Viral airport dog passes away, but it’s what others do after that takes everything a step further

April 14, 2018 10:51 am Last Updated: April 14, 2018 10:51 am

Have you ever heard the story of Captain “Sully” Sullenberger? He was in charge of a 2009 US Airways Flight from New York to Charlotte, North Carolina that broke down due to a flock of geese getting stuck in the engine.

Miraculously, Sullenberger was able to save everyone by landing his plane in the Hudson River; it just goes to show how much of an impediment birds and other small animals can be while flying.

It’s important to have a runway clear of critters before a plane takes off. What better way to scare off birds and rodents is there than a sharp-toothed beast bred for hunting, known as the Border Collie?

Brian Edwards, a Cherry Capital Airport worker, trained his dog Piper to help clear the runway.

Brian Edwards of Traverse City, Michigan has been working as an Airport Operations Supervisor for Cherry Capital Airport for a long time. In 2011, he took a break from his work to attend air traffic control school. When he came back to his old job, he found himself longing for something more.

He began focusing on one issue he and his co-workers often faced: birds on the runway. Snowy owls were a nuisance in the winter, and in the summer, the airport had to contend with ducks, geese, and loons.

Edwards had read that dogs were sometimes used to clear runways. He happened to own a Border Collie named Piper. He thought if he could train Piper to scare away birds, it could solve a major problem while giving him unique work responsibilities.

“I figured, ‘Well, why don’t we give this a shot?'” Edwards told M Live.

Edwards began Piper’s training in his backyard. He taught the dog to work off-leash and to come back when asked. Once he understood that, he brought him to the airport to get used to the hustle and bustle of people.

Soon he was being taken to the taxiway in a red SUV where he got used to the sound of airplanes. Then, in 2015, he was finally ready to begin chasing birds, a job wherein he did not disappoint.

Piper became a social media star to boot and inspired other airports to hire dogs of their own.

For 3 years, Piper kept up the job. Decked out in UV protective safety goggles, earmuffs, and a tracking harness, Piper would chase after not just birds but rodents and larger mammals (like foxes) as well. His gear allowed him to stay safe and stylish at the same time.

Perhaps this sense of fashion accounted for his social media presence. Piper has nearly 30,000 likes on Facebook and over 100,000 followers on Instagram, with shows of support for the dog coming from all over the world.

It should be no surprise then that, when Piper passed away from prostate cancer on January 3 of this year, people the world over were offering Edwards their condolences. The posted comments online, donated to charities in Piper’s name, and even mailed in collages and artwork of Piper as a tribute.

While Piper may be gone, he will never be forgotten. In fact, thanks to Piper, more airports have warmed up to the idea of doggy runway clearing. This month, the Yeager Airport in Charleston, West Virginia purchased an 18-month-old Border Collie for the job.

According to WV Metro News, the dog (named Hercules) is still in training and won’t have his first official day of work until May. Regardless, we think it’s great that more airports are hiring dogs on their teams.

It’s an effective method to drive away critters and it will likely lead to more cute dog Instagram accounts which is a total win-win in our book!