By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Last spring, Sonya M. Galley, working in a pen on the family farm on Route 51 south of Garrattsville, felt a gentle nudge on her back.
It was anything but.
Turning around, she was confronted by a heifer, who then nudged her back into a sitting position “I was trapped,” said Sonya, who milks 60 Holsteins with her parents, Dave and Cassie, on Silver Spoon Farm. “I knew if I moved, I was going to be in trouble.”
The general public thinks of cows as placid, but they can be unpredictable.
“She may have been wanting to play with me,” said the 30-something, fourth-generation dairy person. “But she was much bigger than I was.”
Bindi to the rescue, a rescue that won her national laurels: Sunday, Jan. 11, at the U.S. Farm Bureau annual convention, the Otsego County native was Farm Dog of the Year.
“Git around,” said Galley, and the 3-year-old Australian sheep dog did what’s she’s trained to do.
She leaped into the pen and, barking and dashing, had soon moved the cows, including the balky heifer, to the other side of the enclosure.
Her grateful owner pulled herself to her feet, safe.
So when the Farm Bureau was promoting applications to its Farm Dog competition, Sonya was on it.
Last September, she got word: Out of 90 nominations, Bindi had won, only the fourth winner of a prize created in 2018. “I had to keep it secret” until last week’s announcement, Galley said.
The contest is co-sponsored by Nestle Purina PetCare, which donated $5,000 in prize money for Bindi and four runners-up, plus a trophy plate and a year’s supply of dog food.
Purina Vice President of Sustainability Jack Scott said the company is proud to help farmers “steward their land” with the help “of their amazing dogs, who help enrich lives on and off the farm.”
Sonya helped mom Ziva, 9, whelp Bindi, so the two have been together from the beginning. The Aussie is helped with her farming duties by her mom, her younger sister Reese, 2, and her uncle Toby, 10.
The Australian sheep dog breed was actually developed in the American West, and the animals can’t stay still. “The dogs pretty much do what they’re bred to do,” said Glassey.
In addition to moving cows around pens – a Holstein heifer can weigh 800 pounds, so it’s no easy job – Bindi and Reese can help hurry the herd across the road to pasture during the summer, and can cut individual cows out of the herd, as necessary.
The Galley family has been in the Town of New Lisbon since 1972, when dad Dave moved up from Trout Creek, Delaware County. Sonya graduated from Morris Central, then from Morrisville
Ag & Tech, then received her four-year degree from Virginia.
From the start, “I always knew I’d do something around farming,” she said.
On learning of Bindi’s prize, the Galleys were looking forward to the Farm Bureau’s annual January convention: It was planned in San Diego.