Meet Howard and Piper of Sheltie Planet
Here's the story of how I came to meet Howard and Piper, the silliest, fluffiest, funniest, noisiest dogs I've ever known.
In 2007, I emigrated from England to New Zealand with my Kiwi partner, Pete. I was 24, and hadn't had the joy of keeping a pet for years. So when we settled into our first house together, we soon decided to get a dog.
I researched lots of dog breeds. Big dogs were a no-no according to our landlord, so we needed to find a small dog that wouldn't tear the house apart. My search led me to the magnificent Shetland Sheepdog.
I set my heart on adopting a Sheltie. But it turned out the breed was extremely hard to find in New Zealand. There were no rescues or Shelties up for adoption, and it was some time before I tracked down a breeder within driving distance.
To my delight, they just happened to be homing a litter of Sheltie puppies that next week!
But my excitement was short lived, because next the breeder told me that all of those puppies were destined for other homes. People had signed up for them months ago. Perhaps it just wasn't meant to be?
We had already started looking at Rough Collies (surely the next best thing to a Sheltie?) when I got a call from the Sheltie breeder. One of her buyers had fallen down the stairs and wrecked her ankle. It meant she wasn't ready for a puppy right now.
Just like that, "Toes" was ours if we still wanted him. And that's how we met this gorgeous little guy.
The breeder had nicknamed him Toes because he had little white socks on each paw. Later that day we decided to give him the grand name of Howard Woofington Moon, after a character from our favorite comedy show.
Little Howard didn't leave my side for the next three days straight. He was clearly a scared and vulnerable little puppy having been parted from his litter, and I did my best to comfort and reassure him around the clock.
We formed an incredible bond, and soon he started to grow quite bold and curious in nature. He found the courage to stray further and further from me, approaching other people, and exploring his new house and all its strange objects.
He played with lemons in the garden, pulling them off the tree.
And he met lots of new people. Everyone wanted to meet our new Sheltie puppy. He was just adorable whatever he did.
After he'd had his next round of vaccinations, we started taking Howard for daily walks along the beach. Even as a tiny puppy, he loved to bound up to much bigger dogs. And he didn't hesitate to run up to strangers to say hello. This was definitely not the shy Sheltie that I'd read about.
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 in detail.
And today, Howard is 12 years old! It's shocking how time flies.
Of course, I still think of him as my cheeky little Sheltie puppy.
Along Came Piper
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 extremely nervous. This is not unusual in Shelties, who are very sensitive dogs.
Piper wasn't going to handle the show dog lifestyle at all. He needed a loving family where he could feel secure. We mulled it over for a day but deep down we already knew the answer... Of course we would have another Sheltie.
The Day We Met Piper
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 and confident Howard.
When Piper caught sight of us, he crouched 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.
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, just some pricked ears and high tails while they sniffed each other's faces and butts. From then we knew they'd get along.
We took a tour of the Sheltie kennels and met their father, Storm, who looked strikingly like Howard. We met a dozen other beautiful Shelties that day. By then I was Sheltie obsessed and it was a huge treat to meet so many Shetland Sheepdogs.
The journey home was scary for Piper. He sat 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 he was just so scared of everything.
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. If someone asks Are Shelties Barkers? I just point to Piper.
Piper also has a gorgeous habit of howling like a baby wolf when the answer machine goes off. Sometimes we go on a big hike into the forest and start howling so Howard and Piper can go for it. It's a really great feeling when we all howl together.
Piper looks so confident these days compared to our first meeting, when his whole world changed.
This is us now.
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.
He stays pretty close to me when we go out for walks on the beach, never straying into people's gardens or, as Howard once did, into their house, up the stairs, and onto the first floor balcony.
And Howard and Piper excel at teamwork. Piper uses his nose 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.
But they are good dogs really. Especially when liver treats are involved.
And that's a glimpse of our life with our Shelties. We wouldn't change a thing. Except the barking. Always, the barking :)