A Kelpie For The Millers


My husband and I agreed that we’d like another Australian Kelpie. Both of our two prior Kelpie girls were exceptional dogs, and we’re hoping for a repeat experience. Kelpies are rare enough that we know that haunting our local shelters for one is pretty futile. Given our sheltering background, the subject of purchasing from a breeder never came up.

We both started perusing rescue sites at about the same time, without mentioning it to each other. The majority of alleged Kelpies and Kelpie-mixes on those sites looked like anything but true representatives of this compact Australian herding dog, and the few that did closely resemble the breed were too far away. California and Texas offered the most – too far to drive, and we weren’t about to fall into the “sight-unseen” adoption abyss.

It didn’t help that we specifically wanted a red Kelpie. I know color shouldn’t matter, but our first two were red, and there was a strong sentimental pull. We found a red Kelpie in Virginia, but he was dog-reactive, and I really needed a dog who could potentially help with modifying the behavior of other reactive dogs, since one of our dogs has already earned senior-retirement, and the other two may not be far behind. A dog-reactive Kelpie clearly wouldn’t do. Would we ever find our red Kelpie? And if we did, how much trouble would we have negotiating the boulder-strewn road to adoption?

Then, an alert from rescueme.org landed in my mailbox. He was at Joyful Rescues in Cuba, New York – a five-hour drive from our home. He sounded promising: young, red (!), and he supposedly gets along with all humans and other dogs. Although the rescue called him a Kelpie/Setter mix, he looked pure Kelpie to me. I asked my husband, Paul, if we wanted to drive to New York to see a Kelpie. He said yes.

I e-mailed Joyful Rescues and said we were interested in the Kelpie. They e-mailed me an application to fill out, complete with references. Paul said, “You have to fill out an application? Do they know who you are?”

I said it didn’t matter if they did or didn’t; I respected them for requiring an application. I filled it out, and gave my references a heads-up that they might be hearing from the rescue group.

“Really?” they all said. “You have to fill out an application? Do they know who you are?” I laughed. The rescue group approved the application.

We made the trip just yesterday, hoping the dog was as good as advertised. We were one of the lucky ones; the little red dog was exactly as he had been described, and after spending some time with him we filled out the adoption paperwork, and paid the adoption fee. We joyfully led him out to our car, where he leaped happily into his crate and settled down for the trip home. He rode like a champ, sleeping quietly in his crate most of the way, resting calmly awake when we stopped for gas and food – not a peep out of him the entire trip. He handled introductions to the rest of our family with grace, including the pig and the cats as well as our three senior dogs, and is presently lying quietly at my feet while I type.

May every dog you adopt be as wonderful as our little red new family member, Kaizen (“positive changes” in Japanese).

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WDJ's Training Editor Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, grew up in a family that was blessed with lots of animal companions: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, goats, and more, and has maintained that model ever since. She spent the first 20 years of her professional life working at the Marin Humane Society in Marin County, California, for most of that time as a humane officer and director of operations. She continually studied the art and science of dog training and behavior during that time, and in 1996, left MHS to start her own training and behavior business, Peaceable Paws. Pat has earned a number of titles from various training organizations, including Certified Behavior Consultant Canine-Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA). She also founded Peaceable Paws Academies for teaching and credentialing dog training and behavior professionals, who can earn "Pat Miller Certified Trainer" certifications. She and her husband Paul and an ever-changing number of dogs, horses, and other animal companions live on their 80-acre farm in Fairplay, Maryland.