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Let’s Hear it for Senior Shelties!
by Jeanie Ransom

Why would anyone want to adopt a ten-year-old Sheltie with a slight limp and hearing that is, at its best, selective? That’s what I thought, too, until I met Leo.

I tried not to fall in love with Leo when I saw his picture on the Central Illinois Sheltie Rescue web site. (I had been surfing between the St. Louis and the Central Illinois sites looking at dogs for several months.) After all, I thought, our family had suffered enough heartbreak from losing two dogs (one old, one young) back-to-back. But when I emailed the woman at Central Illinois Sheltie Rescue and expressed my reservations about adopting an elderly dog, I got an email back that simply said, “That’s what everyone says.”

That did it. Our family of five got in the car the next day and drove to Springfield, Illinois to meet Leo. He was handsome, he was sweet, he was the perfect gentleman. We knew we wanted him right away. But did he want us? That was important, too. One by one, Leo walked to each family member, from my then 4-year-old son to my husband, looked deeply into our eyes, and gave us a kiss. Apparently, that was Leo’s official seal of approval! We adopted Leo that day. At least, we thought we did. But according to Sharon, Leo’s foster mom, Leo actually adopted us!

Having an older dog has been a dream for us. My husband and I both work (though I’m home in the summer), and the kids are at school, so Leo does what most older dogs do during the day --- sleep. When my oldest son gets home from school, Leo is awake and ready to greet him with lots of tail wags and kisses. As each of us arrive home, we get the same happy warm welcome


When you adopt an older dog like Leo, you get many other blessings besides grateful love and unqualified acceptance. You don’t have to worry about potty-training, chewing, and all those other chores that come with getting a puppy. Leo has never had an accident in the house. Not one. You can leave your best socks on the floor and Leo won’t even touch them, let alone chew them to a soggy mess. Leo only barks when he has to go out, when someone is at the door, or when he is so happy to see us, he just has to “talk.” He rides in the car just like a person, and is always eager to go with us. Especially if we go through the drive-through at the frozen custard stand!

Everywhere we go, Leo gets compliments. “What a beautiful dog!” “What a sweetie!” Leo, of course, just eats up the attention, and loves to show off the only trick we think he learned from his past life – catching a ball in his mouth.

When I tell people how old Leo is (he’s now 12), no one can believe it. They also can’t believe that anyone would dump a dog at a shelter after spending a lifetime with him. My family and I often wonder about who would do such a thing, especially to a dog who seems to have everything to give…except for a guaranteed many more years to live.

Maybe someone was too old to care for Leo anymore, or they couldn’t afford to. Maybe someone died and no one else in the family wanted Leo. Maybe he got lost and never found his way home to his owners. It’s hard to imagine. When Leo saw my children, his face really came alive. It breaks my heart to think that some parent brought Leo to the shelter without the children ever knowing what happened to their beloved friend…and vice versa. I prefer not to dwell on something that depressing.

Instead, I thank whoever gave up Leo for giving my family a chance to love him in his senior years. He’s a low maintenance dog that gives us a high return daily. We don’t know how long we’ll have him with us – Shelties can live to 14 or 16 – but then again, we don’t know how long any of us have here on Earth, do we? So, we enjoy each day with Leo, or, as our middle son has fondly nicknamed him, our “Senior Citizen Sheltie.” 

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