Border Collie Patrols Airport Runway
Many people can say they've seen a dog inside an airport, but what about on the runway? While it seems like a rare sighting, it is becoming a common one at one Michigan airport.
Meet Piper, the eight-year-old Border Collie who is helping airport officials in Michigan by keeping runways clear of ducks, geese and other unexpected visitors. Piper works at the Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, Michigan. Without his help, planes would not be able to take off.
Meant to be
Piper essentially helps airport crew take on any pests that decide to come onto the runway, including geese, foxes, ducks, owls, and other bold wild animals. As a Border Collie, Piper is a natural herding dog, meaning he's used to chasing around animals and rounding them up. Brian Edwards, Piper's pet parent, noted that Piper was meant to do this job, which he began in 2015.
Edwards has worked at the airport since 2008, and stated that usually when you see dogs involved in airport's wildlife control, their pet parents do not also work at the airport. On top of that, it is not common for the dogs to actually be working on the runway with airport controllers. However, it is possible, as the Federal Aviation Administration does not keep tabs on what dogs work at the airport and where.
Edwards first got the idea to bring Piper to the runway when he noticed that the dog loved doing obstacle courses and appreciated being outdoors. Realizing the intelligence levels of the dog, Edwards believed that Piper would be easy to train - and that included chasing birds and animals off the runways. Edwards also knew that many major airports, such as Fort Myers, trained dogs to use for wildlife control and other necessary tasks. After doing his research, he decided to go for it.
A rough go
Getting Piper acclimated to the airport runways was not an easy task. After all, airplanes can be incredibly loud and intimidating to an animal that does not understand them. They might also be frightened by the layout or even the trucks that shuttle people and luggage around. Yet Edwards was patient with Piper, and got him to slowly trust airplanes, as well as the general atmosphere. He also prepared worst-case scenarios for the dog so he could be prepared for just about anything, if it ever happened.
Edwards also equipped Piper with the proper pup gear to keep him protected from dangers of the runway. He wears big goggles to shield his eyes from the sun and keep any debris and flying dirt from his eyes, and he has a handy pair of earmuffs that he rocks to help soften the noises from the large jet engines.
So far, Piper has continued to excel at the airport. Last year in 2015, the airport was experiencing a considerable issue with snowy owls landing on the runways and around the planes. Luckily, Piper stepped in and was able to manage the annoying problem with ease. He even worked through a broken paw, still performing his doggie duties with pride.
Cherry Capital Airport has experienced issues with animals for years, sometimes even endangering pilots and passengers. While loons are problematic in the summer months, snowy owls pose issues in the winter. In the past, the airport used sirens and pyrotechnics to keep the birds away, but luckily now they have Piper.