Did you know one of ’s most frequent visitors is a canine?
Biscuit and her handler, Vid Rapsys, are daily visitors. But you won’t find either one practicing their short game; Biscuit is a trained Geese Police dog, used to deter the birds’ presence on the greens.
The hired the Geese Police midway through the 2011 golf season . After deeming last summer’s efforts successful, the Park District board approved additional services for this year.
By nature, border collies are herders. The key to their effectiveness, Rapsys said, is the dog’s stare. Geese consider humans a mild annoyance; but an intently preying canine presents an immediate threat.
Rapsys said collies are trained on stock like sheep, goats, and cattle. Geese Police dogs are specifically trained to obey stalking commands like “Walk up,” and, "Right there, right there.” They can read inflection, and even follow direction while swimming.
The dogs are not trained to attack, but birds generally don’t let them get close enough to try. (Though dogs are sometimes tempted to chase away ducks when in stalking mode.)
A Geese Police employee and Border Collie survey the golf course twice each day, making pit stops whenever they spot the winged creatures.
“It’s not like we can slack off here and pick it up wherever there. You have to be as diligent as possible,” Rapsys said.
Geese Police don't just serve park areas. Rapsys said clients include schools and corporate campuses throughout the western suburbs.
An unlikely source of inspiration
Roughly 15 years ago, Rapsys was participating in regional Frisbee competitions with his first Border Collie when he heard about the services. An AP photograph splashed his photo across papers nationwide. His wife’s cousin in New Jersey noticed the photo the same day a story appeared of a man who used his Border Collies to drive geese off properties.
(Founder David Marcks now clears more than $2 million annually, according to an MSNBC report.)
Rapsys said he felt compelled to keep the business clipping, and eventually, curiosity got the best of him. Rapsys made an impromptu trip to the Marcks’ home in New Jersey. He shadowed the man for three days in late winter, and while the work got dirty and lasted all day, he said he returned determined to take his own go at geese policing. Now Rapsys owns the Illinois franchise of Geese Police, which is based in Naperville.
See the Geese Police at work at Fermilab near Batavia, posted by Vid Rapsys
In a current special edition of National Geographic, in an article entitled "Inside the Minds of Cats and Dogs," Barbara Morell finds research shows that, "Some canines—exclusively border collies, so far—have acquired vocabularies of several hundred (and in one case, more than a thousand) words, showing not only that they have excellent memories but also that they can use labels to tell objects apart."
See the National Geographic website for additional information.