Border collie Fit rises above 'ruff' competition in FB Farm Dog of the Year contest
Work on the family farm takes everyone pitching in and doing their part, including four-legged friends, prompting Farm Bureau to launch the Farm Dog of the Year contest four years ago – now a popular feature of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Convention.
Fit, a 5-year-old border collie and this year's title holder, is a true partner on Cindy and Andrew Deak's Florida sheep operation.
"She's literally my right-hand or right-hand girl," said Farm Bureau member Cindy Deak. "If I'm out here on the farm she is almost always with me. We've kindred spirits, we kind of read each other's minds."
Deak says they purchased Fit from Scotland when she was 14 months old. Over the years Fit has become the couple's prime working dog. Each day Fit rounds up the operation's flock. Following Deak's commands, Fit will move the animals up for feeding or directing them into different pastures on the farm.
"What makes her so special is this uncanny natural ability she has to read situations," Deak said. "She knows more about livestock then I'll ever hope to know, so I trust her decisions over mine any day."
Fit is also valuable in training other young dogs how to herd livestock. Diane Keedy, a fellow Florida Farm Bureau members and sheep rancher, has brought her young border collie, Ticker, to the Deak's for instruction.
"I'll never get Ticker to (the level) Fit is, but I'd like to get hime to where he's more helpful and do half of what she does," Keedy said. "A well-trained dog is a necessity if you're going to have any number of livestock. It's something that's really become a necessity on a one-person operation."
Deak says a really good working dog can make or break a farm situation.
"She will work with any breed of dog. She's good with every person – child or adult. And besides, she's a wonderful pet. It's really an amazing feeling to have a dog like her. I think it's a once in a lifetime thing."
AFBF, with support from Nestlé Purina PetCare, recognized Fit, four regional runners-up and a People’s Choice Pup today at its convention.
“It’s exciting to partner with Purina for the fourth annual Farm Dog of the Year contest, providing the public with another glimpse into daily life on the farm,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Farming and ranching can be stressful, even on the best days. Farm dogs can help ease the burden as they often play a dual role as both working dogs and companions to farm families.”
The contest celebrates farm dogs that work alongside farmers and ranchers as they sustainably produce nutritious food for families and their pets across America. Rounding up livestock and chasing off predators are among the many tasks performed by farm dogs.
Purina donated prizes for the contest again this year. This included $5,000 in prize money, a trophy plate, a year’s supply of Pro-Plan dog food and other Purina products for Fit. Four regional runners-up in the contest will each also receive $1,000 in prize money, a trophy plate and Purina products. They are:
- Iorek, owned by New York Farm Bureau member Amanda Farnsworth, from the Northeast region;
- On the Lamb Zip, owned by South Carolina Farm Bureau member Robin Elliott, from the Southern region;
- Digger, owned by Ohio Farm Bureau member Kim Beckman, from the Midwest region; and
- Cinco, owned by Utah Farm Bureau member Caleb Smith, from the Western region.
Learn how you can nominate your dog for the 2023 contest at https://www.fb.org/farmdog.