Thursday, October 11, 2012



I was just starting to vacuum today-usually one of Amy’s chores, but taken over by me until she gets rid of her cough-when I decided that it was just too nice outside to be in. So I grabbed my camera and headed for the back yard, with a little friend at my heels. Willow-our other dog.  Our small Shepherd Sheltie mix.  She inspired this post.

I’ve written about Willow before, and how she came to be our dog.  How for the first year and a half of her life, she’d just seemed to get off on the wrong paw-being born to a mother who was a stray, and being one of only two puppies in the litter to survive.  How she spent her early months in the shelter, only to be adopted by a family who found she was not the right fit. And how, more than 14 years ago we entered the picture, because we could not bear the thought of this poor dog going back to the shelter again.

14 years ago. 

How can that be?  Willow was a wild young lass back then, with no formal training to speak of, when we said we’d take her.  She was a year and a half old, and had so much to learn.  She wasn’t even house broken.  The third day we had her she escaped and ran away.  At the time, I had the fleeting thought that it might be a blessing in disguise, because quite frankly I didn’t know how to handle her.  I don’t even remember how we recaptured her-she was extremely fast in those days!  But recapture her, we did, and the training began.  That long, rewarding process of letting Willow learn to trust us and become a responsible part of our family.

The years went by and then it happened.  We realized that Willow was getting old.  A little gray around her muzzle.  A little stiffness in her legs after a long walk.  She’s almost 15 and a half now.  Her eyes are failing and she can’t hear very well.  Her breathing seems labored most of the time and she wheezes a lot.  (In fact, at night, her snoring is so loud it’s as though a freight train is rumbling through the house!)  Her teeth are bad, and she has arthritis.  And still, her vet sees her as something of a wonder dog.  She’s outlived many other dogs.  Dogs who had a much easier start in life.


These days, Willow sleeps a lot.  Those long ago races around the neighborhood at break neck speed are behind her.  And when she isn’t napping, she is constantly “hoovering” for food, obsessed even, and we wonder if the memories of being a starving stray puppy have come back to her.  She has “accidents” in the house, leaves puddles of drool everywhere, and is often underfoot, tripping us-especially in the kitchen.  To be honest, she takes as much patience now as she did in her wild youth.

And then I think back to the time before Kona, about three years ago, when we visited our local humane society because we’d decided the time was right to begin our search for a second dog.  There, at the shelter, was the most heart breaking collection of unwanted dogs-some old, some sick, and many too weak or ill to manage more than a slight wag of the tail.  They all deserved better.

Willow definitely is our little wonder dog.  Though at times we wonder how we can care for her while retaining our sanity, mostly we just think she is wonderful, and love her for being herself.  Which is doing the best she can.


Even at 15 and a half, Willow is still fast enough to be a blur in this photo!


  1. Oh I love Willow I had both my dogs till they were 15 it is wonderful when you find the right one. Willow and your family are so lucky to have each other:) B

  2. You and Willow are so lucky to have one another; thank you for taking such good care of her.

  3. I am so thrilled that Willow was found by your family. What a life you've given her! She's so beautiful - she deserves to have you all :-)

  4. Willow is so beautiful! Thanks for sharing her story. I have a soft spot in my heart for unwanted animals. Last summer we adopted a dog and had to work with her for about a year before she started to get comfortable around us. It was hard, but so rewarding :)

  5. Buttons-your dogs were lucky too! It is wonderful when you find the right one, and when they are still thriving at 15, it makes it even more special:)

    Jacqueline-Thank you for your dear comment!!

    Lisa-Thank you too! Your animals are all pretty darn lucky to have you guys as well:)

    Our Neck of the Woods-Bless you for adopting your dog! It is hard work, but sometimes we are the last resort for these animals. I was afraid Willow might have been put to sleep as the former owners thought she was aggressive. She wasn't, at all. She simply got excited when she greeted people and would stand on her hind legs and do a sort of wave with her front legs. It was totally cute! Willow is one of the sweetest, most gentle dogs I've ever known:)

    P.s. Thanks for following me, too:)

  6. Willow looks like such a sweetie.
    They can be a challenge at times, but so, so worth it!
    We're at the point of looking for a second dog...Hunny needs a friend. :)
    I know we'll be getting a dog from a rescue or shelter, the hard part will be leaving with just one.

    I hope Willow and Kona are enjoying autumn! Tell them both that Hunny says "woof".


  7. What a gorgeous dog Willow is! She looks good for her age as well. I would have never guessed 15 and a half. Growing up on a farm I was surrounded by dogs, cats, pigs, skunks who thought they were cats and the like. We always got our dogs from the humane society or rescue groups and I think, after a little training, they are the best kind. They seem to have that look in their eye – the “you’ve taken me in and I’ve got your back” look - that makes them you instant best friend.

  8. Thanks Kimberly!

    Hunny will love having a friend. Kona and Willow have their disagreements, but they are pretty much inseparable! They send their love and a woof back to Hunny:)

    Jess-thank you too! People are always surprised when we tell them Willow is 15. It's funny, but we had a basset hound once that everyone always thought was old, even when she was young. She had such funny little crooked legs!

    So glad you stopped by!