Down on the farm, these dogs are lending a helping paw.
Thanks to a specially trained group of dogs, farmers with disabilities are able to keep their farms running. On the farms, these dogs held to corral cattle, carry buckets or other tools and open gates. So far, the breeds have been strictly Labrador retrievers, Lab mixes and border collies.
PHARM Dog USA is a nonprofit that matches these dogs with farmers in need. Since 2009, they’ve matched 10 dogs with working farmers — and there are two more currently being trained.
The process to become a service dog fit for farming is a long one. It can take as long as a year to determine whether or not a dog is right for the the “job.”
These dogs have made a huge difference in the lives of the farmers they’ve joined.
“People think of farmers as rugged and tough,” PHARM Dog USA founder Jackie Allenbrand told the Associated Press. “When you see a big, burly farmer crying after they get a dog because they know they can keep farming, you see what a difference it’s making. That’s what drives us.”
The benefits aren’t just seen in the year’s harvest. Alda Owen, a legally blind farmer who adopted a border collie named Sweet Baby Jo, says the emotional support her four-legged friend gives her has made a huge difference in her life emotionally.
“It gave me back my self-esteem and pride,” Owen told the Associated Press.
Currently, PHARM Dog USA is only serving four Midwestern states, and although they’ve had requests from farmers outside the region, Allenbrand says their budget won’t stretch that far (yet). However, Allenbrand has hope that they’ll be able to expand in the future.