A Necessity Of Life – Dogs

Wags, my first love.

My blogs are usually filled with my fascination with nature supported by research….a learning experience for me and hopefully you. Today I wish to present an observation.

My husband and I have just returned from three weeks of traveling from Michigan to Savannah, Georgia and back. Beside realizing there is truly a southern charm we also observed life with dogs all along the way. Many of our friends and relatives we planned to visit have dogs I was looking forward to seeing again or meeting. We also interacted with people and dogs unknown to us. To prepared for these visits I baked five dozen apple cinnamon dog biscuits.

Our first stop brought us to old friends and a couple of basset hounds. We used to dog sit this goofy couple.   They knew I made dog treats and would be at my door every Saturday morning for a sample. Our human friends were  out of state for a wedding. We  let ourselves in and received a grand welcome and yes treats were expected. We enjoyed our alone time with our floppy earred friends. A day later we welcomed our friends to their own home and had a delightful time with adults and sweet girls.

Good friends.

Our next stop was to visit a cousin and his family’s new companion…a rescue setter of some sort. His children have grown and are at various stages of successful lives. This sweet dog is now the focus of their love and attention and vice versa.

While visiting  my cousin’s home we had the good fortune to have a fabulous breakfast at a french cafe around the corner. I had the greatest lump crab eggs Benedict. I may never taste anything as divine again. At the conclusion of our meal we were asked if we had a dog. With our bill we received an envelope filled with homemade chicken liver dog biscuits. They smelled so good I was tempted to try one. This gift made everyone smile from the waiter to all the customers present. Our canine protector truly welcomed us to the house upon our return.

Our next stop was Gordonsville, VA. Visiting my sisters always involves dogs and biscuits. Sister number 1 has rescued older dogs for years. At present a black and a yellow lab share her home. The three of them make the sweetest love triangle…..they love and care for each other dearly. Upon adoption sister number 1 had  her  black lab treated and cured of heart worm. The yellow lab is now blind and has cataracts. Recently she notice her eye was bulging. After a day with a canine eye specialist and a


shot in the eye the pressure was relieved and everyone comfortable again. Helping dogs in need is one of her life missions.

Sister number 2 has rescued a very abused red doberman who as a puppy was chained to a dog house on a short tether. The two of them are constant companions. She has worked hard with this dog as he may have suffered brain damage when tossed down the stairs. The damage resulted in a great deal of aggressive behavior which has all but disappeared. This is a very close knit family of two.  I love to watch him look at her.

Dog people seem to gravitate toward one another. On our visit I met the first friend my sister number 1 made when she retired to her new home in a new state…an amazing dog lover. Her friend has adopted nine dogs all headed for heaven before she crossed their paths and a chinchilla meant to be snake food. Some of her dogs have special needs and others were considered unadoptable for some reason or another. She has created a loving dog

Sister number always has a bag of treats.

centered home for them. She has a dog sitter for days she must work and leases a 2 acre field for the dogs to be dogs in. In addition she creates dog clothing and writes children’s books about dogs.  This is also a true family… canine and human lives existing because of one another.  I must admit it was fun to watch and walk with the dogs in the field, such sweet souls.

Off on our own we had no more dogs to meet or so we thought. We headed to Savannah with all its charms. As we walked through the cities lovely parks dogs and people were walking and sitting on benches (yes dogs), reading newspapers or just enjoying the nature in each park. Curiously when a dog is present strangers are willing to begin a conversation with you, talking about their dog or sharing a smile.

We stopped at the River St. visitors center  to ask the number one tourist question, “Where is a public restroom?” As I approached the guide we noticed a dog from the window. We were curious as to the breed making one guess then another.  I decided to ask. I opened the door and began a lengthy conversation about this small mixed breed. Four strangers (tour guide from the open window) having a friendly conversation about this little fellow making the day pleasant. We all walked away with smiles.

