Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
I never thought that this far into being back to school that I would miss working so much. It's not just the money either. That's definitely a big part of it, but I miss the actual job too. Like many teens, I started working around the age of 14/15 and have been ever since. I've had a number of great jobs that I'm very happy to have had. My favorite jobs by far have been the ones that many people don't even know exist. I have worked for a total of about 4 years as a dog handler for Canada goose control companies and programs. It all started at the golf course my father works at. Canada geese are a widespread problem on the east coast of the U.S. due to the fact that the geese more or less follow the coast during migration to the warmer weather of the south in the winter, and back to the milder north for summer months. The problem is that they have had it pretty easy for decades, and now populations are much higher than they should be. They thrive on the lush grass that folks work very hard to grow nicely in parks, athletic fields, lawns, and the #1 choice: golf courses. Back in the early '90's a local guy started a company called Geese Police. 10 years ago he was charging over $300 a week to come to the golf course once or twice daily to chase the geese away with his border collies. Now he has a multi million dollar company with franchises all over the east coast. So anyway, the golf club decided that it would be cheaper to buy their own dog. $3,000 later Roy came to live with us from a breeder/trainer in NC. He was a 2 1/2 year old border collie with 2 1/2 years of training. With a little bit of tweaking he was a goose clearing machine, and a great family pet at the same time. I love working with border collies because of their super high intelligence. Not only are they incredibly smart, but the instinct they are born with is quite impressive. Within about a week we had Roy trained to not step foot into certain rooms or the upstairs of our house. He would drop down and stay if you so much as whispered "lie down". One of my favorite ways to show off his obedience was while running him with a golf cart I would have him lie down, drive as far away as I possibly could, yell or whistle for him and watch him start from a little speck and sprint right up to my feet at his confirmed top speed of 25mph. I had been working with Roy for years when I found an ad in the local paper in the spring of 2005 for a dog handler position. This turned out to be a unique new project initiated by 8 NJ shore towns in order to keep lakes, parks, schools, and athletic fields clean from the messes associated with Canada geese that everyone was all too familiar with. I worked with a border collie named Cam who lived with a local family in Belmar. It was nearly a dream job, I got to hang out with a cool dog all day, drive up and down the beach, kayak, and skim around the lakes in a little motorboat. The program was very successful, but state funding ran out in the Fall of 2007 and I was laid off. The next year I found an ad for a similar job being offered by a private company. It required that I take the dog to live with me full time. This was a big step, especially since we already had Roy, who was a great family dog, but as most loyal dogs go, he is not too friendly around other dogs. I ended up moving into a house with some friends and I was able to take the job and the dog. Her name was Phoebe and she was one of the friendliest and most well behaved dogs I've ever known. When I got accepted to DelVal this past summer, I had to leave the job, and that meant giving Phoebe back to the owner's of the company for the next employee. Even if they had given me the option I wouldn't have been able to care for her (or afford her) as a full time student here. We developed a great working relationship and I still miss her very much, but I hope to have another border collie some day that is half the dog she is.