Dogs play many roles on a farm

We had been on high guard for a while. Liz’s brother had seen a couple of stray dogs wandering around the area. Stray dogs happen by the farm every once in a while, but these two looked hungry enough for him to warn us.

We walked all of our electric fences to make sure they were as strong as possible. We checked on the animals more regularly to make sure that they were OK. We made a plan: Catch the dogs, put them in the barn and then call animal control.

And then we met the dogs. They came trotting down our road, tails wagging, and came right up to us. We did take them to the barn — no catching required. They followed us and let us pick them up and put them in a sheep bay, and then we changed the plan. We decided that these two dogs could live on the farm with us.

We both enjoy the companionship of dogs, and since starting our farm, we had wanted a farm dog. The last farm we worked on was full of dogs. They had a working sheep dog, a family dog, a livestock guardian dog, their two renters each had a dog and the veggie manager had a dog. A dog on a farm can play many roles.

These two dogs will never be working dogs, as they are not traditional sheep dog or guardian dog breeds nor do we have experience training a working dog. They were also still young, perhaps just over a year old, and so were full of boundless energy and not destined to be the faithful and calm shadow the veggie dog had been.

But they do have a good temperament for sharing the farm with our animals. As we spent time getting to know the dogs, they wanted to be near us, and so they came out to the pasture with us while we worked.

They do not really pay our animals much attention and are content to either wander around and look for spilled feed or to simply lay down in the shade and wait for us to finish our tasks.

We also hope they are a decent deterrent to other animals. They bark at and chase raccoons that have gone after our chickens in the past. They leave their scent behind to remind passersby there are dogs around. And when we hear coyotes, they charge off in that direction. I don’t know what they do over toward the coyote sounds, but they always come home and the coyotes do not, so I put it in the win column.

Truly, though, companionship is where they excel. Sometimes, one or both of us will spend the whole day out in the pasture. We don’t consider ourselves alone when we have one or both of the dogs with us. They give us a chance (or excuse) to take a short break every so often and pet them and drink some water.

And there’s nothing like having a trusty companion or two start to wave (or wag) when they see you coming through the field.

Nate and Liz Brownlee operate Nightfall Farm in Crothersville. Send comments to [email protected]