Dogs can help around the farm from herding to protecting. But for one group of farmers, these canine companions provide much more.
PHARM Dog began in 2005 to fill a need for farmers who have physical challenges. PHARM stands for Pets Helping Agriculture in Rural Missouri. Jackie Allenbrand, the organization’s founder, trains and places dogs with farmers for general assistance, such as carrying buckets, opening gates and picking up tools.
Dogs like Zip are a help to owner Bob Karbinas of Missouri. Karbinas was caught up in a PTO 30 years ago. Daily tasks on the farm are cumbersome, so last year Karbinas received some four-legged help around his cow-calf operation.
While based in Missouri, this program reaches far beyond the state borders. Farmers like Troy Balderston of Beaver City, Neb., also received a PHARM dog.
“We try to travel to the farm and stay with the farmer so they’re comfortable with the dog and understand commands and can get the dogs used to cattle and their surroundings,” says Allenbrand, who will be at the PHARM dog booth in the Hospitality Tent at Husker Harvest Days.
Over the years, Allenbrand has seen a change in the requests. “Farmers have larger cattle herds,” she says. “They need more than one dog to help out.” So, she works to meet their needs.
The organization is funded entirely by small grants and private donations, which can be a challenge due to the high demand for service dogs that are comfortable and competent in a farm setting. It requires training for the dog and trainer.
This year PHARM Dog is raising funds to build a training facility to expand the program. An inside facility would provide the instruction both farmer and dog need to make the companionship work.
To enter the program, farmers apply at pharmdog.org. When the application goes through, the organization trains a dog, either a Border collie for herding or a Labrador for retrieval and mobility purposes, based on the applicant’s needs.
“Farmers can always stay in contact with us by email [PHARMdog03@gmail.com] or calling,” Allenbrand says. “We don’t want to leave a dog with somebody if they’re not comfortable with it.”
These dogs not only provide physical support, but also emotional support. Allenbrand says the dogs become family. The animal-human bond, she says, lets farmers become more comfortable with their disability.