage, dogs, engines, flocks, fowl, geese, hazard, hudson river, prevention, safety, sky, us airways, wildlife