The Dogs on Our Farm

It is such a joy to me to have so many animals all around us every day, but the ones I enjoy the most are the dogs.  As far back as I can remember I have always had dogs around, some I loved more than others, but they were my comrades in play and sorrow.

When I was 17 I bought my first puppy, he came from a Border Collie/Rough Collie mother and a Rough Collie father.  The mix is called Highland Working Collie and the intent is to get back the qualities of the original working dogs of the highlands.  Laddie came into my life at around the same time as the first of my sheep did and I was hoping to train him to herd them.  He would have done great if I had had enough land and sheep to keep him busy, instead he became the best family dog we have ever had.  And although he loves to be around people he is attached to me and so we moved him to Oklahoma when Grady and I were married and then out here to Virginia.  He has been a great companion for Ralph and loves to follow us around the farm.

100_2371The other dog on the farm that I’ve enjoyed having around is Gabe.  He is an Akbash/Anatolian Shepherd and is in charge of guarding the poultry.  We try our best not to give him too much attention as then he might start guarding us instead of the birds, but he is a very sweet animal, a “gentle giant”, and a pleasure to work with.


What animal do you enjoy the most or would like to have one day?

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About Erin Phelan

Born and raised in western Michigan, Erin came to Polyface first as an intern in the summer of 2009. While here she met and got to know Grady Phelan, an apprentice at the time. The next spring they were married and after a couple years in Oklahoma they are back, working as sub-contractors for Polyface. Erin keeps herself busy with the jobs of a wife and mother, as well as helping with the animals, gardening, sewing, cooking, baking, knitting and reading.
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23 Responses to The Dogs on Our Farm

  1. Jessica McShane says:

    My favorite animals on our little farm, are the pigs. I ADORE our pigs. Especially since our New Sow Neko just had her first litter of babies last night!! 6 gorgeous Red Wattle babies, happy, healthy, spunky, and wonderful!! Yesterday and last night, embodied exactly what I hope for our farms (and my personal growth) future!

  2. Julia says:

    I’ll bet it’s hard not to give him too much attention! Gabe is adorable!!

  3. Jan Hall says:

    If you like to read, I recommend the books by Jon Katz. Very heartwarming stories about his border collies on his farm. One of his dogs becomes a hospice dog.

    • Erin Phelan says:

      Ooh, I’ll be sure to look him up. I enjoy stories of real life animals. 🙂 The stories by James Herriot are some of my favorite.

  4. Robert Blackmer says:

    We miss Gabe. He’s a good dog.

  5. Annie says:

    Our dog is a registered Springer Spaniel named Duke. He came from an abusive situation where he spent the first 10 months of his life in a kennel. He’s 6 now and is very loyal to our family and a wonderful companion for our children. He is never far from my husband, and sleeps right in front of our door lest we leave and he not know it. In fact, we know when it’s -20 or colder in the winter because that’s the point when he will actually use his doghouse. And having a bird dog like a Springer is very helpful in finding escaped hens and chickens in tall grass! 🙂

    • taber says:

      That’s sad that you’re dog must live outside. He’s probably sleeping at the front door because he’s hoping you’ll let him in when it’s cold outside! Horrible …… 🙁 Please give your dog to someone who can care for him. When it’s -20 outside, how the hell would YOU like to live in a dog house???? He “came from” an abusive situation? If you leave your dog outside when it’s below freezing, whether he has a dog house or not, he is STILL living in an abusive situation. Springers don’t even have a double coat- how can he stay warm? Poor dog….

  6. Erin Herner says:

    I love dogs too, especially siberian huskies. I just had to put to sleep my 12 year old husky. She was the sweetest, most lively, gorgeous dog I’ve ever seen. She has been my companion for 12 years. It was the saddest day of my life. But I definitely want to have another one when the time is right.

  7. Amy Swiney says:

    I love my chickens! They are all such characters. But of course my dogs are my favorites. Our Anatolian/Pyrenees “Jake” is a sweetie and is our chicken guardian as well. It’s hard to not love on him a lot because he’s so nice and friendly.

  8. Ruth says:

    They all have their roles, don’t they? We had a bad chicken year, losing all of our new birds, Dorkings, to predators. We still have 7 of our old faithful girls, Dominiques, and a 14 yr old golden who watches over them. He’s a tired old boy, but so loving.

  9. Abby says:

    I love my dog Bess, she is a border collie and a sweetheart! When she was a puppy she was the biggest mess maker ever! But now she is a great guard dog. which is nice because we live out in the country and don’t know any of our neighbors. We don’t have any sheep for her to heard, So she thinks she needs to be in charg of the chickens. My sister has a siberian husky, who likes to eat chickens… if she gets the chance.:)That does not happen often. I also want a Panda Bear for my birthday. My mom said sarcastically, “Yeah, I’ll get right on that.” Unfortunately, I don’t think you can keep Panda bears at your house. Particularly in Michigan.

  10. Emma says:

    Hi!My sister just wrote about our two dogs. I just wanted to say that my husky Skye, is a sweetheart too! And is a great friend. (even though she can be a mistchief maker.) I also love my four araucana chickens. They all have silly personalities, are professional escape artists and have done things i didn’t know chickens could do. Their names are Capitola,Clara, Constance and Owl.

  11. Erin Phelan says:


  12. Dogs are the best comrades for all people, most of the people keeps dogs as a pet animal, dogs can easily understand what are all the things man says

  13. Olivia says:

    Dogs are defiantly man’s BEST friends!!!

  14. Kim says:

    Question: What breed of dog is Michael, Polyface’s current working dog and where did he come from? We are looking for a good all purpose LGD for our farm and like what Michael is. A lot of LGD’s are not people friendly (not mean, just indifferent), because they are bonded to their herd and people aren’t suppose to be their herd, but Michael isn’t that way.

    • Olivia says:

      I am pretty sure that Michael is a “Anatolian Shepard Dog”. I don’t know where he came from. Here is a link for more information on the breed:‎:

    • Sheri Salatin says:

      Michael is a litter mate of Gabriel. They are both Akbash/Anatolian cross dogs. We got him from a guy in Maryland. Call our farm store for his number. 🙂

    • The friendliness of an LGD largely relies on it’s training. LGDs that are socialized with people early on become people-friendly; LGDs that have minimal human interactions tend to be more wary, and thus more protective, against strange humans.

      Great Pyrenees tend to be the most people-friendly breed of LGD, making them not such an ideal dog on large ranches where thieves and human “predators” are a problem.