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  • Writer's pictureReyna Bradford

Dogs Make My Life Possible

I have held down my homestead -- living alone and without vision -- for almost eighteen years now. And I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that, without my pack of trusty dogs beside me, I would have headed back to town with my tail between my legs a long time ago.

Whether it's a group of naughty goats that needs to be corralled, a prowling coyote testing the pasture fence, an important item I've misplaced, or just the security of being under their watchful care, dogs are there to help. They herd, they guard, they find my lost gloves and my dropped leashes. I work better during the days and sleep better during the nights because they're on duty right beside me.

So when I heard about Jackie and her P.H.A.R.M. Dog USA program, I was already completely convinced that dogs were an integral part of life on the land for anyone with a disability. I first learned about P.H.A.R.M. Dog (an acronym for Pets Helping Agriculture in Rural Missouri) through an article published in the American Kennel Club's Family Dog Magazine.

The article introduced Jackie, a vivacious, compassionate woman from northern Missouri, and her enthusiasm for rescuing dogs from animal shelters, and training them to help disabled farmers. The dogs include Border Collies, who move and control livestock, and Labradors, who are trained to carry buckets, open gates, pick up just about anything, and do all kinds of other cool stuff.

I read that article, and I was in. P.H.A.R.M. Dog is a phenomenal program, and I have stood one hundred percent behind it for years. Without the help of these amazing dogs, and the amazing organization that trains them, many handicapped farmers would be forced to give up the life and land they love. With those dogs beside them, they can keep working, and keep living.

It's just icing on the cake, then, that Jackie and I are releasing new books at exactly the same time. She was gracious enough to write the forward for my latest book, How to Train Your Best Friend: Twenty Things Every Owner Should do to Raise a Dog Right. and I was privileged enough to write the cover description for her children's book, Four-Legged Farm Hand, A PHARM Dog USA Tale.

Both books will be officially launched on Thursday, November 18, at 7 p.m. Central Time. This event will be held via Zoom. Registration is free, and it should be tons of fun, with dog videos, author interviews, prize give-aways, and more.

My own book, How to Train Your Best Friend, is a condensed version of the things I've learned about raising dogs over the past few decades. It's an informative, easy read, packed with tips and tricks and a few funny stories, all enhanced by my unique experience of dealing with puppies and adult rescue dogs as someone without sight. The book covers the basics -- everything from exercise to socialization, all the way through vet visits, choosing appropriate toys and treats, and teaching a reliable recall.

I will never consider myself a dog-training expert, but my dogs have trained me well and have taught me a lot. I'm sharing some of their lessons in this little book.

So consider yourself officially invited. It's virtual, so bring your dogs along for the fun. Enter their picture in the Top-Dog Photo Contest. Come, sit, stay, and enjoy!

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