Further down the street a made for TV movie was being filmed about the Underground Railroad. A perfect setting. An old buggy had been brought in and a small fire burning under one of the brick walkways. The film crew was busy making the area free of twenty first century objects and people but shared the story and scene with us. They were waiting for dark to begin filming. In a large silver truck were cameras, film crew and a beautiful pitbull ready with a smile, a wag of the tail and bright eyes. He was the protector and the object of affection as the staff waited long hours to begin working.

Off to City Market we went. It was here we found an art gallery with original paintings of ‘Pete The Cat’, blue Boston terriers, as well as other fabulous paintings of animals. Outside of the market, sitting on a bench under a tree, was a rather tattered and dirty group of street musicians. They must have played a bit and were now very focused on eating lunch. I noticed a scruffy looking dog sitting behind the bench waiting with his people. Oh no, a dog biscuit store across the way. I asked if I could buy the dog some biscuits and they said I could. Did I have fun choosing all sorts of flavors. Ten dollars later and a donated bottle of water I presented the goods to the fellow in charge.  He was very pleased to give the dog a biscuit and said it always made his dog feel better. Dog, man and I were very happy.

A loving stray joined our life when we were first married.

Dogs bring out the best in people. Total strangers will have pleasant conversations with one another when a dog is present…no cold stares or bumped shoulders. People will exchange a smile or ask for a physical connection by way of a pet or shake of a paw. What we came to realize is that as a species we need the unconditional love of a dog and vice versa. A dog raises ones quality of life. All the dog wants is to love and be loved whether you are a homeless  street musician or successful business woman. I feel humans have the same quest…to be loved and cared for. I miss having a dog very much. With retirement my life has changed as I enjoy the freedom to travel for long periods of time. I am sure however, there will be another dog in my life, the only unknown is, when and how.






Dogs – Part One

“Until one has loved a dog a part of ones soul remains unawakened.”

Anatole France

By Ellen Levy Finch / en:User:Elf (uploaded by TBjornstad 14:51, 17 August 2006 (UTC)) - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:IMG013biglittledogFX_wb.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1063919
By Ellen Levy Finch / en:User:Elf (uploaded by TBjornstad 14:51, 17 August 2006 (UTC)) – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:IMG013biglittledogFX_wb.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1063919

The dog, so varied in appearance, yet so innately loving and responsive to all creatures. Dogs and humans have been helping each other get through life for thousands of years.  They have hunted with their human companions, protected their flocks and families, served as police and in the military, helped us see, hear, comforted us, the list goes on and on.  Lately I have noticed dogs playing new roles in our lives.

My first subject is the Border Collie, a hard working, energetic, and affectionate dog.  The Border Collie was developed on the hilly border between Scotland and England (perhaps the origin of its name – Border) for the express purpose of herding sheep. They are high energy, highly trainable, intelligent dogs  so  sensitive to their handler’s instructional cues that sometimes it is the tone of a whistle, a raised eyebrow or a hand signal that gives them direction. Loving their people they will play with you rain or shine, snow or sleet. For overall health the Border Collie needs constant mental and physical stimulation…they are not for the faint of heart.


This brings us to a very special Border Collie, K-9 Piper. K-9 Piper works for the Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, MI as a Wildlife Control Dog.

One would think with the comings and goings of airplanes, helicopters, and motor vehicles wildlife would be discouraged  from seeking out airports as their landing areas or home. On the contrary, the wide open spaces of an airport are very attractive to all sorts of wildlife – deer, rodents, reptiles and a great many birds. These animals present a great danger to aircraft especially during take-offs and landings. Birds are one of the greatest hazards although I did see a deer caught in the landing gear of a plane. Birdstrikes, bird ingestion, bird hit, or BASH – Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard are a few of the names for this unfortunate event. Birds flying in the path of a jet may hit the windscreen or  can be sucked into the engine dislodging the fan blades and shutting the engine down. Damage can be done by a single bird or a flock.

Gregory Lam
Gregory Lam

The first known birdstrike was in 1905 when Orville Wright was chasing a flock of birds through a corn field. On October 4th, 1960 a Lockheed L-188 Electra flying out of Boston hit a flock of starlings knocking out all four engines. The plane went down in Boston Harbor.  Of the 72 passengers only ten survived. I believe most of us remember the January 15th, 2009 aircraft landing in the Hudson River…all passengers and crew survived.

