It's a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a … bird-chasing dog.
This dog is named Piper, a seven-year-old Border Collie who is tasked with chasing birds off the runway and taxiways at the Traverse City Airport. And he’s taken the Internet by storm.
Formally known as the Cherry Capital Airport K-9, Piper works as part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s required Wildlife Hazard Management Plan for the airport.
A GIF of Piper sitting courageously on the airport runway garnered the attention of over 3 million people on Reddit this weekend.
People left comments like, “Yet another dog that is cooler than me,” and “The retrieving mission was a success. We found the ball.”
Michigan Radio had the chance to speak with Piper’s owner, Brian Edwards, an operations supervisor at the airport, about Piper’s role as the Cherry Capital Airport K-9. He says he never imagined that he and Piper would get so much media attention.
“Working with Piper morphed itself into something bigger than I could have ever predicted,” said Edwards. “And in all this I consider myself so lucky, because I get to bring my best friend into work everyday and work in the field together. We get to do some problem-solving, and I get to watch Piper learn to think and act for himself.”
As part of the Wildlife Hazard Management Plan, Piper’s work is supplemented by sirens, pyrotechnics, and other technologies to keep birds away from aircraft.
Edwards says he trained Piper for the job after reading about the effectiveness of dogs for wildlife control at airports.
“And honestly,” he added, “I never thought the airport director would go for it. But it wasn’t difficult to train Piper; border collies are bred for this. They are sheep herding dogs who can be used in a similar way for birds. So as soon as the birds are in the air, Piper will leave it be and move onto something else.”
According to Piper’s Instagram account, @airportk9, the praise continues to flow in.
As Edwards explains, not all airports can use dogs like Piper
“For many, using K-9s for wildlife mitigation makes airports question whether or not they are getting their money’s worth. The training and maintenance of these dogs can be expensive—sometimes costing over $15,000,” Edwards explained. “Piper is unique because he is a volunteer. He is my dog, I trained him, and I bring him into work everyday. The Traverse City Airport doesn’t need to worry about housing, kenneling, or feeding a dog.”
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