Meet Howard and Piper

I discovered Shelties in 2008 when I emigrated to New Zealand. Pete and I moved into our first home together and we decided to get a dog.

We researched lots of breeds: Border Collies, Old English Sheepdogs, Pomeranians, Leonbergers, German Shepherds, Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, and Samoyeds. I think we were always destined for a lot of fluff.

Two fateful things happened next. Our landlord decided we shouldn't get a big dog that would tear the house up. So we narrowed our search to smaller breeds. And it led us directly to the magnificent Shetland Sheepdog.

Howard, our magnificent Shetland Sheepdog

Howard, our magnificent Shetland Sheepdog

Once I saw the pictures and learned about the breed, I set my heart on adopting a Sheltie. I scoured rescue listings and private sales but they turned out to be quite rare dogs in New Zealand.

Eventually I tracked down a breeder and my surprise, she was homing a litter of Sheltie puppies that next week! But my excitement was short lived. The breeder told me that all of her puppies were destined for families who had signed up months ago. She said she might have another litter next year if I wanted to wait.

Fate struck a few days later when I got a call from the breeder. One of her buyers had broken her ankle and had decided to postpone her puppy plans. Just like that, "Toes" was ours if we still wanted him (so named for his little white socks on each paw).

My First Sheltie Puppy

Our first Sheltie puppy

I was so excited. We drove down to her kennels a few days later to meet the little fella. He was even more gorgeous in real life, and holding him for the first time felt surreal. We brought him home that same day, and settled on the grand name of Howard Woofington Moon.

Little Howard didn't leave my side for the next three days straight. I could see he was scared and vulnerable having been parted from his littermates. And he peed everywhere. My work as a writer fell by the wayside, and I spent the next solid week playing with Howard and cleaning up his emissions.

Howard was cautious at first

Howard was cautious at first

Howard was the first ever puppy of my own, and I was pretty overwhelmed at the amount of attention he needed. I thought this must be what it's like to have a newborn baby (ha!) But at the time, it felt like we'd taken on a huge responsibility, and I learned the reality of puppy ownership fast.

Luckily for Howard, he was completely and utterly loveable. And as he settled into his new family, he grew increasingly bold and curious. He began to explore further and further away from me, learning all about his new house and garden with all its strange objects and smells.

Naughty Sheltie puppy!

Oi! Put those down!

Our puppy pulled lemons off the lemon tree

Everything was a toy for Howard

Soon, we began to take Howard out on social trips, where he met lots of new people. Everyone wanted to play with our gorgeous little puppy. He was just adorable whatever he did. He was amazing.

The Cutest Guy Ever

The cutest guy ever

After Howard had his next round of puppy vaccinations, we started taking him for walks along the beach. Even as a tiny pup, he loved to bound up to far bigger dogs and invite them to play. And he didn't hesitate to run up to strangers. This was definitely not the shy Sheltie dog breed I'd read about.

My silly puppy

My silly puppy

Howard rapidly grew into a confident teenager. Here he is in his gangly coyote stage, right before his thick double coat came in.

Our Sheltie at Six Months Old

Howard at six months old

And here he is at one year old, looking like the classic English-type Sheltie we all recognize. Totally handsome and confident to boot. Check out these photos of puppies growing up to see the transition in detail.

Our Sheltie at one year old

Howard Woofington Moon at one year old

Along Came Piper

Let's wind back a tiny bit. When Howard was nine months old, I emailed his breeder with some up-to-date photos. 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.

The breeder had kept his brother to be a show dog, and perhaps to breed down the line. Piper was extremely eager to please but had also grown up to be an extremely nervous Sheltie.

This is not unusual in Shelties, who are very sensitive dogs. And it had become clear Piper wasn't going to handle the show dog lifestyle at all. He needed a loving family where he could feel safe and secure. Would we like him?

Pete and I mulled it over for a day but deep down we already knew the answer. Of course we would have another Sheltie. We went down to the kennels the next day to meet our second Sheltie baby.

Since they were half brothers, I was expecting to meet a dog very similar to Howard Woofington Moon. I had a vision of him looking just like Howard but in denim dungarees for some unfathomable reason.

