- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2003

She’s not a trained cop, but she chases perpetrators and protects private property. She can be on the job day or night. Cathy Fiddler and her squad of border collies are the Geese Police Inc. Their mission is to serve and protect — grass, mainly.

“One thing a lot of people don’t know,” says Mrs. Fiddler, “is that a goose [defecates] every six minutes. Even just a handful of geese make a mess.”

Keepers of golf courses, parks and public spaces were the first to seek help from the Geese Police, but as more Canada geese got comfortable in office parks, businesses began flocking to Mrs. Fiddler.

The methods employed by the Geese Police are approved by the Humane Society, but to the average person they can look aggressive. Using a predatory stare, the border collies circle, crowd and chase the geese. While the geese aren’t physically harmed, they are given a “long-lasting fear.”

It is through persistent nagging and chasing that the geese take flight. This technique is employed for an hour at a time up to four times a day.

“Most geese problems are several generations old,” says Mrs. Fiddler. “We find that nearly all our clients need a contract for the first year in order to break the cycle and landing pattern.”

Right now, the geese are molting and are unable to fly. But during the nesting season, from February to May, the squad often works seven days a week and sometimes makes midnight runs to drive the point home.

“We harass … them until they get the hint and leave,” Mrs. Fiddler says.

The Geese Police truck, with a kayak on the roof and with the words: “Caution: Working Border Collies” on the bumper, is a familiar but upsetting presence to some.

“The geese know our trucks,” says Cindy Ranneberger, who has been working for Mrs. Fiddler since April. “They’re stubborn but smart.”

Though she does not advertise, she says her business has “exploded” because of clientele word-of-mouth.

“People only come to us when they need us,” Mrs. Fiddler says.

Right now, Geese Police has about 30 clients in the Virginia and Maryland area. Many of them include large corporations with a park setting, where a towering building is offset by acres of well-kept grass and an occasional pond — the perfect environment for geese.

“The more you spend on lawn care, the more attractive it is,” Mrs. Fiddler says, adding that ponds make it especially good breeding ground for geese. “The bigger the water site, the bigger the problem.”

Prior to starting her goose-chasing business, she had two collies, Tippy and Jake, who couldn’t get enough Frisbee disc. So it was at a Frisbee championship in Pennsylvania where she heard people were using border collies to round up and move geese from golf courses and parks.

It was then she decided to start her own company, Geese B. Gone, with a fellow Frisbee club member, Dave Muelkin. Soon she bought his half and ventured on her own with Tippy, who was perfect for goose-chasing.

“Having a dog for a partner, that’s wonderful,” she says.

After some initial setbacks, she decided she needed some help.

In December 2000, she met the owner of Geese Police Inc., Dave Marcks, at a seminar in Alexandria. She decided she could learn a lot from him and bought into his Geese Police Inc. franchise.

“I was tired of making mistakes,” and without his help, she says, she wouldn’t have been as successful on her own. And so began a longtime working relationship, one that continues today.

Mr. Mercks has five franchises, with three more set to open in the next year. He is known to be the founder of the geese herding and moving techniques with collies.

“She was a great student,” he says. “Most people think their way is the best, but she was willing to learn.”

For Mrs. Fiddler, the best part of the job is working with her favorite dogs.

“I used to work in an office,” she says. “I’m much better with animals than with people.”

As for the collies, they need no other reward than the simplicity of the chase and the ability to use their natural predatory instincts.

“It’s what they were born to do,” says Mrs. Fiddler. “They just love this.”

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