Originally published in Four Legs & A Tail
I love shining a light on all the farmers and producers who provide a bounty of local food and other locally made products to our community. In this article, however, I move the spotlight over and down, from the business person to their four-legged friends — the working dogs, cats, and other animals who also make these local products possible. Our first Four-Legged Farm Friend Feature highlights Thelma, a seven-year-old Maremma sheepdog at Mayfair Farm in Harrisville, NH.
Farmers Craig Thompson and Sarah Heffron share that Thelma’s main job at Mayfair Farm is to guard its flock of sheep. Thelma protects the farm’s flock from predators by barking and scent-marking her territory. She doesn’t attack any threat but instead deters the intruder from approaching her guard.
“Thelma sleeps outside the sheep barn year-round. She comes to our house to have breakfast with our dogs in the morning and to be petted,” Sarah said. “Then she just freelances until the day ends and repeats the cycle again. It’s quite a good gig!”
She is also the official greeter of visitors to the farm’s store, though her jobs don’t end there. She’s often spotted “guarding” the farm’s commercial kitchen. “She happily guards cakes that are cooling off outside in the winter,” Sarah continued.
Thelma was born on a farm in northern Vermont, coming to Mayfair Farm as a six-month-old pup along with a small flock of Dorset sheep and another puppy. “We started out with Thelma and her full sister in the beginning and so named the pair Thelma and Louise (Weezie),” shared Sarah.
Her breed goes back 2,000 years to the Abruzzo region of Italy and was introduced to the US in the 1970s. Sarah adds, “Thelma is smart and independent, but not being as large as some other similar breeds and easily fits into the car or truck.”
Maremmas don’t boss their flock around like other sheepdog breeds, but instead form strong bonds with the animals under their watch, considering them part of their pack. That bond can apply to both wooly and feathered friends. For example on a small island in Australia, an environmental scientist trained Maremma sheepdogs to protect Little Penguins, the smallest penguin species from foxes and other predators.
“Thelma is indispensable and it’s hard to imagine ever having as perfect a dog again,” finished Sarah. “If you stop by the farm, you’ll likely meet her and we expect you will agree that she is the most loveable dog ever.”
Learn more about Mayfair Farm.
Know of a farm animal I should highlight in a future article? We want to hear from you! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.