The canine celebration falls on Aug. 26
By Diego Flammini
Photo of Fit courtesy of Blue Dog Photogaphy
Farms.com is briefly shifting the spotlight from farmers to their four-legged furry farm family members.
Aug. 26 is National Dog Day, which helps raise awareness about the number of dogs that need rescuing.
Colleen Paige, a dog trainer and animal rescue advocate, founded the day on Aug. 26, 2004. Exactly a decade earlier, Paige’s family adopted their dog, Sheltie.
Currently, about 70 million households in the U.S. have at least one dog.
National Dog Day also helps recognize the multiple jobs dogs do. These include providing comfort, detecting bombs and drugs, and farm work.
So, Farms.com connected with producers who have dogs to learn about the furry companions and how they contribute on the farm.
Cindy Deak, who raises sheep and helps train other dogs in Lady Lake, Fla., may have the most famous farm dog in the U.S.
Her Border Collie, Fit, is the 2022 Farm Bureau Dog of the Year.
“We’re super proud of her,” Deak told Farms.com. “It’s a wonderful contest to showcase the working dogs on American farms.”
Deak brought Fit, who’s almost seven years old, over from Scotland when she was just a puppy.
“She was about 14-months-old when we imported her,” Deak told Farms.com. “At the time I was looking for a very specific work ethic, and the dogs over there have a great work ethic and great temperament.”
Fit is an integral part of Deak’s farm operation.
She works hard to ensure the sheep are taken care of.
“There’s nothing Fit doesn’t do on the farm. She helps with sorting and feeding, she moves sheep from pasture to pasture and she trains younger dogs how to herd animals. She’s the main working dog on the farm and is ready to go, no matter the weather and no matter the time of day.”
Fit’s energy on the farm is infectious.
Having her around makes it easy to work on days where sitting on the couch seems like a better option, Deak says.
“She’s my right-hand girl and I’ve told people I’d take a dog like her over five people any day,” she said. “It makes your job so much easier when you’ve got a worker who is always in a good mood and loves to work with livestock as much as she does.”
Some job descriptions for farm dogs includes protection.
Take Cindy Murdoch’s dog, Ripley, a Lapponian Herder.
The pup protects the reindeer on her Springfield, Oreg. reindeer farm, Timberview Farm.
“These dogs have the nickname ‘reindeer dogs’ because you’ll see them in Finland, Sweden and anywhere you’ll find herds of reindeer,” Murdoch told Farms.com. “They’re very much like reindeer in that they have a double coat, shed maybe once a year and are used to living outside.”
Ripley (Cindy Murdoch photo)
And what does Ripley, who is about the size of a Border Collie, protect the reindeer from?
Predators like black bears and cougars.
Murdoch’s farm backs onto about 20 miles of forest overseen by the Bureau of Land Management where those animals live.
She brought Ripley to Oregon from Minnesota when he was six months old. His arrival came after a cougar preyed on some of the reindeer, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.
One of the cougars Ripley protects his reindeer from. (Cindy Murdoch photo)
Murdoch had two female dogs at the time but wanted to bring in a male.
As soon as he arrived at the farm, Ripley knew what he was there to do.
“He came off that deck with a bark and a growl that starts in his stomach. And it’s so deep and so sharp it hurts your ears. It meant there was a cougar out there in the tree line. Most of the time I don’t see them, but he does.”
Despite the loud bark, Ripley isn’t opposed to having down time.
That’s when another side of his personality comes out, Murdoch said.
“If you met him you might think he’s pretty ferocious. But after he knows I approve of you he’s a complete goofball,” she said. “He doesn’t seem to understand how to sit but he’ll stand on his head on the couch. He’s a cuddler and just an overall joyful, happy guy.”
Be sure to visit the Farms.com Twitter account on Aug. 26 and post a photo of your farm dog with the hashtags #InternationalDogDay or #FarmDog.