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Chicago Harbor Lock and Dam Welcomes Back Ellie

April 20, 2022   USACE Great Lakes/Ohio River District

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Chicago Harbor Lock and Dam welcomes back Ellie


Published April 20, 2022


Ellie on the job


Ellie working at the Chicago Harbor Lock and Dam

Ellie on the job


Ellie on the job


Ellie on the job



The Chicago District was proud and excited to welcome back a valuable member of our team from their time in Tulsa District.  If you keep a close eye out at the Chicago Harbor Lock and Dam you might see the flash of her black and white fur as she discourages seagulls from nesting and leaving tons of waste that corrodes and damages the facility.  Ellie helps prevent damage to operating equipment which improves the reliability of the Lock. 


Ellie is an 8 year old Border Collie, known as the Bird Disbursal Specialist, she divides her time between USACE’s Chicago Harbor Lock and Dam in Chicago, Illinois and Robert S. Kerr Lock and Dam 15 in Sallisaw, Oklahoma.  They share her with us from early April to the end of August, since their busy time is from September thru March when birds like the double-crested cormorant, which flock to the structure in the fall and winter months. Ellie works all year round and stays active, plus she’s helping two Districts. 


Considered by many experts to be the most intelligent and trainable of dog breeds, border collies are named for the Border region of England and Scotland, where shepherds carefully bred herding traits into them over hundreds of generations.  They are famous for the “crouch” and the “stare” – their ability to move while staying low to the ground, and the intense look they will give to the animals they’re herding in-order to control them.


Ellie was purchased from Flyaway Farms and Kennels in Chadbourn, N.C. which trains border collies for bird control. She has been carefully trained around people and children for the purpose of clearing birds.


Ellie isn’t a retriever, so she doesn’t feel the need to catch or return a bird to feel successful and can clear protected birds without harming them.  With the benefit of border collies being high energy dogs, the more Ellie works, the more satisfied she becomes. You mention birds and she’ll perk her ears up and start looking.  She knows what that word means. 


Lockmaster Selwyn T. Valley and the Chicago Harbor Lock and Dam employees were happy to welcome Ellie back.  She stays at the property 24 hours a day, and is a diligent, good-natured companion to the staff. Ask any of her coworkers and they will tell you that this arrangement has been the very best - Five seasons and still going strong.  Chicago and Tulsa Districts look forward to continuing this partnership with Ellie long into the future if her current success is anything to go from.


“Ellie is especially happy; she gets to have a border collie’s dream job.”