CHICAGO (Fox 32 News) - As boating season ramps up in Chicago, the Army Corps of Engineers is getting help from a very unusual employee.
Ellie the Border Collie is a government employee, "hired" to keep the Chicago Harbor Lock clean.
"Before Ellie, the seagulls here were pretty bad. You'd see bird poop everywhere. The docks were disgusting to touch," said Alex Navarro, a local tourist boat captain.
The Chicago Lock acts as a water elevator, lifting boats from the Chicago River into Lake Michigan and vice versa. Tourism and private boat owners must dock up on the side of the lock as it moves their vessel from one body of water to the next.
Patrolling the dock, on any given day, you can find Ellie.
"Everybody's coming in on boats, 'Where's Ellie? Where's Ellie?" said Selwyn Tyrone Valley, the Chicago Lockmaster and Ellie's primary handler.
Ellie started working at the Chicago Harbor Lock in 2017. She makes it her mission to scare away any seagull or goose that tries to take up residence. She's only one of 4 or 5 "lock dogs" in the country. She splits her time in Chicago from March to September and Oklahoma the rest of the year.
"The district always do an employee of the month and a lot of people put her in. Unfortunately, she can't get it," said Valley.
The lock employees love to have Ellie around and Valley says they get depressed when it's time for her to go to Oklahoma.
"Before she got here, I found out some of the guys weren't too big on dogs, but everybody loves Ellie," said Valley.
She is certainly treated like a "VID" -- and that means a "very important dog."
"Inside the lock she's got a lot of toys, and she loves the squeaky ones," said Valley.