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The morning starts as it always does. I sit at the kitchen table sipping coffee before I brave the chill air and let the dogs outside. Harley is busy getting out every toy he owns and strewing them over the floor, going back and forth bestowing attention on each one, coming over to drop one in my lap on occasion in hopes that I’ll toss it for him. Laddie is still laying in his customary place by the door, looking up at me with love as I pass but not moving as he usually does to follow me around the camper as I wake up. His hips must hurt. In a moment of feeling like a pup again last night, he went to fetch a toy I tossed. The strength in his legs left him on the turnaround in a pile on the floor. With back legs trembling as he struggled to get upright, he gave up the game to go lay down again. It’s getting harder and harder for him to move as he wishes he could and as he remembers he could. There are days when he moves with fluid grace as if he were a puppy. There are days when his movements become that of an old man and I am reminded that our days together become shorter every day.

All of my animals have held a special place in my heart but none quite like Laddie, my 15 year old Sheltie with the liquid brown eyes. He and I met 13 years ago at a PetSmart during a rescue adoption event…and I fell in love. It wasn’t meant to be that he would come home with me that day however, because he had already been adopted. Two weeks later when I went back to the store, his picture remained on the poster of available dogs. So on a whim I called to find out if it was an outdated poster or if he was still available. I was told that he’d just been returned from his last adopted family and they were going to be quite particular about his next placement, putting him with someone who truly understood Shelties.

Oh… you mean the barking and the herding and the hair??? After all, I’d grown up with Shelties and knew full well what I was getting into. His first three owners didn’t like the barking (resulting in one of them having him surgically debarked as a puppy and leaving him with a squeaky little bark), nor did they like the amount of hair that he generated much less the paths he ran herding circles in in their yards. Classic cases of people getting dogs because they were cute and not understanding the breed.

2 hours later he was a permanent part of my life. And he has remained steadfastly by my side through all that life has thrown at me… the moves, the divorce, the work life that ate most of my time, the laughter and the tears… always stopping to rest his head on my leg and looking up at me with those warm coffee colored eyes.   Shortly after moving to Illinois, he was stolen from my yard only to find his way home 3 weeks later in some of the worst snow of the year. No matter what, we were meant to be together.

As precocious and funny as Harley is, it is Laddie that has truly become the love of the campground and the campers who come through here. Kids and adults alike come by to say hello to “the dog who can’t bark real loud”. He basks in the attention, starting up with his squeaky bark when the petting ends. He’s turned into quite the country dog, laying in the grass alongside the camper regally surveying the acreage and the wildlife around him… looking much like a regal prince. He delights in the treats I give him at night, often getting so excited that he’ll offer both paws one after the other when told to shake hands for his treat. So far he is managing the three steps into the camper well, though I know one day it will be a struggle.

His legs may falter at times but his love never has!

Just as my love for him never has either.

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