UMPQUA, Ore. — There are many reasons why Theresa and Fred Dielensnyder find themselves harvesting grapes every summer for the past eight years. This year, they had an extra one.

By harvesting grapes at the Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards that is about 12 miles northwest of Roseburg, the Dielensnyders were helping support the Roseburg Police Department’s K-9 program. The program is “near and dear” to their hearts, Theresa Dielensnyder said, because her husband is a retired police K-9 officer.

“There is such a need in the community for police dogs,” she said.

Usually vineyards contract out the grape-picking task so it is one part of overall production costs. The Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards do it a little differently. Instead, members of its wine club volunteer the labor, then vineyard owners Stephen and Gloria Reustle donate the money they would normally spend on harvest labor to a local cause. This year, the vineyard and its club members chose to support the local K-9 program.

Stephen and Gloria Reustle said they have been impressed by Roseburg’s K-9 program since its inception five years ago, reported The News-Review (

“Both my wife and I were just moved by what they have done for the community,” Stephen Reustle said. “This is a small way of saying, ‘All of these people are for you, and we’re picking for you.'”

The K-9 program is funded by donations, Chief Jim Burge said, so he was happy to see the showing of community support at the vineyards. He and other officers brought two sidekicks with them to greet volunteers at the vineyards — Grim, a towering German shepard, and Trapper, a spunky springer spaniel. Both are part of the department’s five-dog K-9 program.

Grim and Trapper were greeted by about 20 volunteer harvesters. Some were club members picking for the K-9 program, and some were church members picking for a donation to their church. The vineyard pays $180 per ton, Stephen Reustle said, and there’s generally about 100 tons of grapes picked each year. So far, these pickers have nabbed about 50 tons, so they are halfway through their work.

There are seven picking days each season. Those days are spread over four to six weeks. This year’s harvest began considerably sooner than usual due to the heat, Stephen Reustle said. Normally, the picking season does not begin until the third week of September. This time, they started picking on Aug. 31, making this the earliest picking season in Reustle’s history.

“It’s kind of a blessing to harvest this early,” Stephen Reustle said. “In some respects, you don’t want it too early, but it makes for an easier life because we’re not threatened by the autumn rains.”

If the season begins too early, sometimes the excess heat will cause the grapes to sweat out their natural acids, he said. That was not the case this year.

“We’re really happy with the acid levels that are coming in at this point,” he said.

Information from: The News-Review,