THE BAY CITY TIMES
Celebrating the people, places and pastimes of northern Michigan
GONE TO THE DOGS
Harrisville farm's collies to be featured on Animal Planet episode.
Pooch power: Animal Planet features talented dogs from Northeast's Quaker Hill Farms
by Jerry Nunn | The Bay City Times
Friday October 24, 2008
photo credit - John Parsons, Special to the Times
HARRISVILLE - As stewards of Quaker Hill Farms, Bill and Kimberly Anne Makela sense a profound urge to teach others the things they learn living off the land while caring for a unique and diverse menagerie.
Those creatures include the honey bees, chickens, lambs and bunnies that Kimberly, under the guise of Quaker Anne, highlights in the artfully-told and illustrated children's stories found on the farm's Web site, quakerfarm.com.
Yet, it is another pack of Quaker Hill Farm denizen's that are soon to enlarge Quaker Anne's virtual classroom and her reflections of what life is like down on the farm.
The Makelas' well-bred and highly-trained collies were featured in an episode of Dogs 101 this month on the cable TV network Animal Planet. The episode starring Willow, Lassie and their brood of pups will air Nov. 22, from 8 to 9 p.m.
Dogs 101 gives viewers a comprehensive look at the most popular dog breeds, according to Melinda Toporoff, executive producer for Animal Planet. The show provides need-to-know facts about each breed as well as fun details of the breed's quirks and peculiarities.
"They filmed for about 12 hours, so it was a very long day. " said Kimberly Makela. "It's hard to say what they might use."
That is plenty of film footage, considering the dogs will appear for a 10 minute segment on one episode, Makela said. But the film crew filmed much more than the just the farm's critters.
While there, videographers filmed the Makelas' entire operation, from the cattle and horses to the dairy goats and free-range chickens. For the Makelas, members of the Religious Society of Friends, practitioners of the Quaker faith, the opportunity to showcase their farm and the simple, sustainable way of life they lead was too much to refuse.
"If the program never airs, it was well worth it," Makela said, "It was so interesting to see how all this stuff works."
But they almost did miss the chance. When an Animal Planet representative first contacted them - tipped off to ultra-talented collies from the farm's Web site - Makela thought the call was from a telemarketer.
"I said, "I'm sorry ma'am, I'm right in the middle of a very busy day. I'm really not interested,' " Makela recalls. "She said, 'Wait a minute, wait a minute. We've seen your work and we're very impressed.' "
There is plenty to be impressed by.
While the dogs Makela raises are beautiful creatures, she said she doesn't raise them for "pretty or show." These are working dogs and her approach toward training is to learn each dog's personality and train it for the purpose to which it was born, whether it be a herd dog, a companion dog, an emotional therapy dog or a reading dog.
The reading dog may be what most attracted the show's producers in the first place, Makela theorizes. They are trained as companions to children, to sit attentively by while the child reads aloud. They are becoming increasingly popular in schools and libraries, according to Makela.
"These dogs are very special," Makela said. "They are fascinating animals. It is so neat to watch a dog pay attention to a child when reading. The dog enjoys it and the child benefits from someone paying attention to them."