A DELIGHTFUL COINCIDENCE
A few months ago I got an email from Bobbie Pyron, a fellow author and Sheltie enthusiast. Remarkably, she had written a Young Adult novel, A Dog’s Way Home, that also explored the loss of a Sheltie and his subsequent journey home. She was kind enough to send me a copy and I fell in love with her work. The lovely coincidence of writing about two lost Shelties has opened up a collegial relationship for me, and Bobbie was kind enough to invite me to guest on her blog (…..) Turnabout is fair play, and here is Bobbie’s contribution to this newsletter musing on her love of Shelties.
For the Love of Shelties
Every writer reaches a point in their desperation to sell an agent or editor on their manuscript when their North Star, which guided the work, is challenged. My point of challenge came over the breed of dog in my book, A Dog’s Way Home. In my book, the dog who is the main (canine) character is a Shetland Sheepdog, also known as a sheltie and miniature collie. I had been submitting my manuscript for almost a year to agents and editors, trying so very hard to interest them in my story of the love between a girl and her dog. And like most writers, I was amassing a thick file of rejection letters. Some were “Dear Author” form letters and some were what we in this crazy business call “good rejection letters”. These are letters where they actually use our name in the salutation and sound a tiny bit sympathetic. These letters make us pathetically happy.
I had one such letter about eleven months into my quest. It was from an agent—a big New York City agent—who said she loved the story and thought I was a terrific writer, but she had just one tiny problem with the manuscript: the breed of the dog. Why, she wondered, had I chosen a breed not all that, well, popular? Why I hadn’t I, for instance, made the dog a Golden Retriever or a black Labrador? As a matter of fact, she continued, she’d never even seen a sheltie. And then came the crisis of faith, the Big Question: would I consider changing the breed of the dog? If so, she might be interested in representing me.
I will confess that I did, for a nanosecond, consider what she said. And then I had to laugh. I mean, no offence to Golden Retrievers or Labs
(some of my best friends are Goldens and Labs), but I just couldn’t see either of these dogs struggling for months during a brutal winter, trying to make their way over four hundred miles through the wilderness, just to get back home. The lab or the golden would find the nearest person, win them over with their effusive charm, and snag a good, hot meal and warm bed. End of story.
Shelties are different. Known for their intelligence, steadfast loyalty (bordering on obsession), and undaunted courage, shelties are also known for their toughness and aloofness towards strangers. This is not a dog who will fling themselves at strangers and gift them with exuberant kisses. But it is a dog who will love you like no other, who will give their heart to Their Person wholly and completely.
I have two shelties—both adopted from Sheltie Rescue of Utah. Before I adopted my oldest sheltie, Teddy, I’d never had a purebred sheltie. I had, though, been lucky enough to share 16 years with a sheltie mix. She was a once-in-a-lifetime-dog. After she passed, I knew I wanted a purebred sheltie. After meeting several perfectly wonderful shelties at Sheltie Rescue, Teddy sauntered into my life. He came over to where I was sitting, rested his chin on my knee, gazed up at me with his chocolate eyes. We both were utterly smitten with each other. He is the one who inspired Tam, the sheltie in A Dogs Way Home. He taught me (and continues to teach me) about sheltie love.
Three years ago, I met a little blue merle Sheltie at Sheltie Rescue named Sherlock. Sherlock and several other shelties had been rescued from a terrible puppy mill. When we brought Sherlock home, he had no idea what grass was, was terrified of stairs, and bumped into furniture. He would eventually need to have about half of his teeth pulled because they were so badly damaged from chewing on the wire cage he was confined to at the puppy mill. But never, ever has a dog been so happy to have someone to love in that passionate sheltie way!
Because of “my boys”, I have become a rabid advocate for the breed and for rescue. I have badgered and cajoled many of my friends into adopting shelties. We’ve even formed a club—Proud Moms of Shelties (otherwise known as the PMS Gang)—where we let our shelties play together, talk endlessly about the merits of the breed, and do whatever we can to help the rescue.
Needless to say, I didn’t change the breed of dog in my book. I continued my quest for another several months until I found my wonderful agent. She loved A Dog’s Way Home unconditionally, SheItie and all.
Which is, of course, exactly what my dogs have always given me.