Pull into just about any area farmyard, and it’s likely you’ll be greeted excitedly by one of the family’s most valued and beloved members — the farm dog.
That’s certainly true when you visit Steve and Jill Lueken’s farm, near Colesburg, where their Jack Russell Terrier, Rusty, has been welcoming visitors and helping out around the farm for the last six years.
Rusty doesn’t miss much, according to Steve Lueken.
“She’s always on the move. I wish I had that kind of energy,” he said. “If there’s something going on, or something here that shouldn’t be, she’ll let you know. It’s unreal the nose they have on them.
“If she knows there’s something she needs help with, she’ll start barking to tell me. When I come in the yard with a tractor she’ll follow me and walk right beside me the whole time while I feed the cattle. She’s there every day — every day.”
The Luekens grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa on their ground and currently have 450 acres of corn and 250 acres of soybeans. The Luekens are also well known for their high-quality beef cattle.
“Right now we’re kind of low on beef cattle with around 300. We normally have 300 to 600 when corn isn’t sky-high,” Jill Lueken said.
Rusty isn’t the typical farm dog and fell into the role by default, explained Jill Lueken.
“Rusty is six years old. We bought her in Minnesota,” she said. “Our previous dog, Tessa, just disappeared one night and a friend of our son, Dakota, lives on a dairy farm near Owatonna, Minnesota, and they had puppies.
“I picked one out, but then I called Steve and told him they had a runt. So, I asked him if he wanted two. He said sure and to see what kind of deal they have for two. They called her Precious — because she wasn’t — and Rusty is Precious. She was the runt of the litter.”
The plan was for Rusty’s sister Nala —both dogs were named by the Lueken’s younger son, Hunter, after Lion King characters — to be the farm dog, but like so many things in life, that soon changed.
“We had both running free on the farm for a while, but Steve thought Nala was too shy to be a farm dog, and Rusty is not,” Jill said. “Rusty got to be what I wanted Nala to be, so Rusty is our farm dog.”
Rusty has more than lived up the distinction of being big girl on campus.
“She’s not afraid to go after rodents,” Jill said. “She goes after mice, rats, raccoons and even got a woodchuck last week. If something is too big, or she can’t get at it, she’ll stand there and bark until Steve realizes she has something cornered.
“Opossums and raccoons get into the feed, and we don’t want that. She keeps the rodent population down and she’ll bark to let us know if someone is in the yard or walking by. If the cattle get out she’ll let us know and in the middle of the night if there’s a strange dog or coyote around, she lets us know.”
Rusty also sees herself as a cattle dog according to Jill Lueken.
“If we run cattle through the chute, she’s right there barking at them to get going. She’s gotten kicked in the head before, but it doesn’t phase her. She gets right back in there,” Jill said. “She will go in the pen with you when you’re sorting cattle and she’ll run when they come near her, but she thinks she’s helping.”
Rusty, like many of us, is not a fan of the cold weather.
“In the wintertime, she’s a shop dog,” said Jill. “If you don’t put her in at night, she’ll stand by the door and bark until you let her in the shop.”
It would be a mistake to underestimate Rusty based on her petite frame.
“She’s small but mighty and she’s a great mother too,” Jill said. “When she has puppies she’s so active that she doesn’t have big litters. She only had one puppy in April this year, but she’s very protective.”