Farm Progress

Roxie, Chanee and Copper are sure to make you smile. Read on to learn what makes them tops in the eyes of the judges for the Prairie Farmer Favorite Farm Dog Contest.

Holly Spangler, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

April 18, 2018

6 Min Read
BIG STUFF: Writes Beth Helmink of her mom’s dog, Roxie: “She certainly believes herself to be much bigger than she is. Standing far less than a foot tall, she feels right at home around 1,600-pound cattle.”

Meet Roxie, the dog with moxie! She’s making history, too: Her win marks the first time in the Prairie Farmer Favorite Farm Dog Contest that a Welsh corgi has taken the top prize.

Two-year-old Roxie lives with her owner, Barb Helmink, on their Teutopolis, Ill., farm. Roxie joins Barb morning and night for chores, barking to move dairy steers back from the feed bunk so Barb can feed. But Roxie’s got even more important jobs on this farm: faithful companion and listening ear. After Barb’s husband, Joe, died suddenly two years ago, her daughter Beth brought Roxie home for her. Turns out, Roxie was just what Barb needed.

“You can talk to a dog about all kinds of things,” Barb says. “I’m not sure if that makes her a farm dog or not, but she’s my friend.”

Roxie follows Barb to the garden throughout the summer, lying in cool soil as she waits. When the gardening and the chores are done, they sit for a spell in the swing that Joe built.

“We sit in the swing and we just talk,” Barb says. “She’s sure been good for me!”

The Favorite Farm Dog Contest began in 2000, and ever since, editors and judges here at Prairie Farmer have weighed the qualifications and debated the merits of talented working dogs, terrific companion animals and guardians of the farm. We examine photos and read essays, and are reminded again and again that a good farm dog is truly a farm family’s best friend.

The winners of the 2018 Prairie Farmer Favorite Farm Dog Contest are: Roxie, Chanee, Copper, Leya, Daisy, Monty, Dakota and Cabela.

For Roxie’s first-place win, Barb receives a $100 prize, a family farm photo shoot with Roxie, and a 16-by-20-inch modern metal wall art with Roxie’s picture. Roxie’s essay was submitted by Beth.

Second place goes to Chanee, a 3-year-old blue heeler-border collie cross who guards baby calves like it’s her job on her family’s McLeansboro farm. Her owner, Jenny Flannigan, wrote Chanee’s essay and took her photo, and wins $75 for Chanee’s efforts.

Copper earns third place for his owners, Dennis and Nolan Mueller. Nolan, 13, wrote Copper’s essay, and his dad, Dennis, took their photo. The Muellers win $50 thanks to Copper’s efforts on their Manhattan farm.

Honorable mentions go to entries from Garrett Williams and Leya, Noble; Kristin Edwards and Dakota and Cabela, Winnebago; Heather Mohr and Daisy, Burnside; and David Ernst and Monty, New Douglas.

Thanks to everyone who shared photos and stories of their incredible farm dogs. Keep your cameras handy for next year’s contest!

1st place: Roxie
My mom dreamed for years of having a Welsh corgi. I teased her that she mostly just wanted to be like the Queen of England, but she assured me that they were the “best little cattle dogs.” I surprised my mom with Roxie the spring after my father died; I wanted to do something special for her and provide her with a little companion, especially since I could not be home nearly as much as I would have liked, given that I was wrapping up my surgical residency. Little did I know what spunk this pup would have, how she’d fit right in on the farm, and how quickly she’d win over the hearts of my mom and the rest of the family. She certainly believes herself to be much bigger than she is. Standing far less than a foot tall, she feels right at home around 1,600-pound cattle, and helps my mom and brother sort them and load them onto the trailer.  She keeps the mouse population at bay and is never afraid to let the farm cats know exactly where they are and are not to play. Her favorite treat is a farm-fresh egg on top of her dog food. She is a most loyal companion to my mom, always trailing right behind her; and no matter how much time has elapsed since I have last been home, the moment I pull into the driveway, she comes bounding out from behind the house to give me a most warm and energetic welcome and rolls on her back so I can scratch her belly. To put it simply, Roxie has moxie.
Beth Helmink, for her mom, Barb Helmink, Teutopolis


SMALL BUT MIGHTY: “She doesn’t miss a step,” says Barb Helmink of her beloved Roxie, a 2-year-old Welsh corgi.

2nd Place: Chanee
Our dog, Chanee, is a 3-year-old blue heeler-border collie cross. She’s the best of both breeds, with the grit of a blue heeler and the herding ability of a border collie. We fell in love with her attitude and way of listening to our commands, and she is very obedient. One time, we had a baby calf born in the cold rain and mud. We brought the calf to the barn and covered him, to keep him warm; then we went to get the mother. Chanee stayed behind, and when we returned, she was with the calf and would not leave it. I guess she was protecting the little guy! She loves to ride in the truck, Ranger or whatever starts up.
Jenny Flannigan, McLeansboro


CATTLE DOG: Chanee, a 3-year-old blue heeler-border collie cross, is known on her southern Illinois farm for protecting baby calves.

3rd Place: Copper
Our dog’s name is Copper, and he’s an 8-year-old yellow Lab. When he was 1, we brought him home from Joliet to give him more space to roam. Copper is a trusty, loyal sidekick who is always at your side. He is always ready for a rabbit chase and occasionally a rabbit for dinner. Copper watches for trouble and always lets us know when the mailman shows up. When we pull into the driveway, he always runs down the driveway to greet us with a smile. He is a buddy to all of my dad’s seed customers, and the customers all know him by his name. During the summer, he lets us know when the corn crop is in the roasting ear stage by happily dragging the ears of corn to the steps and enjoying them on our front lawn. When we are in the house eating, he lies down on the porch, waiting for any leftover food from dinner. He looks forward to a McDonald’s hamburger from my grandma and grandpa when they are over. Whenever we are outside, he is always nearby watching us play, and when the machinery comes, he is always ready to lend a hand. Our life on the farm would not be the same if we didn’t have our faithful companion, Copper.
Nolan Mueller, Manhattan


READY: Thirteen-year-old Nolan Mueller says his yellow Lab, Copper, is always ready to go, ready to help and ready to eat — especially sweet corn.

Watch the Prairie Farmer website later this week to read about the Favorite Farm Dog Contest honorable mentions.

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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