Specially trained dogs help farmers with disabilities
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, 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 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. Help came in the form of Sweet Baby Jo, 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 only 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, which she received 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 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, a Plattsburg, Missouri, rancher. He trains border collies, including 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 who trains border collies.
 
"Dogs have different abilities, just like people," he said, adding 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 and speaking 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 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 and 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, including 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."

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween56/specially-trained-dogs-help-farmers-disabilities/

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why did "PHARM Dog USA" choose this name?
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COMMENTS (97)
  • josepht-2-bar
    9/18/2015 - 01:21 a.m.

    The dogs helps farmers with disability work their farms without getting injured and makes them able to keep running a farm without closing it. It surprises me that dogs could help farmers do their everyday work.

  • katherinec-3-bar
    9/18/2015 - 01:30 a.m.

    PHARM dog USA was the choosen name because it stands for Pets Helping Agriculture in Rural Missouri.

  • sierrab-ste
    9/18/2015 - 09:12 a.m.

    This is pretty nifty. It's so cool that dogs are that smart to be able to do things like this. It's also so nice that people are helping to train these dogs to give them to people that are in need of them. If I had to train a dog and then give it away to someone else, I'd be so upset. This is a really cool thing that people are doing to help others.

  • ellerys-1-bar
    9/18/2015 - 09:22 a.m.

    The company chose this name because of the specialized training abilities that these dogs have. The dogs are service animals trained to do farm jobs.

  • amelieb-gra
    9/18/2015 - 09:58 a.m.

    I really liked this article the dogs sound so cute!!!!!!!!!

  • lilianac-gra
    9/18/2015 - 09:59 a.m.

    The dog is so cute! This artical is amazing!!!!!!!

  • jackr-2-bar
    9/18/2015 - 10:00 a.m.

    They chose that name because it stands for the name "pets helping agricultur in rural Missouri" so that would be the correct acronym for those words. I personally thought this article was great since my love for animals.

  • kenedib-sla
    9/18/2015 - 10:07 a.m.

    This article was about a dog named Sweet Baby Jo. He is a dog that helps a blind farmer, Alda Owens, get work done by helping control the cattle. This story made me really intrigued. I couldn't believe that dogs can do such great things. I really hope in the future that PHARM Dog USA can get more helping dogs around the country for disabled farmers.

  • hannahi-bro
    9/18/2015 - 10:20 a.m.

    PHARM Dog USA stands for, Pets Helping Agriculture in Rural Missouri. They probably named it this because they wanted to find a name that makes it sound like they are helping farm people. The organization also started in Missouri so they had in Rural Missouri in the name. The dogs can help with a lot of things like getting water buckets, opening gates, and other things

  • elenag-ver
    9/18/2015 - 01:18 p.m.

    Dogs have different disabilities, just like people.

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