Dog used to keep runways safe in Michigan

Posted at 11:35 AM, Feb 29, 2016

It appears that old dogs can learn new tricks, as one 8-year-old Border Collie has proven. K-9 Piper might not do flips, but he helps planes take off at Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, Michigan.

Piper helps maintain wildlife control at the airport by “shooing away” ducks, geese, owls, foxes and other creatures, his owner Brian Edwards told ABC News today. “Border Collies are born for this type of work, they’re herders,” he said.

Edwards has been an airport operations supervisor at Cherry Capital since 2008 and has been working with Piper at the airport for a little over a year.

“Piper and I are a unique thing going on,” Edwards explained, as other airports that use dogs to maintain wildlife control do not have the owner of the dog also working at the airport. He added that it is rare to have dogs help with airport control and that the “FAA doesn’t keep statistics on dogs in use at airports.”

Edwards came into ownership of Piper around 2012. The pup was constantly outside and “doing a lot of obstacle racing a couple of years ago.” Edwards knew that other airports had trained dogs, with Fort Myers being the first to do so in 1999, and “decided to go for it. I thought, he has the aptitude to do this.”

The training “took a lot of work to get it to" the point where Piper was used to airplanes, as it is “not something that is natural for a dog. We train for the worst possible scenario, knowing we’re going to perform our best,” Edwards said.

But Piper has become a “vital” asset for the airport, helping clear away snowy owls that were constantly on the runway area. Even after the Border Collie injured his paw last November, Piper was still doing his job with a bright cast to add to his stylish accessories.

“Rule No. 1 is to always look cool,” Edwards said. Piper goes out in his reflective specs to avoid dirt and debris that fly up on the runway and to shield his eyes from sunlight. He also has ear muffs to protect his hearing.

Edwards is most proud “to see him go out there and excel and continue to learn new things,” he said. “There is not greater fulfillment or enjoyment in my life.”