Puppy Mill Shelties

July 20, 2012

All women are born Kelly And Her Sheltiesequal, then some accessorize.  Kelly Twilley accessorizes.  She makes jewelry and sells it at Trade Day in Collinsville, Alabama.  Her profile picture shows her with a beaded necklace, earrings, and two Shetland Sheepdogs.  Kelly knows how to accessorize.  But when I got to know her, I quickly learned that her dogs were not an accessory.  Her dogs were rescued from a puppy mill.

In February of 2008 Kelly heard that her local SPCA had a male Sheltie that was in pretty rough shape.  Kelly wanted a female but went to see him anyway.  When she got there she learned that the Sheltie was rescued from a puppy mill along with 130 other dogs.  It took her ten minutes to catch him, but when she did, it took only a few seconds for him to fall asleep in her arms.  Kelly took him home and named him Bailey.

About two years later, I set up an agility field in Dogtown, AL and started giving lessons.  Kelly brought her Border Collie, Emma.  After class I was talking to the group about the work I was doing teaching agility to reactive and fearful dogs.  Agility gave the owners’ and their dogs the confidence to go for walks and socialize. Kelly told me Bailey’s story and how he was still of fearful new people and situations.  I said, “let’s give it a try”.

The following week Kelly and Bailey had a private lesson.  He was afraid of everything.  Just walking through the gate to get onto the field was a challenge.  Bailey quickly found a safe spot in the tunnel. Each time he got scared, he would go in and not come out.

Bailey’s most difficult obstacle was the dog walk.  We started slowly by putting him on the contact zone of the descending plank and let him run down.  Each week we moved him further back, closer to the top of the ascending plank.

When he did not progress as quickly as Emma, I reminded Kelly that the work we were doing was not about agility, it was about building confidence.  Once Bailey gained confidence on the agility field he would be more confident in other situations.  Then one week he surprised Kelly by jumping into the car to come to agility class.  Soon Bailey was running all the way through the tunnel and over the dog walk.  Then he started greeting people and letting friends and family pet him and hold him.

Kelly’s self-esteem grew, she was ready to rescue another puppy mill Sheltie.  Kelly searched PetFinder and found a 5-year-old female in a Sheltie rescue just three hours from home.  After a four long weeks of filling out applications, phone interviews and waiting, Molly was hers.  Kelly said, “I had no idea what bad shape a dog can be in until I met Molly”.  She set up a kennel in the front yard under a shade tree for her.  Molly spent her first weeks there; she escaped 3 times.  Kelly started her in agility.

As soon as Kelly put Molly down on the agility field she ran away. Before we could teacher her anything, Molly needed to feel safe, she didn’t trust anyone yet so we taught her to come to a spot, the table.  Kelly put food on the table and we waited.  Molly came and went.  Kelly put more food on the table and we waited.  Molly came and went.  After each repetition the time between recalls got shorter and Kelly’s patience grew longer.

When Kelly got home, she put a dog bed just outside the patio door.  Then she used the same technique and taught Molly to come to that spot.  Soon Kelly felt safe enough to let Molly out of her kennel.  Molly now spends most of her time in her spot by the door watching for squirrels to chase away.

Bailey and Molly will never compete at an agility trial.  Their trial happens everyday.  They struggle to conquer their fears and to love and trust people.  Although Kelly admits she had no idea what she was getting into when she adopted a puppy mill rescue, she says she is more confident and more patient than she ever was before.  She is now designing jewelry based on the collar Molly was wearing when she got her.

If you want to see her jewelry and more pictures of Kelly and her dogs visit her website at




May 15, 2012

For reasons I would rather not share,  I took my blog down from WordPress and “unpublished” my book from Amazon.  Within the last couple of weeks I have posted some of the short stories from my book and reblogged some of the posts I wrote here.  If you are visiting my blog for the first time, all of the content is new.  If you have been following my blog then some of the posts will look familiar.  If you bought my book, I want to say thank you, and hope you will enjoy reading some of the stories again.  I have decided not to publish the second book of short stories I was working on and have posted some of the stories here for the first time.

