In our first post about K-9 Piper, we focused on how Brian and Piper ended up keeping wildlife off the runway at Cherry Capital Airport and became one of social media’s favorite K-9 teams. Brian and Piper have been incredible ambassadors for Rex Specs and were some of our earliest supporters, and there’s a lot of people out there who found out about us through Piper. So we’re pretty excited to announce that we’re launching a new color (keep reading to find out more) in honor of Piper and donating 10 percent of the first 100 sales directly to Brian to help out with some of their costs.
We, too, are huge fans of Piper and are pretty sure being an airport K-9 might be one of the best jobs ever. But along the way, we’ve learned that for Brian it’s a true labor of love, because Piper is strictly a volunteer dog. That means Brian incurs all the costs associated with Piper, one of the biggest being insurance. “I’m technically an employee bringing his own ‘tool’ to do a work function,” Brian says. “In order to have him work here, I have to have liability insurance in case anything were to go wrong the airport is held harmless.” It’s not that Cherry Capital Airport wouldn’t love to pay for Piper; it’s the fact that being a small airport comes with an equally small budget.
He also has the expenses for gear that most dogs don’t need. “We’ve been very lucky that people have donated gear to us, but I never expect a handout,” Brian says. “I have to purchase the [night] harness that is a custom rig with vehicle lights, otherwise I’d lose him in 3 seconds at night.” His daytime harness, which protects him and helps get him in and out of vehicles faster, is donated courtesy of Spike’s K-9 Fund, a nonprofit that provides gear to working and military K-9’s.
Over time, however, Brian’s biggest cost is medical care for Piper. “Vet bills have been a lot more than if he was just a pet,” Brian laughs. Piper was testing out some new boots awhile ago, and even though he had done plenty of training in them, “he was super excited cause it was his first owl chase of that winter.” He accidentally missed his dismount from the vehicle and broke his leg in two spots, ending up in a cast for 3 months. Not that any of it stops Piper -- being a border collie, his hunting and herding drive would keep him working 24 hours a day if he was allowed to, and he happily continued to work even when he was in a cast.
Around this time last year, Brian mentioned to us that the Blue Angels were coming to Cherry Capital Airport, and he was hoping we had yellow goggles so Piper could match the Angels. Soon after this, Capt. Jeff "Kooch" Kuss (also known as Number 6 as he was the 6th plane in the sequence) was killed during a training session in Tennessee. “Aviation is in my blood,” Brian says. “I remember seeing the Blue Angels growing up as a kid. I’ve been a fan for as long as I can remember.” He wanted to find some way to pay tribute to them, and since we didn’t have any yellow goggles at the time, he set about painting them himself. We sent him a blank gray frame, and Brian sanded, primed and painted them. “I sat for about 3 hours until 4 a.m. one night with paint trying to get the script right cause I’ve never painted anything in my life except for Easter eggs,” he remembers. He not only painted the frames in the yellow of the Blue Angels, but he also scripted the number ‘6’ on the front of the goggles. “Especially after No. 6 was killed, I knew it was the perfect way to pay tribute. It was special when Piper was walking around, the crew started pointing and saying ‘he’s got a six on there’ and everything just went silent. It all just came full circle for me.”
With more than 57,000 Instagram followers alone, it’s no surprise that people immediately started asking both us and Brian if the yellow goggles were for sale. After a whole lot more of requests, we decided to include yellow in the product lineup in honor of Piper. Check it out in our store and help us donate $800 to help Brian and Piper keep some of their costs down and continue to keep Cherry Capital Airport free of wildlife-related incidents.