Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Community Interest” May 2007.
Golf Course Dog – Better than the “Life of Riley,” this is the “Life of Casey”
By Kathleen Dreessen
Casey is a working Border Collie. She rolls into her job by about six in the morning and often stays for 10 or 12 hours. Casey is the official “Goose Chaser Eradicator” for the Vintners Golf Club in Yountville.
“She loves her work and she’s good at it,” says John Krueger, Casey’s handler and the golf course superintendent. “We used to have 250 Canada geese on the course and since we’ve had Casey, we’re down to 60 resident geese.”
Geese are nice looking, but noisy, and they leave unsightly, unsanitary droppings. Using Border Collies at golf courses, parks and other green spaces to encourage geese to vacate has become increasingly popular across the United States. The dogs never touch or harm the geese; they just chase them away. The geese get fed up being harassed and relocate to a less disruptive environment.
According to the Geese Police Academy in North Carolina, where Casey was trained, border collies are superior to other herding or hunting dogs for the removal of Canada geese. Border collies use their wolf-like glance (called “eye”) to mesmerize and unnerve the geese into flight. Geese think the Border Collie is a predator and that it is unsafe for them to remain in the area.
The Border Collie’s intelligence, along with its willingness to please, makes it an excellent working partner.
Krueger has worked with Casey for seven and a half years.
“I take her with me everywhere,” says Krueger, who got the idea for a goose-chasing dog when he saw a television program about one in the Lake Tahoe area. “The course owner at the time, Peter Reynolds, went back to North Carolina to look at dogs at the Geese Police. I wanted a female, which, in my opinion are better dogs. He got a deal on her for $5700, a discount, because they thought she was untrainable.”
Casey and Krueger proved them wrong.
“Her older brother, Dirk, works at the Silverado Country Club and her younger brother, Kirby, works at the Napa Golf Course. If you ask me, Casey is the smartest of them all.”
Casey weighs in at a trim 47 pounds and Krueger calls her a “character.”
“She talks back to me and seems to tell me what she wants. She barks hello to the crew, who think she’s telling them what to do. When she’s thirsty, she turns on the water spigot to fill her water bowl. She rides with me on the ATV (all terrain vehicle) and she’s got close to 1000 miles saddle time. Casey doesn’t bother the swan on the course, sometimes they play a little, with the swan making sounds and Casey barking back at her.”
Casey is not on a lead and Krueger doesn’t have to watch over her all day. If a flock of geese try to escape her watch by landing in the course pond, Casey plunges in after them.
“She knows her job and I don’t have to worry about her. In the spring nesting period, we’re not allowed to disturb the geese on their nests until the hatched goslings are flying. She knows when not to chase them. When I want her, I back up my golf cart. She knows the sound of my cart beeping in reverse and will come from wherever she is on the course.”
Watching Casey work is impressive. When she spots a flock of geese, her head drops and she slinks toward them, giving them the “eye.” Usually that’s all it takes. With much honking and flapping, the birds take to the sky.
If there are golfers between her and the geese, Casey waits patiently and quietly until the golfers have taken their swings and moved on. Then she goes to work.
The Border Collie originated in the Border Country between Scotland and England. It is a very old breed, with references in literature going back to at least 1570. The breed has been known as the Working Collie, Old-Fashioned Collie, Farm Collie, and English Collie. In December of 1994, the AKC (American Kennel Club) voted officially to recognize the Border Collie after decades of its being in the Miscellaneous group.
At eight and a half years of age, Casey still has a lot of working days ahead of her, but her hips have started acting up. Krueger gives her a joint supplement and, except for a tiny hitch in her gait, you’d never guess she wasn’t 100 percent.
“Casey will keep going until she drops,” says Krueger. “I plan to get another Border Collie puppy in about a year. We’ll go puppy shopping and see who Casey picks to work with her.”
Will he train the puppy himself or will he send the dog to the Geese Police Academy?
“Oh, no,” says Krueger confidently. “Casey will train her.”