Howard and Piper
Growing up, I was very afraid of dogs. But all that changed when I met my first Sheltie puppy. As I got to know their ways, I fell in love with the breed and began to appreciate dogs of all kinds.
When I was 24, I emigrated away from my home country of England and moved to Pete's native New Zealand. I sought a better lifestyle and there were lots of big life changes in a short space of time. I found a new home by the beach, established a writing career, and began to make new friends. Life was good - but there was still 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 soon set my heart on adopting a Sheltie but it turned out they're hard to find in NZ. Rescue shelters were full of bigger dogs which intimidated me, and I knew that to overcome my fear of dogs I needed to start with a puppy.
Eventually, I found a Sheltie breeder in Papakura, Auckland, called Shelton Shelties. By pure luck, 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...
Then a few days later, I got a call. One of the new owners had had a bad fall and would wait for a puppy from the next litter. "Toes" was now available. And that's 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.
Howard didn't leave my side for the next three days straight. He was clearly a vulnerable little pup.
But as he settled in, he grew curious in nature. He trotted around exploring his new house, played with lemons in the garden, and met lots of new people. Everyone wanted to meet our fluffy little 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 puppies growing up to see the transition, including lots of photos of Howard.
Today, Howard is 10 years old. It's shocking how time flies. Of course, I still think of him as my cheeky little Sheltie puppy.
Along Came Piper
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 another Sheltie?
I was expecting to meet a dog very similar to Howard, but when I laid eyes on Piper I realized he was completely different to our bold and confident boy. 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. There was no growling or arguing, just some pricked ears and high tails while they sniffed each other's faces and butts, and from then we knew they'd get on.
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 then I was an Sheltie fanatic and it was a huge treat to meet so many Shetland Sheepdogs.
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.
And that's life with our Shelties. We wouldn't change a thing. If you'd like to learn more about Howard and Piper's antics, browse through the site (they pop up everywhere) and download our Sheltie Anthology with advice for new puppy owners and Sheltie lovers. Thanks for reading our story!