With the nicer weather, I have been spending less time in front of my computer and more time at events listening to topics ranging from spring planting to farm upgrades. Several of these have included getting my boots muddy out on local farms, a welcome change of pace from conference rooms and computer screens.
Usually armed with an address and a rough idea of where I am heading, these farm tours frequently start with a somewhat anxious drive to what I hope to be the location of the tour. This is usually closely followed by a prayer that I will see some confirmation that I am in the right place. Knock on wood, I have yet to pull into the wrong farm, but I would guess my day is coming.
Although the technology or crop rotation I am learning about may differ from farm to farm, one thing I have noticed is consistent is the friendly farm dog. These dogs tend to be the farm’s guard system and welcoming committee rolled into one.
As I sit in my car collecting my thoughts, questions and supplies, they usually find a comfy spot right outside my car door or in front of the car, where they gaze at me expectantly, waiting to give me a proper greeting of a lick on my hand or a sniff of my pant legs.
Once you give them a good scratch, that dog is a friend for the rest of the tour. They know that if they look at me just right or follow me around long enough, I won’t be able to resist taking a break from my notes to give them another pat on the head.
Don’t get me wrong, I like talking to farmers and hearing their stories, but the farm dogs are really what make my day on these farm tours. And what I have found is that a lot can be said about the farm and the farmer by how they treat their dogs.
Recently, I was on a farm tour that started in the farm’s office, which had a few couches. The farm dog followed me in and plopped down on one of the couches, promptly falling asleep — snores and all. I guess it is exhausting being a dog, and it was obvious to me that the dog was familiar with that spot.
As the tour started and the farmer started talking, he sat right next to the dog and scratched its head as he shared the farm’s story. It was like second nature for him. I’m sure that dog and his predecessors have been with that farmer through the joys of the lifestyle and the hardships and in more ways than one, provided a bit of therapy to the family throughout its time on the farm.
Growing up on a farm that always had a dog or two running around and continuing to have a few dogs today, I know that they make my life better. They have a way of improving both the good and the bad days just by sitting there with the puppy dog eyes, waiting for you to give them just one more scratch on the head.
With an agriculture industry that is experiencing a lot of distress in many of its avenues, I believe it is more important than ever for us all to have something, whether it is a dog or some other pet, that can help ease some of the stress and provide a little bit of animal therapy from time to time.
I know that as I continue on my travels for the newspaper, I say keep the dogs coming. Their curious excitement at the stranger driving into their yard doesn’t bother me one bit.
Jenessa Freidhof covers news and writes feature stories in north-central Wisconsin. She can be reached at email@example.com.