Specially trained dogs help farmers with disabilities Alda Owen pets her farm service dog Sweet Baby Jo after moving cattle on her farm near Maysville, Mo., Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. Operating in only four Midwestern states, PHARM Dog USA, or Pets Helping Agriculture in rural Missouri, has placed 10 dogs since 2009 and has two more in training. The nonprofit, believed to be the only one of its kind in the United States, trains dogs specifically for farmers with disabilities. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Specially trained dogs help farmers with disabilities
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The demanding daily chores of a farmer were always a little different for Alda Owen. She is legally blind. She is only able to see some blurry shapes and very close objects. But not much else.
 
It was like that for years on the 260-acre farm she shares with her husband. They live in northwest Missouri. That was until a bull knocked a gate into her. The injury required 60 stitches in her left leg. Owen's daughter decided her proud mother needed a helping hand. Or in this case, a wagging tail. It came in the form of Sweet Baby Jo. She is a friendly, energetic border collie. The dog helps control the couple's Angus cattle.
 
The pairing was made possible through a nonprofit. It is believed to be the only one of its kind in the United States. The organization trains dogs specifically for farmers with disabilities. Operating in four Midwestern states, PHARM Dog USA, or Pets Helping Agriculture in Rural Missouri, has placed 10 dogs since 2009. It has two more in training.
 
"She's made it possible for me to be a productive person, to keep the life we've built," Owen said of the dog. She got the canine in 2012.
 
PHARM Dog USA has a shoestring budget. But founder Jackie Allenbrand is committed to help disabled farmers prove they can be as independent as their able-bodied peers.
 
"People think of farmers as rugged and tough," Allenbrand said. "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."
 
PHARM Dog USA trains Labrador retrievers and lab mixes for service skills. The dogs retrieve tools, carry buckets or open gates. Border collies are trained only to herd and help control cattle and other animals. The farmers never pay for the dogs. The animals are donated. Or they are rescued from shelters. Agriculture rehabilitation groups pay for the training. PHARM Dog also has received some grants. It gets dog food donated by Cargill Nutrition.
 
It takes about a year to determine if a dog has the intelligence and temperament to be a service dog. That's according to Bobby Miller. He is a Plattsburg, Missouri, rancher. He trains border collies. One of them was Sweet Baby Jo. The biggest challenge is matching a farmer's specific needs with the right dog, said Don McKay. He is an Iowa farmer. He trains border collies.
 
"Dogs have different abilities, just like people," he said. He added that the first days can be bumpy but that most matches work out once the dog and farmer improve their communication.
 
The emotional support is as important as the work Sweet Baby Jo does, Owen said. Now 62, Owen spent most of her life hiding her disability and staying within a small comfort zone. Since she got Sweet Baby Jo, Owen has started traveling. She speaks at panels about farmers with disabilities.
 
"It gave me back my self-esteem and pride," Owen said.
 
Troy Balderston has been in a wheelchair since a car accident in 2010. It left him a quadriplegic. He said he wouldn't be able to work on a feedlot in Norton, Kansas, or live on his farm near Beaver City, Nebraska, without Duke. That is his border collie. Duke was provided by PHARM Dog. He was trained by McKay.
 
"Duke keeps me safe. He keeps the cattle from running me over," Balderston said. "He goes everywhere I go. He's a great worker and a great companion."
 
PHARM Dog USA has had inquiries from farmers in several other states. Those include New York, Colorado and Mississippi. But Allenbrand said it isn't yet financially possible to meet those needs. She hopes to someday have corporate sponsorship to expand the effort because, "there are farmers all over the country who need this service," she said. "It's important that we help them."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why did "PHARM Dog USA" choose this name?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (19)
  • avak-haw
    9/22/2015 - 08:20 a.m.

    PHARM Dog USA chose this name because they help farmers who have disabilities and send out border collies to them. For free! They also chose this name because the RM in PHARM stands for rural Missouri. This was one of my favorite articles! I loved this.

    • avak-haw
      2/16/2016 - 08:14 a.m.

      I loved that one, too.

  • abbyk-haw
    9/22/2015 - 08:20 a.m.

    I think they choose this name because it stands for Pets Helping agriculture in Rural Missouri.

  • thomask-haw
    9/22/2015 - 08:20 a.m.

    Pharmacists help people medically, so it`s like a dog pharmacist.

  • lizziem-haw
    9/22/2015 - 08:35 a.m.

    This text is important because it tells you that colles are caring.They can help you and they care about you.

  • georgiam-haw
    9/22/2015 - 09:39 a.m.

    I think they chose PHARM because it does not spell farm but it does sound like farm. They chose dog because they train dogs for farmers with disabilities. Then they chose USA because they train the dogs and give the dogs to people in the USA.

  • lyndonb-haw
    9/22/2015 - 09:40 a.m.

    They do because they take care of them and give them names.

  • katem-haw
    9/22/2015 - 09:42 a.m.

    The bog was vary helpful.

  • mallorya-haw
    9/22/2015 - 09:42 a.m.

    I think they chose it because they are giving these dogs to people on farms.People can still have a farm thanks to PHARM Dog USA.

  • isabellar-haw
    9/22/2015 - 09:45 a.m.

    They most likely chose the name because they are helping farmers and if you look at how it is spelled and how it sounds it actully says farm in the name.The name has a very good meaning and will help alot of people.

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