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Daily Archives: June 17, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
The Toronto Star
A gaggle of border collies have become Toronto’s most rambunctious beach sanitation engineers
June 17, 2008
Urban Affairs reporter
Torontonians have Bette Midler to thank for the decrease in goose poop on their beaches.
It was while filming That Old Feeling in High Park in 1996 that the actress took note of the overpopulation of Canada geese and their ubiquitous droppings. She mentioned a New Jersey program where border collies herd the geese away to park supervisor Carol Guy.
Next thing Guy knew, Midler and the movie’s producers had purchased Lucy Goosey, a border collie pup, as a gift to the city.
The rest is history. Lucy is retired, but Piper, Roy, Dixie and Will are all in the service of the city’s waterfowl management program.
The dogs regularly traverse 161 kilometres of waterfront, from the Pickering border to the edge of Mississauga, on poop patrol, scaring geese away in the interests of preserving water quality.
The average goose produces a kilogram of feces daily, which washes into the lake, boosting phosphorus levels.
“Everybody knows that Lake Ontario is the major source of our drinking water. If you’ve got poor water quality, that means poor health for a lot of people,” Guy said yesterday, while directing Piper to herd geese at a west-end beach.
Geese feces accumulating near the water’s edge becomes a potential bacterial hazard that contributes to beach closing, she said.
The dogs’ handler has become an expert on goose habits. “They poop every six minutes. They’re pooping all the time. That’s why we have algae blooms and things like that,” Guy remarked.
Not to mention that it’s unpleasant for picnickers and beachgoers.
Guy, who hopes to see the program expanded, hands out flyers explaining the problem to anyone encouraging the birds to nest there by feeding them.
Brampton and Oakville have also used dogs to relocate geese. Guy emphasizes the dogs don’t chase the geese, but herd them as their ancestors did sheep.
“They’re not running at them and they’re not barking at them. They’re moving them, they’re relocating them, to sewage treatment plants and unoccupied green space,” she said.
About the time the Divine Miss M made her recommendation on geese control, a friend suggested Guy get a border collie, but she remembers pooh-poohing the idea.
“When this all started, I didn’t want a dog, I didn’t want anything to do with a dog,” she recalls.
She had no idea how the waterfowl management program would change her life. She now looks back in astonishment and observes the dogs have become her destiny.
All five â€“ including the retired Lucy Goosey â€“ live with her. She and her husband purchased a farm north of Belleville. The dogs practise herding on a flock of sheep.
“I just assumed border collies knew how to do this. I didn’t realize you had to train them. And if you don’t know how to train them, then you, yourself, have to be trained,” Guy explained.
She rents a home in the city to lessen commuting, with the working dogs as constant companions.
For a woman who never envisioned her career going in this direction, Guy said she would have it no other way.
“This is amazing,” she said, “to have this kind of partnership with a dog and do this.”