The FAA requires all airports to have a Wildlife Hazard Management Plan. The purpose of this plan is to deter wildlife from using the airport grounds and airspace. This is done through habitat modification, harassment technology and research. Habitat modification might include mowing of tall grasses or the redirection of storm waters. Research includes becoming knowledgeable about ecosystems  and endangered species. My favorite, harassment technology (never realized this was an area of study just thought is was an event I experienced as a middle school teacher :)) might include sirens, lights, traps, pyrotechnics and dogs. DOGS…..a win – win solution. Sirens, lights, pyrotechnics and traps are all pollutants while the dog is Mother Nature’s answer to air safety.

The Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, MI is the only airport in Michigan to have a Wildlife Control Canine. It is estimated that there are less then ten airports in the country using dogs for Wildlife Control. Let’s meet K-9 Piper.




Brian Edward, Cherry Capital Airport Operations Supervisor, adopted Piper in 2012 as a two year old pup. K-9 Piper, now seven, has become a highly trained Wildlife Control Dog. Being one of the first K-9  wildlife patrol dogs Piper and Brian are developing the craft and setting some standards. K-9 Piper has been on the job for a little more than a  year working forty hour weeks. When not working both Brian and Piper continue to train. Brian has used several approaches with K-9 Piper, the first being obedience training, then off the leash training and finally on-the-job training.


An airport wildlife control dog has three main responsibilities: to patrol regularly, respond to wildlife reports, and to chase birds off the taxiways and runways. When K-9 Piper patrols he is looking for wildlife that might attract birds to the airport. Rodents, small mammals and reptiles are all attractive bird food. When wildlife is spotted it is reported to Brian and K-9 Piper. The dynamic duo jump into the SUV, report to the “target area”, make a visual and out flies K-9 Piper to chase off the intruders. Perimeter patrols are also in K-9 Piper’s job description. He is looking for breaches in the fencing….animals sneaking in and out. Telling the new breaches from the old is not difficult for this intelligent dog.

To do this job effectively K-9 Piper requires gear.


1. Eye Protection – mandatory year around day and night. He uses 100% UV protective goggles. Not only do these goggles protect K-9 Piper from the sun and light but shield him from the debris kicked up by the planes and helicopters.

2.  Ear Muffs – also mandatory as air traffic noise is deafening particularly for the keen ears of a dog.

3.  Footwear – these highly fashionable shoes protect against hot runways and natural debris though out the airport such as rocks, snow and ice.

4.  Aerial Insertion Vest – my favorite, it sounds like the equipment my son used as a Marine. The purpose of this vest is to safely lift K-9 Piper in and out of the SUV, lift him over obstacles, and hang onto him when necessary. Attached to the vest is a Tracking/ID harness. The harness has a beacon used to see K-9 Piper’s position day and night. This marvelous vest was made possible through the support of Spikes K-9 Fund.

Sadly, on one leap out of the SUV to chase a Snowy Owl K-9 Piper broke his leg. It was hard to hold him back even with the cast. Hopefully this vest will make this a one time event.

5. K-9 Trauma Kit- mandatory. Donated by K-9 Defender Fund. This kit goes everywhere K-9 Piper goes.

Much of K-9 Pipers equipment is donated or purchased with funds raised selling merchandise. Check out K-9 Piper’s website: http://www.airportk9.org

A continuing theme through out my blogs is that nature has it all taken care of, this is another example.  Although airports were not part of Mother Nature’s plan K-9 Piper was made for the job of Wildlife Management Control. It satisfies K-9 Piper’s need to be active, to think, to herd and to please. It takes care of the Cherry Capital Airports need to keep its passengers and crews safe. The wildlife is not harmed…..just harassed or encourage to hang out elsewhere. Last but not least….the centuries old bond between man and dog (Brian and K-9 Piper) has been greatly enriched.

Enjoy the video below and google K-9 Piper for much more.