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Hairy herders corral coots

This could be construed as a terrible thing to say about one of our major industries, but golf courses in our area are going to the dogs.  Actually, they’re going  to the dogs everywhere.  It’s the latest trend – and it’s good.

Pacific Grove Golf Links has rented border collies and dog handlers to dissuade messy birds from eating the greens and leaving slimy calling cards for golf balls to traverse.  During hours of play, the border collies herd the birds – American coots – onto the golf course’s lake, and few coots seem to be taking up residence there this winter as a result.

Corral de Tierra Country Club, meanwhile, has its own border collie, Mickey, to make the course less attractive to flocks of Canadian geese.  In the off-season, Mickey – a club favorite – chases down pine cones tossed by Corral golfers and employees.  He also knows which golfers come to the course bearing dog treats.

Think of this as a full-employment act for border collies, a breed that is sometimes disdained for its obsession with chasing things.  Originally bred to herd livestock, and trained through the ages to do this without taking a chunk out of the profits (no nipping!), border collies are now being used nationwide to chase and herd wildlife away from areas where a danger or nuisance is posed, like golf courses and rural airports.

Use of the dogs for such chores has now reached such critical mass that when P.G.’s golf superintendent Mike Leach attended an industry convention recently, a display on border collies was side-by-side with the latest in golf courses mowers and tractors.

Pacific Grove’s municipal course first tried the border collie solution three years ago, but while the dog’s trial run was a success, managing the dog proved too labor intensive for Leach and his crew.  He reverted to a  less satisfactory solution of applying bird repellent to the course.  This season he was able to find a local border collie expert willing to rent his services.

Dog handler and owner Butch Wilson has seen, in the past few months, this niche business catch on with other local golf courses.  Even a city parks department is now using his services.

It’s a natural for this area.

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