PHARM Dog: Man’s best friend is prescription for independence

Alda Owen kneeling with Pharm dog in front of cattle herd

Alda Owen with her PHARM Dog. Photo: Amy Stroth for Tractor Supply’s Out Here magazine

Having lived on a farm most of her life, Jackie Allenbrand knew from personal experience the value of dogs in agricultural settings. However, it was as a staff member for Missouri AgrAbility that she first realized the unique potential for canines to assist farmers with disabilities. In working with a farmer who had experienced a lower leg amputation, Jackie saw that he would drive his ATV to the location of his cattle and then have his dog bring in the herd, saving him time, effort, and the potential for secondary injury.

This inspired Jackie in 2005 to start PHARM Dog (Pets Helping Agriculture in Rural Missouri), an organization she has since spun off as an independent nonprofit. Her dogs fall into two main categories: herders (mostly Border Collies) and service dogs (usually Labrador Retrievers rescued from shelters). The latter perform a variety of tasks, such as retrieving objects, providing mobility assistance for farmers with impaired balance, or going for help if they are unable to summon assistance.

In addition to the practical assistance they receive, PHARM Dog recipients have indicated lower levels of depression and stress, and traumatic brain injury survivors have shown less nausea and dizziness. Jackie says she has seen tough farmers begin to cry when they get their dogs. One stated, “This dog is going to help me keep my cattle, whereas I might have had to sell them.”

Click here for a great video on Pharm Dog from NBC Nightly News