- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2001

HOWELL TOWNSHIP, N.J. —
If necessity is the mother of invention, you might say David Marcks has found his pot of gold in Tac.Fifteen years ago, Mr. Marcks purchased Tac, a border collie who helped his owner rid 600 Canada geese from the greens and fairways of Fairview Country Club in Greenwich, Conn., where he was the grounds superintendent.
With Tac fresh out of work, the high-strung pooch took to chewing up golf club covers, tee towels and golf balls. He even "herded" Mr. Marcks' potted plants into the center of his living room.
Mr. Marcks convinced a colleague to let Tac chase geese on his fairways.
When other golf courses began seeking Tac's services, Mr. Marcks knew he was onto something. What started as a marriage of two nuisances has evolved into a successful small business called Geese Police Inc., which he founded in 1996.
Today, Geese Police has 33 dogs, a client list that numbers 280 and franchises in Seattle, Chicago and Leesburg, Va., with plans to open offices in Pittsgrove, N.J., Rochester, N.Y., and Patchogue, N.Y. The company has 35 employees and 35 trucks at its two New Jersey locations alone.
At a cost of $75 to $800 a week, depending on the size of the property, Geese Police visit up to three times a day, seven days a week. The collies make life miserable for the geese, shooing them off grass and ponds at golf courses, parklands, schoolyards and corporate office complexes.
"It's really something. The geese see the vehicles pull up and they take off, even before the collies come out. It's amazing," said Frank Neglia, director of facilities for the College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown, N.J.
When geese roost on rivers and lakes, Mr. Marcks or one of his handlers takes a dog out in a kayak and sends him to swim after the geese.
Handlers use stainless-steel whistles and traditional Scottish commands — "Come by," "Walk up," "That'll do" and "Lie down" — to direct the dogs.
"These dogs are trained not to touch the animals," Mr. Marcks said. "We take that killer instinct and refine it. Anybody could chase geese. But the success of border collies, unlike Labradors or Irish setters, who need the gratification of catching a duck or goose, is based entirely on stalking.
"Their instinct is to gather, gather, gather and bring to me. They use a wolflike glance — I call it 'The Eye' — to influence, stalk and herd. But the geese think they're going to be eaten."
Mr. Marcks, 37, never planned on a career as a pest-control pioneer. He has a two-year degree in agronomy and turf science from Rutgers University.
His company's home office is located in a small outbuilding behind his modest brick ranch house. The dogs are kept in 6-by-6-foot resting pens.
Mr. Marcks buys the dogs for up to $11,000 apiece from breeders, then sends them to one of two Geese Police academies for up to 14 months of training. They compete in sheepdog trials before going to work for him as 3-year-olds.
During a recent demonstration, Mr. Marcks' favorite deputy dog, Cap, looked menacing as he herded a half-dozen geese out of a pond and chased them off.
Dipping his head low and skulking, Cap circled the geese, herding them this way and that as he followed Mr. Marcks' commands.
To get Cap herding the geese counterclockwise, Mr. Marcks blew his whistle to sound like a whippoorwill. To herd them clockwise, he blew the sound of a bobwhite.
"It's the most fun job you can imagine," he said.
Mr. Marcks and his employees wear "Geese Police" jerseys replete with embroidered badges, border collie icons and images of flying geese. Their trucks are similarly equipped, and emblazoned with the company's slogan: "Call us to get the flock out!"
The truck that Mr. Marcks drives has bumper stickers that say, "My border collie is smarter than your honor student" and "If it's not a border collie, it's just a dog."
Mr. Neglia, a former facilities manager at Exxon Research and Engineering in Florham Park, said the 700-acre complex had a daily average of 1,800 geese before hiring Geese Police.
"We tried fireworks, we tried balloons, we tried everything. Nothing worked," he said. "But the border collies, it was amazing how they worked. And never once did I see a dog attack any of them."
The only problem for clients is that the dogs' work becomes a spectator sport unto itself.
"Once we get to our corporate clients, everybody gets their nose pressed to the windows," Mr. Marcks said, laughing. "Nobody's working. They're all, 'Oh, look, the dogs are here.'"

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide