Dog duty


Dakota Star had many talents, but chasing geese was not one of them.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SALLY BENSON

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll confess I’m a resident of Regent Park. So when you read the article, “Wild Goose Chase” (page 16), please keep in mind that, although I write about this neighborhood’s experience with wildfowl control and a particular company that performed the work, I’m not endorsing my little planned community or the company itself. But I gaze out on the lake and the park from the back windows of my townhome, and I’ve watched over the years as the border collies and their handler have made an astonishing difference. Gone are the days when I’d open my back door to find a large goose peering in at me, beak pressed against the screen. And gone are the days when we had to hose down our shoes if we dared to walk through the park.

For a few months, I served on the board of directors of the homeowners’ association, although I’d rather forget that part of my life, thank you. If I’d been a landscape professional, I wouldn’t have wanted to work with us, either. When I was approached to chair the landscape committee, I pleaded conflict of interest – and was promptly assigned to head the architecture committee. That didn’t last long. Nevertheless, I’ve had first-hand experience with both the geese and the board. For that matter, so did my dog. Long-time readers may remember Dakota Star, who wrote a few editorial columns in this magazine.

Koti, as she was known to her friends and family, was also approached to assist with Regent Park matters. During the worst of our goose seasons, several neighbors asked to “borrow” Koti, hoping she would scare the geese into vacating the premises. Not wanting to exacerbate an already dicey situation, I stifled my laughter and politely declined. True enough, a Siberian husky is a working dog, but her job is to pull, not chase or fetch. She’ll happily tow a sledge until she drops, but toss her a ball and she’ll ask why you assaulted her.

Koti often napped on the patio, and the brazen Canada geese would stroll by within inches of her nose. Seldom would she budge. When they were feeling particularly snarky, they’d hiss at her and, if they were in a real snit, she’d struggle to rise from her cozy spot and amble over to see what all the fuss was about. Several times I watched, frozen, as she stood nose-to-beak with a cocky goose, neither animal daring to blink. Invariably, though, the encounter would end with the goose letting fly fowl language so coarse my ears would burn. Koti would stare at the offending bird, yawn, and return to her snooze.

So. If you’re thinking of training your own dog to take care of a problem with Canada geese, make sure it’s not a husky. Border collies are ideal, but others may be trained for the job – the operative word here being “trained.” You need to work with a dog whose instinct is to herd, not hunt.

Remember: As frustrating as they can be, Canada geese are Federally protected animals. Most dogs don’t know that. And most dogs can’t come up with $5,000 to $10,000 to cover the fine for violating the Federal Migratory Bird Act of 1918.

It’s probably best to leave it to the professionals.