Behind The Scenes
Hi, I'm Becky. I created Sheltie Planet in 2008 after falling in love with a Sheltie puppy named Howard. That's right, in our house, the dogs get human names. Since then, I've also fallen head over heels with his brother, Piper. Together they are the fluffiest, noisiest, cutest, silliest dogs in town.
I'm a writer and currently studying to be a zoologist, so I can write all about animals and evolution, which are among my favorite things in the world. I'm also the mum of a five-year-old boy named Fox. Besides Sheltie Planet, I also run Science Me where I write and illustrate all the awesome science I pick up in my studies. These are my passion projects and it means a lot to me that you're reading this right now. I live on the Whangaparaoa peninsula in Auckland, New Zealand.
I grew up in England and met my Kiwi partner, Pete, while working in London. Soon, we longed to live a more laid back lifestyle by the beach in his home country. We emigrated to New Zealand in 2007 and soon we were living the dream. There was just one thing missing: a small, wet-nosed creature who would travel by my side by day, and curl up on my bed at night. Cue the magnificent Shetland Sheepdog.
I had set my heart on adopting a Sheltie puppy, but they are quite hard to find in NZ, certainly none at any SPCA that needed re-homing. Eventually though, I found a Sheltie breeder in Papakura, Auckland, called Shelton Shelties. As chance would have it, they were currently homing a litter of 8-week-old Sheltie puppies. But all of them were promised to people who had signed up for them weeks or months ago.
Perhaps we weren't destined for a Sheltie after all.
But a few days later, I got the call. One of the new owners had fallen and badly hurt her ankle, and decided to wait for her next puppy. "Toes" was now available. And that is how we met this little guy.
Here he is on the day we met. Surely the cutest creature I have ever known. The breeder had nicknamed him Toes because he had little white socks on each paw. Later that day we decided to give him the modest name of Howard Woofington Moon. I hope you agree it was 100% appropriate.
Howard didn't leave my side for the next three days straight. But as he settled in, he grew very curious in nature. He trotted around and explored his new house, played with lemons in the garden, and met lots of new people. Everyone wanted to meet our fluffy little Sheltie puppy.
Soon, we started taking Howard for daily walks along the beach. Even as a delicate little puppy dog, he loved to bound up to much bigger dogs, and didn't hesitate to run up to strangers to say hello. This was definitely not the "shy Sheltie" I had read about - far from it.
Howard Gets Bigger
Howard rapidly grew into a very confident adult Sheltie. By one year old, he was full size. Check out these photos of Howard evolving to see the surprising transition.
We've had a lot of adventures around New Zealand which you can read about here on this blog. Today, Howard is 9 years old and well into his middle-age. It's shocking how time flies. Of course, I still think of him as my cheeky little Sheltie puppy.
Back when Howard was nine months old, I emailed his breeder with some pictures. I mentioned in passing that we would love to have another Sheltie some day. I didn't expect her to call five minutes later and offer us Howard's brother.
"Shelties are like potato chips," goes the saying. "You can never have just one."
I learned that the breeder had reserved one of her puppies, called Piper, to be a show dog. He was extremely eager to please but in new situations, he became a nervous nelly. He wasn't going to handle the show dog lifestyle at all.
Piper needed a loving family where he could feel secure - and who better to live with than his brother? We mulled it over but deep down we already knew the answer. In what universe was I going to turn down a Sheltie in need of a loving home?
When I laid eyes on Piper I realized he was completely different to our bold and over-confident Howard. The moment Piper caught sight of us, he crouched into a tiny ball like a hedgehog and, terrified and anxious, tried to melt himself into the grass so we wouldn't see him.
Here he is a little later, having developed the confidence to sit up.
Howard, on the other hand, was busy peeing on the breeder's foot.
We introduced the boys and they sniffed at each other curiously. No growling or arguing, which was nice. We took a tour of the kennels and met Storm - their father - who looked strikingly like Howard. We met a dozen other beautiful Shelties that day. By now I was an absolute Sheltie fanatics and it was a huge treat to meet so many Shetland Sheepdogs in one hit.
Taking Piper Home
The journey home was scary for Piper. He lay, tensed up and scared on my lap. He threw up twice. I did everything I could to reassure him. I wished he could have understood.
But life got a lot better for Piper after that. Reunited with his brother, he settled in to his new home. The timid little guy found his voice too. He barks a fair bit, and has a hilarious habit of howling like a baby wolf when the answer machine goes off. He's a real talker.
He looks so confident these days compared to our first day together, when his whole world changed. This is us now. He's the most affectionate, eager-to-please dog I've ever known.
Piper is also the perfect lap dog. You only need to make eye contact across the room and he'll immediately sit up, ears pricked, tail wagging, waiting for you to invite him up.
Howard and Piper excel at teamwork. Piper uses his cunning to open underwear and sock drawers, and Howard uses his teeth to displace the contents around the house. It's not unusual for visitors to see Howard proudly trotting into the living room with my underpants in his mouth.
Join Our Community
I hope you enjoy exploring Sheltie Planet. This blog is actually not all about Howard and Piper, despite what they claim. This site is about Shetland Sheepdogs everywhere.
Be sure to join our friendly Sheltie Forum and share your own photos and stories, as well as ask and answer questions about this wonderful dog breed.
We also have a huge Facebook following where readers share their gorgeous Sheltie photos.
For a whole bunch of Howard and Piper photos, check out our Flickr Album. Just in case you are as madly in love with them as I am.
How To Photograph Your Dog
One of the reasons I made Sheltie Planet is because I have an abundance of Sheltie photos I wanted to share. I love taking pictures of Howard and Piper and being able to capture them in a way that frames that moment forever. Today I'd like to share some general pet photography tips based on what I've learnt using my digital point-and-shoot camera. I hope this helps you get the most out of your pet photography and creates some great images that you will treasure forever.
The Top 10 Most Intelligent Dog Breeds
Dogs can be smart in different ways: a breed with an acute and wellhoned ability to work will be quick to learn how to do its job. Other breeds may be so eager to please their people that they're attentive and highly trainable. But intelligence alone doesn't make a good pet. Owners need to be willing to put in the work to channel a dog's inherent intelligence - and a good owner will understand a dog's natural traits to bring out his natural smarts.