Pull into any farmyard and you will likely be welcomed by the farm dog before the farmer. Sometimes those barks belong to the true working dog, other times it’s the family dog or even the little companion dogs. No matter the breed, no farm seems truly complete without the farm dog.
I grew up with the true working dog. Before four-wheelers, our cows on pasture were directed by Tippy the border collie. He was the one who brought the herd in, and his true love of working meant you never had to wonder if any cow had been left behind. He taught me that a dedicated farm dog was more than worth its weight in gold.
Our farm moved away from our real need for a working dog as we began using the aforementioned four-wheelers and the like. As my husband and I came back to farm, we knew we wanted to add a dog, and we had always wanted a boxer. Not the most likely farm dog breed, but Brody filled the role in all the ways we needed.
He always had a welcoming bark but also was fiercely protective if he wasn’t sure of your place. He was the resident welcomer of newborn calves with plenty of kisses and always by our side, even when moving or working cows. He wasn’t afraid to give a nip if one of the cows or heifers got too pushy.
Most importantly Brody was the lover of our family, human and bovine. And as our family grew as we added children, his role expanded to that of babysitter protector. He always knew where or what our boys were up to as he guarded them with careful, watchful eyes. There’s no value that can be placed on that role.
A good farm dog is so much more than an employee, more than a constant companion, more like a member of the family. The good farm dog possesses some illusive quality — something hard to describe to someone who has never experienced that special bond. We laid Brody to rest last week, and the farm just doesn’t feel complete without him. Farm dogs, I think, truly get to enjoy the best of dog lives. I’m very glad we could give him that life for all that he added to ours.
The author is a third-generation dairy farmer from Oregon where she farms in partnership with her husband and parents. As a mother of three young boys who round out the family-run operation as micro managers, Darleen blogs about the three generations of her family working together at Guernsey Dairy Mama. Abiqua Acres Mann's Guernsey Dairy is currently home to 90 registered Guernseys and transitioned to a robotic milking system in 2017.