Collie named Laddie who appeared on Animal Planet as a puppy
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Animal Planet Films Crown Thistle Collies at Quaker Farm!
The following article appeared in the Alcona County Review, and was written by Editor Cheryl Peterson.
Photo Credit: John Parsons    Crown Thistle Collies were filmed at Quaker Farm.

National network on location with Harrisville family September 2008

A spotlight was shown on Alcona County last week when Animal Planet came and spent more than 12 hours capturing the lifestyle and breeding philosophy of a local farm on film.

Animal Planet, a cable television network that focuses on animals and the human/animal bond, visited Quaket Farm. Animal Planet's parent company is Discovery Communications, Inc.

Quaker Hill Farm owners, William and Anne, who don't have cable television, didn't know what to think when they received a call from one of Animal Planet's representatives wanting to schedule a filming date. "I thought they were trying to sell me advertising." Anne said. "I almost hung up on them."

The representative explained that Animal Planet was interested in including their work with breeding and training Collies as part of a new series about dogs. In less than a week, the crew was on their doorstep. They showed up at 7:15 a.m. They filmed until dark and, after packing up all of their gear and equipment, left around 11 p.m.

"Things happened very fast," Anne said. "We knew very little about what would happen...We walked into this with an open heart and it was a rewarding, although tiring experience."

"They were fantastically kind and wonderful," she said. "They made it easy on everyone...they handled everything gently...I thought it was going to be hard to do - invasive - but they made it easy."

Anne said she was pleased a national spotlight was on Alcona County again - in a positive light, as opposed to previous national news coverage regarding the embezzlement charges and subsequent conviction of former Alcona County Treasurer Tom Katona. "Alcona will be well represented here," Anne said.

The Makelas came to their farm in 1985 and raised seven children. They are a Certified Naturally Grown sustainable farm which grows heirloom produce that is pastured based and they raise rare breed livestock including Oberhasli dairy goats, Cotswold sheep, Muscovy ducks, and Buff Orpington chickens. At its peak, the farm had about 90 goats and 45 sheep, along with numerous fowl.

Today, there are about 12 goats, 12 sheep, four horses, two llamas, pea fowl, geese, ducks, chickens, "a lot of cats", and collies.

"We have downsized quite a bit since the children have all grown up and moved away," Anne said. "They do come to help out with haying." Since the downsizing, William works off the farm and Anne teaches homesteading educational workshops that include sustainable simple living, cooking, soap making, cheese making and spinning classes.

She explained the workshops help members of this generation learn about how to live off the land. "If you think about it, we are four or five generations removed from agriculture," Anne said. "Many people have no memory of their grandparents and how they lived off the land." She cited how victory gardens were common in the United States during World War II - so that Americans could help sustain their families and not tax the nation while it was at war.

"We are in a different war now - a war with the economy - dealing with the ever rising costs of food," Anne said.

William explained that while it is natural for prices to go up, more and more people are looking for ways to save money by producing their own food. "City dwellers are becoming aware of the victory garden concept and are putting in neighborhood gardens," he said.

"We went from being a producing farm and turned it into education to maintain our lifestyle," Anne said. "We are sharing what we've learned. Otherwise we would be like other family farms that go away and the knowledge is lost to future generations."

The Makelas have a philosophy of land stewardship which is "to love the things we live among and enjoy the company of the animals we raise, even if they are livestock."

With their children off the farm and downsizing to smaller herds, the Makelas found that they still needed help in the field, which is where the collies come in. "The presence of dogs alone keeps the livestock safer," William said. "We have not lost any of our livestock to coyotes since the Collies have been in the field." He explained that while Collies do herd, the breed's main focus is herd companion dogs. They sit with the herd or "govern" the livestock.

Anne grew up with collies as her grandparents and parents raised them. "I have never seen a dog better with children than collies." Anne said. "A well bred Collie is so dependable and likes to hang around children. They govern them like they would livestock. It is magical to watch. Collies and children are a great combination."

The puppies featured in the Animal Planet footage are fifth generation from "Lassie" who was there during filming. They kept one of her daughters, Willow, and also kept a granddaughter, Bella. They have a total of 5 breeding females and two males and produce one or two litters a year. "We only had one this year because we didn't have time to do all of the training...usually the pups are sold before they are born," Anne said.

