When farmers have an illness or injury, it can change the way they do things on the farm.
Jackie Allenbrand of Stanberry, Missouri is the founder of PHARM Dog U.S.A, or Pets Helping Agriculture in Rural Missouri. It’s a farmer-led organization that trains dogs to help farmers and their family members with disabilities.
She says labs and lab mixes can be trained to retrieve or pick up dropped tools, open a latch gate system, carry buckets, as well as standing and bracing if a farmer has stability issues. Border collies are trained to help manage livestock.
"We train them to watch the gate so the farmer doesn’t get run over by cattle coming through and won’t get a secondary injury, hopefully. We train the dogs to sort and to bring the herd in," she says. "We train them to help physically, but they also can help emotionally as well."
Jackie and another trainer handle the training for the dogs and their new owners. She also travels to the farms, determines the needs of prospective clients, and makes farm assessments.
"You have to look at what their disability is, what their needs are, and we try to train for those needs," says Jackie. "For instance, there was one farmer that had trouble with his vocal chords, so he couldn’t shout out the word ‘come’ to his dog. So, the dog was trained to listen to a whistle for it to come."
Since 2009, she says they’ve placed 17 dogs. Jackie says right now the non-profit organization is run by a small group of farmers, but her goal is to someday have a training center.