Cody the Moron, Dacia the Angel, Tako the Stud, Sonny & Kiko the Man-Haters and Lia the Princess
There are cat people. And there are dog people. And then there are Sheltie people. We are definitely Sheltie people! By Agi Cortez.
Over 13 years ago, our 12-year-old daughter wanted a cat.
I was severely allergic to cat dander and we managed to convince her to find a dog that she'd love to own.
Our family was given an Italian Greyhound a couple years earlier and as beautiful as he was, he wasn't very bright. So our daughter researched intelligent dogs and decided on the Sheltie breed. After months of visiting every shelter (this was before the internet was widely used) we eventually visited a shopping mall pet store.
We had that sinking feeling about pet shop puppies and felt so sorry for them. This was before we had heard anything about pet stores working with puppy mills and their deplorable conditions. It wasn't so much that they weren't taken care of, but as my daughter put it at the time: how would you like being looked at every day and no-one is willing to take you home?
I smiled and there she was; Dacia was there with a sad and very distant look in her eyes. Sitting with her back to the glass, she laid in her glass cage uninterested in the public fiasco she was born into. My daughter was automatically smitten, and instantly saddened. She asked if we could pay her 'bail' and get her out of there. No dog should have to be undignified by this circus-like atmosphere.
After a few moments with her in the petting area - Dacia came to life; she was almost 6 months old and had still not been 'bailed' out. There, in her kind eyes, was a simple truth; and something redeeming about her and my entire family rallied to bring her home. Dacia became a welcome addition to our household. Since Cody the Italian greyhound was more or less always self-serving, Dacia was the kind-hearted smart soul that was a great companion for him; offsetting his oddball nature. She was so bright, she managed never to get in the same type of trouble Cody would find himself in; she would often times watch him get in to trouble and with those wise eyes, you could almost see her disapproval. Calm, cool and collected, you could also see her grin when Cody would get busted. She was always ready to go, prepared with her leash when she felt it was time to usher everyone out of the house.
We had several great years with her, she lived through Cody's apparent neck strain from relentlessly trying to get into the trash; and his apparent suicide to have the toxic chocolate chip cookies that were laid atop the kitchen counter to cool. Each time Cody was doing something 'boneheaded' she sat back and watched him; as if she was made just to babysit him.
Introducing Tako, Sonny and Kiko
When Dacia was 10 years old, our son was given a abandoned Sheltie named Tako. Since he knew that Shelties were incredibly smart, he figured he'd keep Tako.
Our son thought Tako would eventually become mild-mannered like Dacia; but never realized that Dacia aged gracefully and was like Tako in her younger days. Dacia always put up with Tako's juvenile ways - often letting him know that she's the boss. Soon after that our son was sent to his new duty station and Tako left. Dacia was again lonely, this time we were able to adopt two Chihuahua misfits from a shelter that no-one wanted. They were termed 'man-haters', and so they were continually returned to the shelter.
We decided we'd foster them to see if they could live in a household with a man. In a relatively short time, they turned to butter when my husband entered. His relationship with the 'man-haters' stunned the shelter director. Even she thought Dacia had something to do with their change of heart - because the few times the shelter placed those problematic pups elsewhere, there were always other pets in the household. She'd never seen anything like it.
Just over a year ago, Dacia began to slow down; she tired after short walks and would sleep for hours. She rarely had the strength to rise in the morning and would continually pant. With temperatures reaching over 100 degrees, we opted to shave her when it got too hot; but this was no longer cooling her down.
One day she could no longer raise her head, and so we made the painful decision to let her go. We believe she had undiagnosed cancer and she was severely overweight - weighing in at 34 lbs at the time she finally crossed the rainbow bridge. In fact, the night we took her to the vet; Sonny, our 3lb Chihuahua misfit, snuck into my purse, almost as if he knew what was going to happen. Kiko, our other 8lb 'man-hater', also decided to hide and not come when called.
Sonny cried when Dacia was finally gone. It's funny how Dacia had such a connection with all our animals and how she touched us. She was such a great friend and great companion.
We decided to take time to grieve and not replace Dacia straight away. For a few weeks that worked; that is until, one day I found myself looking at Shelties to adopt online. After three months of searching, the closest shelter that had adoptable Shelties was in Utah - there were no Shelties available for adoption in California. After weighing the pros and cons; ultimately the shelters had difficulty with an out-of-state adoption, particularly with their requirement to inspect your home.
So we finally found a breeder that had a puppy we fell in love with. Liana is a dainty little girl. She's not a Dacia; she's a bit more precocious and curious soul. We now call her Lia and she's just as wise as Dacia but she doesn't have that maternal nature as Dacia did. She's more like a wee princess.
Lia loves following me around; she's a great shadow and claws at us if she demands attention. At the dog park, she runs wild then herds Sonny and Kiko. She definitely has her herding instinct. She's a joy to watch; realizing she's never going to replace Dacia, she is the epitome of a Sheltie, which is why we loved Dacia so much.
Lia the princess prances, smiles, chases, herds and is wickedly smart. And there's one thing she learned that Dacia used to do. When she was either hungry or thirsty, Dacia would literally throw her bowls around making all sorts of racket when she wanted a refill. Lia hasn't gotten the strength yet, but she's now using her nuzzle and pushing the bowls around to do the same thing.
Some people are 'cat people'; some are 'dog people'; and then there are 'Sheltie people'. We are definitely Sheltie people.
Here we are, over a year later - and with all the craziness in the world - looking at my misfits and Lia the princess sleeping near me as I write this. I smile knowing that having a Sheltie in our lives brings it all in perspective and we're better for it!
By Agi Cortez