Keeping the family line is important to the breeding goals the Makelas have developed. The main goal is for overall good health. With that always in mind, they then selectively breed for personality type which is - intelligence, willing personality, stable disposition, steady predictability, and gentle countenance.

Training begins the first week of the puppies lives with a lot of handling, progresses to walking on a leash and swimming at seven weeks. "From the very first week, our aim is to encourage psychological development, strengthen the immune system and physical development," Anne said.

To help ensure confidence, many training aids are introduced during play time like low levels of water that gradually increase as the puppies grow. "We start them in water at about five weeks," Anne said. "They walk in it for many days and it gradually grows deeper." The final stage of "hydrotherapy" comes when they learn buoyancy and actually swim.

Training, paired with individual testing makes for a lot of time put into each pup and the same effort goes into placing the right pup with its owner. "no one picks a puppy here," Anne said of prospective buyers. After an extensive interview with each potential owner, a pup is chosen for them. "They have to agree that if they can't keep the dog for any reason, it has to come back here," Kimberly said. "We have the resources to find homes for these dogs if for any reason we couldn't keep the dog, which is unlikely." Buyers also have to agree to restrictive breeding stipulations.

Quaker Hill (Crown Thistle) Collies have gone to homes across the United States and Canada, and to Australia and around the world. These collies go to many different homes, but Kimberly explained the most tender placements go to homes that need them as companion therapy dogs. In this situation, dogs generally go to women who have experienced personal trauma or assault and suffer from a lack of confidence to go out of their homes alone. These Collies will leave Quaker Hill Farm after they are a year old and have had much more extensive training to be confident to handle any possible situation they might find themselves in like flying, elevators, escalators, busy city streets, et cetera.

It is these placements that make the Makelas proud of their work with their Collies. "They make us feel wonderful and that all of the work we've done is worth it." Anne said.

When they aren't raising puppies, herding goats and sheep, planting, weeding and picking from their gardens and producing crops for their animals, the Makelas also prepare items for the farm's shop - honey, eggs, wool, soap, dairy goat shares and fresh seasonal produce. Anne also updates the farm's Web page, authoring all of the items including the children's stories, Quaker Anne's Children's Stories. She teaches Web design, midwifery classes, and William provides hayrides to church groups in the fall. Anne is also the president of Alcona Local Foods Association (ALFA) and a member of the Alcona Quilt Trail committee.

The End

Note from Quaker Hill Farm
and Crown Thistle Collies

Collies are the most incredible breed of dog ever developed. They are exceptional family dogs that are remarkable with children, and they have a character which makes them versatile in so many ways. Unfortunately, Collies are not always bred with the high ethic they deserve and we hope with all of our hearts that we have not brought attention to their uniqueness in any way that would compromise the breed.

It is our hope as a family, that public understanding for the true nature of a well bred and carefully trained Collie will have been expanded in such a way as to bring credit to the merit of their true nature and the value of an exceptional breeding program. Our family has worked for many generations on breeding Collie dogs of exceptional quality so that families around the country and the world can experience being loved by what we feel is the classic all American family dog.

Working with our Collies in front of a film crew was an amazing experience on every level. The photos included here are but a fraction of the shots of events and situations which Animal Planet filmed. Among those not shown are our Collies in the training yard doing versatility exercises, us cooking natural foods for the Collies after a walk in our vegetable garden, and then there is the footage of spinning Collie dog hair into yarn, and more. However, we feel the photos here give a good idea of that eventful day and we hope you enjoy them as well as enjoy having the opportunity to get to know us a little better.

There are so very many people to thank for the success of this project, especially given the very short notice we received requesting our participation. First of all, to our family who rallied together to travel from out of state as far away as North Carolina. Hannah, Jeremee, Cameron, Johnathan and "Uncle" John - thank you for the time in miles traveled alone, not to mention the extreme effort exerted all the way around. John, the photography was, as ever, unbelievably remarkable - so much of what we experienced would have been lost to memory for exhaustion alone had it not been for you. As well, the prayers of those unable to attend.

