Dogs are considered revered members of the family by many Americans today, and it’s a human-animal bond that is a wonderful thing to experience. Most consumers, however, are now three generations removed from the farm, and their limited exposure to agriculture can skew their perception of food-animal production, particularly when many of them equate their pets to livestock. Since they can’t fathom killing a beloved pet, they’re puzzled about how ranchers can feel good about raising cattle only to harvest them for meat and byproducts.
It’s a tough conversation to have with consumers, but rather than widen that gap in understanding by shrugging our shoulders at how some consumers will never understand the circle of life, perhaps we try to connect with them by focusing on the things we have in common. When we launched our “Man’s Best Friend” photo contest last week, we didn’t foresee such a strong response of entries. With more than 125 entries so far (and four days to still enter by sending your photo to me at email@example.com), I realized that a rancher’s love of his/her dog is just as strong as that of any of our urban friends.
Perhaps we can start making connections and bridging the producer-consumer gap by showing how deep our love and appreciation for animals really is – for both pets and livestock. In turn, hopefully we can make the distinction that bovine animals are not equal to our beloved pets.
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To get the conversation started, I have rounded up five stories readers sent me with their photo submissions describing their favorite pups, both past and present. Here are the stories and photos:
1. Lucy by Jessica Rosener
"This is our 10-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer named Lucy. She has been part of our family since she was five weeks old! She is a loyal companion to each member of our family, an awesome upland game bird dog, and an enthusiastic farm dog. In this picture, you see her 'riding' shotgun' as we complete chores! We love her dearly, and she is definitely our best bud!” says Rosener.
2. Colonel by Alex Chapp
“This is Colonel; he's 13 years old and he's a border collie mixed with black lab. Originally he used to be a hunting dog and he was really good at it, but when he started getting older he started to get gunshy and started having hip problems. As I started to pheasant hunt less and less, so did Colonel. One spring day, I came out to do chores and Colonel was walking by my side, I noticed a couple calves snuck past the fence. So as I started to go after the calves, I saw this black dot run past me. It was Colonel; he caught up to calves and turned them around and started to get them to go back into the fence. So as I started to fix the fence, Colonel stayed by my side the whole time to make sure they didn't get back out. Even now in his old age he still gets the energy to get cows and calves back in when they get out, and when I do chores, he stays by my side the whole time. Dad says he's making sure I'm ranching the right way! I wouldn't want any other companion by my side. He might be quiet, but he's always there to listen and always a reliable friend,” writes Chapp.
3. Tex by Brandy Graves
“Tex is a 5-year-old black lab, a bird dog and part of our family. He doesn’t mind the cattle too much, but won’t go near any electric fence after our other dogs got him shocked by it when he was a puppy. Tex loves dove season and going to the lake or any place with water, also playing fetch with anything he can find, sticks, rocks, bottles, show stick, etc. He is my dad’s right-hand man and goes everywhere with him to work on the farm, lake, etc.,” says Graves.
4. Vixie by Joyce Couch
“This sweet girl with a smile on her face is Vixie. She passed away a year ago and is deeply missed. Vixie was a dedicated companion who was always by my side everywhere I went. Her favorite spot was riding on the back of the four-wheeler with a smile on her face when I would check cows. She loved to go to work and help with the cows. Vixie holds a special place in my heart and her spirit rides with me on the four-wheeler where ever I go,” writes Couch.
5. Jack by Amber Dwire
“This is my dog, Jack. He is a 10-month-old Australian Shepard. He was an amazing dog. Very friendly, loving and energetic! He was my cow dog in training and was getting quite good at it -- always willing to learn and please. I have two favorite stories of Jack, which just happened this past week. Last week, we had a set of twins and one became a bottle calf. While I was feeding the little heifer, Jack came into the pen to check out the new little girl and once the heifer spotted him she whipped around, gave out a loud beller and followed him around. My poor little Jack didn't know what to think, so he ran right out of the pen and decided to wait for me behind the gate.
“This last Sunday, my husband and I were bedding the cow barn, and as we were pitching straw, Jack would lay right on the pile my husband was pitching from so he couldn't bed his area of the barn. I would call Jack, and he would come over and rustle around in the straw as though he was trying to help me. My husband and I continued to laugh at him and being the little entertainer he is, he kept up his little routine of disrupting my husband and helping me.
Unfortunately, Jack was hit on the road yesterday morning and is no longer with us. I am so glad that this contest came at this time because entering him in this contest will be a great tribute to my little boy Jack.”
What are your favorite dog stories? Share them with me in the comments section below, and send me your best puppy picture at firstname.lastname@example.org by April 18 to be entered to win a $100 Beef Bucks gift certificate.
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