collage of 2017 Favorite Farm Dog winners
FARM FRIENDS: Illinois farmers love their farm dogs.

Favorite Farm Dogs: The honorable mentions

So many good farm dogs with so many stories to tell; here’s a look at three more we just couldn’t pass up.

Yesterday, we introduced you to Prairie Farmer's 2017 favorite farm dogs, Colby, Shelby and Sammi Grace. Today, check out three more stories from the Favorite Farm Dog Contest honorable mention winners!

Most Photogenic: Ruby
When I was younger (I am 15 now), I would daydream about amazing dogs: dogs that could water-ski, or dogs that could ride a horse. We only had a regular old Australian shepherd farm dog, named Ruby, age 10. Sure, Ruby could bring heifers to the barn, and she could jump from the ground to the top of five stacks of straw on a wagon, and she could do 4-H dog obedience. But could she blow up a balloon? (I saw a dog do that once at the state fair). Ruby’s farm-dog talents just didn’t impress me. That is, until a couple years ago when she proved to not only be a good old farm dog, but also a hero.

While Ruby loves a lot of things — like people and cattle and baby kitties and ice cream cones — she hates one thing: puppies. And she has a litter every year! Sure, she likes them OK when they’re born, but once they’re old enough to be annoying, she glares at them and jumps on a bale of straw so they can’t get near her. And yet, one year, Ruby saved her “annoying” litter of puppies from a barn fire when a heating mat caught fire, and she managed to move all of the bales of straw away from the stable door so the pups could escape.

Heroic acts aside, probably her best talents are just being a good old family dog (as you can see from the picture taken by my mom). And even though she sneaks in the house whenever my mom’s truck is gone, opening three doors (including the refrigerator door) and eating leftover hamburgers, we still can’t get mad at her. Because now I realize she’s an amazing and heroic regular old farm dog, too!

Sheridan Hank, Aledo

PHOTOGENIC: The judges loved Ruby’s eyes — and those of her owner, Sheridan Hank.

Furry Hero: Stella
I have known farm dogs all my life. There was Wolf, the husky who escaped a night tornado that hit the chicken coop where he laid. Then there was King, the biter from the pound who was notoriously good at tracking raccoons. Only one, though, can I thank for my life: Stella, my German shepherd.

On July 25, 2016, a 5-inch rain had left me with few options for farm work. I put Stella in the house, knowing that her devotion would leave her trotting a little too close to the tractor. I headed to a field I have known for 30 years, and drove my tractor over a pond dam to spray briars. This time, the soil gave way. The tractor rolled down a wooded ravine three times, with the tire and rim crushing my right side underneath. I lay there, with my femur broke in three places, my pelvis broke, all of the ribs on the right and one rib on my left side broke, one shoulder shattered, and the other severely damaged.

As faith would have it, I am left-handed and carry my flip phone in my left pocket. I strained to call 911, and after many attempts, was finally successful! The rescue squad soon arrived but searched in vain. I could not gather the breath to yell out. I was told that an EMT knocked on the door of the house and opened it after no one answered. Stella bolted outside, ran about 150 yards, and began licking my face and whining. The EMT followed Stella and yelled, “I found him. I followed the dog!”

Just in time for me to take that breath, and many more to come. Stella is my faithful guardian.

Stephen Ashwood, Macomb

HERO: Stella’s tale of heroics caught the judges’ eyes.

Farm Dog Athlete of the Year: Willie
Willie is our farm dog at Aderman Family Farm. Willie is a full-blooded blue heeler. His mother was a blue heeler and his father was a red heeler. Willie turns 4 years old on April 24. Willie works our American British White Park cows. Willie will herd anything you tell him to, including pigs. Willie knows when it is time to work. He always sits in the front seat of the truck when we are ready to move cows to another pasture.

When Willie isn’t working, he loves to play fetch. If you have your tailgate closed, Willie will jump in the bed of the truck with the tailgate still up and clear it easily. If you want a great outfielder for baseball, pick Willie to be on your team. He will go catch the ball wherever you hit the ball. Willie also enjoys swimming. If you have a ball, he loves swimming even more. He will swim anywhere as long as you throw his ball. Even if you don’t have a ball, Willie will bring you rocks, sticks or anything he can find for you to throw. He would rather play than eat if he had the choice. Willie knows how to climb a ladder and goes to the very top of the ladder and then will climb down.

Willie is very dependable to count on when you want him to work the cows. He also makes a very good guard dog at night, if someone pulls into the drive or if something gets into the chickens. Willie will bark and wake us up to let us know if there is a problem.

Emily Aderman, Farina

ATHLETE: Is there anything Willie can’t do? The judges didn’t think so!
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