AFBF launches competition to celebrate farm dogs
RICHMOND, Va. — Farming near Shenandoah National Park has its hazards: Groundhogs can dig holes in fields, coyotes can kill chickens, black bears can tear through corn fields and fruit orchards.
“If they are hungry enough, they’ll kill calves and try to break into houses,” Virginia Farm Bureau Federation member Leri Thomas of Madison said. “Dogs serve as an early warning alarm.”
Thomas and her partner, James Jarrell, depend upon their bear hound, Moonshine, to serve as that alarm where they have in the past used the breed to hunt and control the bear population.
The couple recognized the brave canine also for his loyal companionship and his public relations skills by entering him in a 2018 American Farm Bureau Federation Farm Dog competition.
Dogs “are loyal work partners every day on the farm,” Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said in a prepared statement. “Their faithful and playful companionship constantly enriches the lives of farmers and their families.”
AFBF launched the Farm Dog competition in 2018 to celebrate dogs who work alongside farmers who bring food to humans and their pets.
More than 90 entries, six of them from Virginia, responded to a survey and submitted videos and photographs.
A panel of judges with expertise in pet care, veterinary medicine and communications sought out attributes such as helpfulness, playfulness and improving life on and off the farm. Winners were announced during the Farm Bureau’s 100th convention in January.
Bear hounds are not traditional farm dogs the way that herding and guardian dogs are, but they have a keen sense of smell and many who have farms also hunt, Thomas said.
Moonshine has also modeled for a Culpeper County Shelter and Humane Society food and gift drive and has greeted guests from as far as China and Dubai who patronize a farmstay at the ranch, she said.
“Most don’t understand farming,” she said. “He’s a venue or medium for introducing them to farming activities and starting a conversation about what’s happening on the farm.”
Since agriculture’s beginnings, farm dogs have otherwise herded, corraled and guarded livestock.
Where herders such as Australian shepherds often guide sheep, guardians such as the komondor, Doberman pinscher, Great Pyrenees and maremma sheepdog protect herds from predators.
Kelsey and Hannah Proehl entered a border collie mix herder named Holly into the Farm Bureau competition.
Holly works on a Moneta, Va., farm owned by their grandfather, Glen Proehl, and helps to move cattle for feeding and milking.
When cows become reluctant, Holly nips them on the heels to encourage them. She also spends much of the workday by Glen’s side.
“I’m married, but I spend more time with my dog than I do my wife,” he said. “She wants to be with me any time I’m outside.”
Neither Moonshine nor Holly won the top dog competition, but that doesn’t change how their owners feel about them.
“I can’t envision a farm without a dog,” Thomas said.
Few people know that better than Texas Farm Bureau members Mary and Joe Sheern.
Their Australian shepherd, Woody, herds cattle, sheep and ducks and, at age 8 months, saved Joe’s life when an angry mother cow attempting to protect her calf became aggressive, according to the Sheerns’ nomination.
“If he wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be here today,” Sheern wrote.
Woody won a year’s worth of Purina dog food, $5,000 in prize money, a trophy plate and a basket of Purina products.
Runners up each won $1,000, a plate and products basket.
They included Clue, owned by Florida Farm Bureau members Cindy and Andrew Deak; Shine, owned by Kansas Farm Bureau members Donna and Denny Ashcraft; Finn, owned by New Hampshire Farm Bureau members Lisa and Tim Molinero; and Flint, owned by Utah Farm Bureau members Beth and Rhett Crandall.
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