But the moment I laid eyes on Piper, I realized he was completely different to our bold Howard. When Piper caught sight of us, he crouched up into a tiny ball like a hedgehog. Terrified and anxious, he 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.

Our sable Sheltie Piper

Our second Sheltie, Piper

Howard, on the other hand, was busy peeing on the breeder's foot.

We introduced the boys, who responded to each other with pricked ears and high tails, whiffing each other's faces and butts. Howard had a little something to prove, being the boss and everything, and Piper let him do all the talking. From then we knew they'd get along great.

We took a tour of the kennels and met the boys' father, Storm, who was a real handsome devil like Howard. We met a dozen other beautiful Shelties that day; by then I was obsessed and it was an enormous treat to meet so many of them. I was in Sheltie paradise.

Shelton Shelties

Gr CH Hillswick Storm Cloud, CH Shelton Asparknthdark, and CH Shelton Summafansea of Shelton Shelties

The journey home was scary for Piper. He sat tensed and scared on my lap. He threw up twice as well. I did everything I could to reassure him, but, besides the car sickness, he was just so scared of everything.

Life got a lot better for Piper after that. Reunited with his brother, he settled into his new home with tons of love and affection from us. The timid little guy found his voice too. When anyone asks if Shelties bark a lot, I just look at Piper and he immediately proves my point.

Are Shelties Barkers?

Do Shelties bark a lot? Woof is the resounding answer!

Piper had a gorgeous habit of howling like a baby wolf when the answer machine went off. Sometimes we went on big hikes into the forest and howled ourselves, so Howard and Piper could really go for it. It was such a great feeling when we all howled together like a bunch of wild wolves.

Piper's the most affectionate, eager-to-please dog

Piper's the most affectionate, eager-to-please dog

Before our kids came along, Piper was the perfect lap dog. You only needed to make eye contact across the room and he'd sit up immediately, ears pricked, tail wagging, waiting for you to invite him up. He's still the smartest and most sensitive dog I've ever met, reading facial expressions and responding to gestures.

Our Shelties excelled at teamwork. When they were young, Piper used his nose to open sock drawers, and Howard used his teeth to displace the contents around the house. It wasn't unusual for visitors to see Howard proudly trotting into the living room with my underpants in his mouth.

Me and my Sheltie Piper on the beach

Piper and me at O'Neills Bay

When Howard and Piper were four, they welcomed our first child, Fox, into the family. That's right: in our house the animals get human names, and the humans get animal names. That's just how it's done.

Our Shelties with our newborn baby

Piper (being cautious), Howard (being hungry), and Fox (being oblivious)

Later, when the dogs were ten years old, we had another baby, Kea. The Shelties were so gentle with her, and put up with a fair bit of vigorous patting and fur pulling once she could crawl. But they adjusted well to the kids, and our family was complete.

Howard and Piper keeping watch while the kids play on the beach

Howard and Piper keeping watch while the kids play on the beach

Of course, it didn't stay that way forever. It was in early 2021 that we lost our lovely Howard. He was a grand old Sheltie of 12.5 years when he developed congestive heart failure. Saying goodbye to him was one of the worst days of our lives.

Howard playing with his favorite toy, Wolfie

One of the last photos I took of Howard

We think of Howard every day, and are making the most of the time we have left with our beautiful Piper, who's now 13 years old.

Our Sheltie, Piper, at 13 years old

Piper still has his sprightly moments at 13 years old

Howard gave us years of joy and, I hope, we gave him the best life possible. Among many things, he was my first puppy, the inspiration for Sheltie Planet, and the reason we found Piper. I still love him to bits.

Perhaps you have a young Sheltie of your own, and such times feel a million miles away. Good. Don't waste precious time worrying about how it will all end. Enjoy every moment with your Sheltie, knowing that the connection you have will imprint on you both forever.

Sheltie Planet is dedicated to our courageous, hilarious, playful, wave-chasing, food-centric, scruff-loving Howard.

Subscribe to Sheltie Planet on YouTube
Becky Casale

Becky Casale is the creator of Sheltie Planet and Science Me. She lives in New Zealand with her partner, their two children, and their Sheltie, Piper.

Shelties: The Complete Pet Owner's Guide