Angela - so aptly named - there are simply no words to express the appreciation we all feel for the blessing of your friendship. Your hard work on our behalf is a treasure to us all. Our thanks to your whole family too for supporting you being here, and especially your children for working with the Collie pups so wonderfully!

Sherry and "Bella", thank you so much for being here on such short notice and working so hard. Sherry, you have done a beautiful job with Bella and she is a credit to us all!

Lisa, you made working with the pups in the water that much more fun for your marvelous sense of humor and exceptional handling of the little swimmers - those "champion athletes"! Your sensitive understanding of dogs comes through so clearly when you are handling them. You make them more confident for your faith in their abilities.

Erin, you grew up down the hill from this busy farm and we are so pleased that you joined us to help during this very special event. Our Collie dogs really love you.

Cheryl of the Alcona County Review, for your generous and kind representation of our farm, life and family we can not thank you enough. When I read your article about Quaker Hill Farm and the filming event here I could not hold back the tears. It was a large and wonderful article! We have shared and sent that issue of the paper to people all around the country and the response has been positive over and over again. Thank you hardly seems enough for your thoughtfulness, but thank you so much!

To the filming crew and producer from Animal Planet - Meg, Rich, Jed and Henry - you were all extremely kind to us and handled everything not only professionally but more importantly, sensitively, very patiently and carefully considerate of our lives and work here. I have to admit, we were all a bit nervous about the prospect of such an enormous project (one of a kind for us!), but you had us all at ease every step of the way. We are grateful for the rare opportunity to share our lives with others in such a way and to have met and worked with you all.

Photos of Animal Planet Filming

Animal Planet interview at Quaker Farm about Collie dogs
Animal Planet producer interviews Anne (Quaker Anne) about the long history of Quaker Hill Farm and Crown Thistle Collies.

Bill and Ann with their farm Collies during filming by Animal Planet at Quaker Farm.

Bill and Anne with Lassie and Willow during filming by
Animal Planet at Quaker Hill Farm. Bill and Anne carefully evaluate and extensively train their Collies.

preparing Collie filming site for Animal Planet Unloading camera equipment onto the tracks to film the herding demonstration.

Dairy goat at Animal Planet filming One of the dairy goats checks the camera tri-pod for readiness.

Animal Planet productin Produced Animal Planet producer and film crew discuss the upcomming shot.

A Collie dog is fitted with a custom camera harness Willow is fitted with a custom designed harness-held camera to get footage from her perspective working on the field.

Willow the Collie herding livestock Willow herds the livestock for the Animal Planet film crew.

tri color Collie being filmed for Animal Planet Willow vogues for the camera!

Collie dog takes a break from filming Willow takes a much needed rest with her trainer, "Quaker Anne".
Being a film star is hard work!

Animal Planet at Quaker Farm While the film crew set up for the barn scene, Animal Planet producer, Meg, stands for a shot with the Makela family.

teaching a Collie puppy to swim As part of the unique imprint training process pioneered by the Makela family, collie pups are confident, capable swimmers by 7 weeks old. Hannah swims with a pup during Animal Planet filming.

holding a Collie puppy During filming, Hannah was assisted in the pool by Lisa T. of Alcona Chiropractic in Harrisville. Lisa really enjoyed working with all of the pups in the water, but especially "Kayla", who later went to her lovely forever home in MA.

children playing with the Collie dogs for Animal Planet filming Children playing with the Collie dogs for filming.

Animal Planet film crew The film crew took extra special care to make everyone feel comfortable during filming.

Collie pups playing Our grandson Johnathan playing with collie pups while being filmed.

Collie puppies and children Collie puppy enjoying the spotlight.

White Collie dog Crown Thistle's Bella watches the filming under a shady tree.

Reading with a Collie dog
We train some of our very special Collies to be reading dogs or therapy/companion dogs. Our grandson Cameron reads to his
beloved lifelong friend Crown Thistle's Lassie while being filmed by Animal Planet. A boy and his dog experiencing a moment together
that is now the memory of a lifetime.

Animal Planet Collie Photographer The photographer having to stand to have his own picture taken!

We are greatly indebted to photographer John Parsons who captured the Animal Planet filming event throughout the entire day. His hard work produced absolutely remarkable photos that ensured truly unique memories for this family. "Hey, Mr. serious, I said - Smile!"

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