Looking for an ideal employee? Edina doesn't have to look any further than Nan, who has worked for the city for a dozen years.
"She never asks for a raise, never asks for a day off," said John Keprios, director of parks and recreation. "She definitely has more hair than most of us."
Nan is a black-and-white border collie who was purchased by the city to keep geese off its public golf courses.
Although at age 13 her eyes are beginning to fail and her hips occasionally ache, she is not in doggie dotage. Nan continues to work every weekday at Fred Richards Golf Course.
She also is something of a celebrity. Some City Hall employees keep dog treats in their desks for her. Regulars at the Fred Richards course look for her lying in her favorite spots near the clubhouse water fountain or behind the counter.
One golf course worker jokes that he now picks up "ten-and-a-half-inch subs" for dinner because Nan always gets the end of his foot-long sandwiches.
She is grizzled around the muzzle and her eyes are a bit cloudy, but her brain remains sharp and she is choosy with her affections. Though she wagged her tail and wanted to be stroked by a reporter who stopped by greenskeeper Jeff Luger's office, she grew worried when she heard her name mentioned repeatedly. Her tail sank between her legs and she tried to leave the room. Luger, with whom Nan lives now, suspects she thought someone had come to take her away.
"She's very calm and laid back, but she's gotten attached to me," Luger said. "She's funny -- she snubs some people and greets others."
The city bought Nan for $1,500 when she was about a year old from a Minnesota breeder who had trained her for sheep herding, Keprios said. "She took to chasing geese immediately," he said. "She didn't need much training."
Canada geese, though federally protected, are a huge problem on some golf courses, including the ones in Edina. They can become aggressive toward people when their young hatch. And their prolific waste slimes golf greens and can even clog course mowers.
Though the Fred Richards course is only 40 acres, Luger said it takes two men a couple of hours to remove the waste of migrating geese before the course opens each day, even if the geese are scared off each morning.
Before Edina bought Nan, the city tried firing blank shells near geese or chasing them off with golf carts. "They fly out onto the water and then they come back," Keprios said. "But when they're chased by a dog, they relocate. I think they sense that they would not be safe to build a nest anywhere."
Nan began her working life in Edina at Braemar Golf Course, which covers 400 acres. In the summer she lived in the clubhouse. In the winter, Keprios kept her as a house dog.
Her intelligence was evident, he said. Though she usually was only brought to City Hall a few times a year, "she'd run right through the maze of offices and find my office," he said. "She's a very intellectual dog."
When Keprios' son went off to college, Nan began living with Luger and his wife in St. Louis Park. With geese mostly staying away from Braemar and Nan's aging hips making it difficult for her to traverse all that acreage, her duties shifted to Fred Richards. Luger said the course's water consistently attracts geese in the spring and the fall.
Each weekday around dawn, Luger and Nan set out in a golf cart to move cups and tees. Nan rides shotgun. She ignores ducks and rabbits but recognized geese before her eyesight began to dim. Now, Luger said, he will tell her to "go get 'em" and she jumps off the cart to scatter the birds.
"They figure out there's a better place to go," Luger said.
Nan's single weakness as a course employee is that she's terrified of thunderstorms. Unexpected thunder and lightning has sent her racing off a couple of times. She once gnawed through a hollow wood door at Keprio's home during a storm when no one was home. Luger lets her ride out storms curled up on a rug under a bathroom sink near his office.
Though Nan tends to be laid back, she can be a bit of a "crabby old lady" with puppies or rowdy children, Luger said. She likes adults and calm kids, especially those who find a treat for her.
Whenever there are crowds of people around, he said, Nan's herding instincts are aroused. She circles people, brushing against their legs, trying to impose some order on those humans -- sometimes with surprising results.
"All of a sudden, you find yourself standing together in a group," Luger said.
Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380