Dogs are always treated as their friends or siblings by many people around the world. Dogs are depicted in many roles equal to humans such as a babysitter, friend, companion, fighter, caretaker of the house, etc.
Likewise, Alda Owen, who is legally blind owes many things to her dog. She is basically a farmer and her dog helps in all the demanding daily chores of her life.
Sweet Baby Jo, a friendly, energetic border collie is her dog. She owns a 260-acre farm along with her husband in northwest Missouri. She used to take care of her daily chores until when a bull knocked a gate on her recently. It hit her left leg so badly that it required 60 stitches to mend it.
Now she is disabled and she is not able to do any of the work in her farm land. At that time PHARM Dog USA, or Pets Helping Agriculture in Rural Missouri has trained her dog to help with the chores.
PHARM Dog USA train dogs specifically for farmers with disabilities. It has placed 10 dogs since 2009 and has two more in training. It was founded by Jackie Allenbrand who is committed to help disabled farmers to prove they can be as independent as their able-bodied peers.
It trains Labrador retrievers and lab mixes for service skills, such as retrieving tools, carrying buckets or opening gates, while border collies are trained only to herd and help control cattle and other animals. Farmers don't pay for the dogs, instead the funds are provided by the agriculture rehabilitation groups.
"She's made it possible for me to be a productive person, to keep the life we've built. It gave me back my self-esteem and pride. The emotional support is as important as the work Sweet Baby Jo does," Owen said of the dog. Owen is now 62 and she has started traveling and speaking at panels about farmers with disabilities.
"People think of farmers as rugged and tough. 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," said Allenbrand.
"The biggest challenge is matching a farmer's specific needs with the right dog. Dogs have different abilities, just like people," said Don McKay, an Iowa farmer who trains border collies.
"There are farmers all over the country who need this service. It's important that we help them," hoped allen who had inquiries from farmers in several other states including New York, Colorado and Mississippi.