When asked to give a talk to a group I often open with the phrase, “Yes, I do get paid to be on a ‘Wild Goose Chase’.”
We are Windchazer, Inc. a professional Canada Goose Management Company in Shacklefords, Virginia. We provide our services using trained, working border collies which you may know as the shepherd’s sheepdog.
People often comment, “Wow, this looks like such fun,” and it is, most of the time. But as the saying goes, “Every coin has two sides.” One side is fresh air, sunshine, love of a loyal dog, and smiles from the client. The other side isn’t completely obvious: it is likely what brought Windchazer to your property. Canada geese are beautiful in the water and in the sky flying in their well-known majestic “V” formation. However, flocks are not as beautiful and welcomed when on a well-manicured lawn pulling up the luscious green grass leaving their calling cards, “poop” behind for you and your pets to hopscotch around.
Each Windchazer vehicle contains buckets, pooper scoopers, trash bags, rakes, and brooms. We do not contract to clean up behind Canada geese, but we do not want to leave droppings on sidewalks, door entrances and in parking lots for our clients to step in whether they be there for business or for play. Part of our “dirty job” is picking up the excrement. We do this for several reasons.
First, we treat your property like it was our own: clean, safe, and aesthetically pleasing. Second, we can tell a lot about the goose’s activity by examining their droppings. Third, by leaving a clean site and returning later we can determine the best time to provide our service based on the placement and number of “calling cards” left behind.
In the Spring, March and April, nesting pairs of Canada geese return to sites annually to build a nest, lay eggs, and hatch a new brood of goslings. Windchazer’s job may include finding, monitoring, and managing these nests. Those nests might require trudging through knee deep mud in order to access the nest.
Last spring, I had to access a nest by kayak. Unfortunately, I stepped out onto the island only to find that it was made from a lightweight floating device…I was sinking rapidly in cold water! On another occasion, I was kayaking around several small (30 feet by 20 feet) mostly dirt, man-made islands with sharp inclines. The geese like to build nests on the tops of these little Islands. I spent more time sliding down in the mud back into the water than standing at the top. Thankfully, one of the other items in a Windchazer vehicle is a change of clothes, sometimes multiple changes of clothes and shoes!
In late spring, when successful nesters have hatched out this year’s goslings, we find something we fondly call, “Rings of Fire.” Yes, we do text each other links to Johnny Cash’s famous song. You must have a little humor to keep the daily grind interesting. The “rings of fire” are formed when the female sits in one spot and the goslings sit around her in a circle. Oftentimes in the evening, in a well-lighted area that has quick and easy access to a body of water should anything make them feel threatened. The morning results are a very large pile of “poop” surrounded in a ring of many small piles of poop. This can double or triple the amount that has to be pooper scooped into buckets and disposed of appropriately. Imagine coming into work and finding your favorite lunchtime bench in the sunshine surrounded by “Rings of Fire”.
All said, working with highly trained dogs in a variety of environments is a rewarding vocation. We often say what we do, is “a way of life ” and not just a job. The geese, the community, the weather, and the dogs keep us on our toes. No two days are ever alike and there is a never-ending supply of information to be learned. So, if you ever meet me in person, covered in mud from head to toe with a smile on my face, and a bounce in my step you’ll know, “I’ve been on a wild goose chase.”
By Debra Marshall
Debra is the president of Windchazer, Inc. in Shacklefords, Virginia. She got her first border collie in 1983 as a pet. She fell in love with the sport of sheep dog trialing and currently has 15 border collies. Through her obsession with sheep dog trials, Debra began training border collies for a farm owner in Charlottesville. She established Windchazer in 1997 and has served government facilities at the federal, state, and county level, private corporations, homeowner associations, hospitals, airports, colleges, golf courses, and private entities as well as consults on goose management projects across the United States. Debra’s knowledge of border collies and the methodology behind Canada goose management make her the “go to” person in the United States for help with goose management issues.