Superintendent's Best Friend Calendars

By: Jeff Shelley

There are many perks attendant with working in the golf industry. Perhaps none of them are as special as receiving the annual Superintendent's "Best Friend" calendar from Golfweek's SuperNews magazine.

All subscribers are entitled to this oversized wall-mounted gem. As a course rater for Golfweek, and an honorary member of the Northwest Turfgrass and the Western Washington Golf Course Superintendents associations, I receive one of these calendars every November.

What a beauty it is - each monthly page with an oversized photo of a superintendent's canine companion(s) often perched on the seat of a maintenance vehicle. It's clear these dogs like being on golf courses, and really cherish going to work with their masters.

What's also cool is that beneath each photo is a caption identifying the dog, its breed and age, owner-superintendent, and the golf course where both dog and human friend ply their trades. Dog "job" descriptions are provided, indicating that these furry friends, in addition to being valuable companions, serve important multi-faceted roles:

"Chases squirrels and rabbits . . . always on patrol . . . has made Canada geese scarce . . . adept at controlling the rodent population . . . is in training to be a therapy dog to visit cancer patients or sick children at hospitals . . . accepts commands in Spanish . . . chased a lynx up a tree as a 1-year-old . . . helps scare off geese during the winter . . . loves hunting down members of the ladies club, who bring him treats each Tuesday . . . very good at keeping geese and gophers away from the course . . . enjoys keeping the course free of mice."

There's also a monthly health tip for dogs. The entry for March 2007 typifies these folksy, common-sense explanations: "Animals love a boring routine. Dogs want to know what to expect - it makes them feel secure. Yours will be happiest if they are fed at the same time every day, sleep in the same spot at night, and can count on you to always come home at a certain time. They'll get by if the routine occasionally changes, but keeping their day predictable will keep them happy."

I think it's great that superintendents can take their dogs to work. My wife, Anni, often brings our 4-year-old black lab-golden retriever mix (she looks like a black golden) to her office. Stella loves sashaying through the building's corridors, making the rounds to visit her favorite friends, several of whom also bring their dogs to work. With those pleading brown eyes, Stella's primary function at work is to cadge treats, and she's an expert at it.

When I showed our daughter Erica - an attorney in the Bay Area who visited over Christmas - the Superintendent's "Best Friend" calendar on December 24, all I heard was "Ahhh, how cute" and giggles as she leafed through the months. Erica volunteers at the Marin County Animal Shelter, spending a couple of hours each Sunday to exercise "her puppies" and help make them feel wanted. So she was quite thrilled when I wrapped up an extra calendar I'd received from Golfweek and gave it to her as a present on Christmas Day.

In America over the past century, policies have changed regarding dogs on golf courses, a tradition that was acceptable in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It's still fairly common for golfers in the UK to bring their dogs along for a round. Such a practice is now unheard of in many parts of the stodgy U.S., where a golf course has become a sanctified zone that kids, animals and, in some cases, wives, dare not tread.

Oh well. At least in March 2007, I can look at my wall and smile as I gaze upon a six-member family of border collies sitting prettily on the seat and back end of a Club Car Turf II maintenance vehicle.