TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - One Michigan airport has discovered the most adorable of solutions: a border collie named Piper who patrols runways in a ski mask and boots.
Piper has a very unique job at the airport. The 7-year-old border collie, who turns 8 in April, works in wildlife control and his mission every day is to scare birds away from the flight path of incoming and outbound planes. He works 40 hours a week and has been with the airport since August 2014.
"Piper is the definition of a working dog: he loves what he does and is happiest when working. He's extremely intelligent and loves putting his mind to work," said Brian Edwards, Airport Operations Supervisor.
Traverse City's Cherry Capital Airport brought Piper aboard as its new K-9 unit, designated to seek out and chase away the birds that sometimes congregate at the airport. Federal regulations require all airports to have a plan to fend away wildlife, mostly using methods like pyrotechnics, traps, and sirens.
He's now the only Wildlife Control K-9 on staff at an airport in Michigan, the airport claims, and one of only a handful in the United States.
Edwards read about the use of border collies at airports a long time ago and decided to see if he could train Piper up to the task. "Piper and I spend a lot of time outside anyway, but even more so during this time while I was training for racing and tough mudder events. So instead of just running, we started to mix in training. Most of the training revolved around off leash control, making sure he would listen to me no matter what. Chasing birds comes pretty natural to this guy, so we didn't have to work on that as much as the obedience."
Piper's number one priority in life is his ball. Piper must know where his ball is at all times and will remember where he left it at work when we arrive the next day. "We frequently play hide and go seek, he always wins!"
Piper is outside as much as possible. "As an Airport Operations Supervisor, my duties are not strictly wildlife management, so the amount of time outside depends mostly on my workload. Other than that, we try to be outside doing what he loves. He gets plenty of breaks and water and is never left alone outside." When not outside, Piper is inside a maintenance building, usually playing ball with somebody. Border collies are built for the cold. "Piper absolutely loves winter because he doesn't get hot."
"He's a dude, a guy, a bro. Mostly though, he's my inspiration and he makes me so proud every day. There is no greater satisfaction than watching him excel."