All of the stories I have written are about Me And My Dogs and our journey through life.  Moving forward I am also going to include stories about You And Your Dogs.  If you would like to share a story with me please email it to Stories@MeAndMyDogs.biz.  Include your contact information so I can get back to you.  Thanks for continuing to follow me, and I look forward to hearing your stories.



March 1, 2012

Carolina.  Where have I been, what have I been doing for the past two months.  It was a time that went by in no time.  I don’t know what I was doing, where I went or whom I saw.  At the time, I thought I was getting my life back.  I said at a meeting that I was happy.  Happy, but I kept looking over my shoulder for what was going to happen next.  I couldn’t just be glad in the day, I worried.  It has been a long time since I was really happy.  This felt real, it felt like I was moving on, getting over it, getting on with it.


Carolina started to refuse food two weeks ago.  We all know what that meant.  I didn’t need a diagnosis and I won’t write a eulogy.  Bob and our vet said it was time to let her go.  I wasn’t ready.  I was done grieving.  I grieved for two years.  I was moving on.  But in the end, it wasn’t about me, it was about Carolina.  Sweet Carolina.  She loved everyone and everyone loved her.

I started writing about two years ago and stopped about two months ago.  It occurred to me that maybe I can only write when I am grieving.  Or better, writing is something I do only when I spend most of my time wrapped in a blanket on the couch.  I am the happiest when I am making something or doing something.  Writing doesn’t feel like that.  Writing fills the time in between.



January 16, 2012

When I was in my 40’s I learned that no one hires menopausal woman.  Seriously, who would invite that into the workplace?  It is bad enough having the ones that already worked there.  It is like having a house full of adolescents.  So when I knew I had to go back to work I decided to teach because it was the only profession that hired woman 40 to 50 years old.  Looking at it closer, I found that there was a demand for math teachers, middle school math teachers.  A menopausal woman teaching pubescent students seemed like a perfect fit!

March 31st last year I finished my student teaching.  Within a week I completed all my requirements and got my post baccalaureate in middle school mathematics education.  I submitted my credentials and soon had my Georgia educator certificate.  My 50th birthday was approaching, April 27th.  I was looking forward to it. I had a plan. I was going to go back to work, pay off my debts and in just 15 years, and have the house paid for and retire with a pension and social security.

Well people plan and God laughs.  My mother died April 26th and I did not find a job.  I knew other people who were looking for teaching jobs and they didn’t find a position either.  No first years.  This made me feel a little better, but at the time I didn’t care because it gave me the time to spend with my father.  I stayed with him in Massachusetts to help him adjust to living alone.  My husband Bob was supportive and took care of the dogs and the house while I was away.  I promised him I would find a job after the holidays.

The holidays are in the past and the school year is half over, and there are a few teaching positions open; people who did not return after fall break.  I got only one response back from all my applications that said I did not fit the qualifications and “there were many, many applicants”.  So, I applied to various youth organizations in the area even though they require a degree in psychology or sociology.  There are lots of jobs available because the job requires long hours and is emotionally draining.  The pay is not that good either.  I haven’t gotten any responses to my applications.

I made a promise.  I told Bob I would find a job this year.  I will keep looking, but today, I am turning to my higher power for help.  One of the promises in the big book for the 12th step is “when we look back, we realize that the things which came to us when we put ourselves in God’s hands were better than anything we could have planed.”  I guess he has a plan for me.  I hope it happens soon.



January 5, 2012

My friends have decided it was time to get my field back into condition to do some dog agility.  The tornado did a lot of damage to it.  But it is not the damage from the tornado that is keeping me from the field, it is what happened the day before the tornado, the day my mother died.

Agility Field in December 2011


Today my agility field is covered in layers of debris. It is in the woods and in the summer the trees that shade it, cover it in the fall with leaves.  Under the leaves are weeds.  Weeds that grew from roots that were there long before it was an agility field.  Below the weeds is a layer of soil brought there by the rain that washes down from the woods.  The bottom layer, which may be gone, is wood chips.  Wood chips that were brought in to create a natural footing for the dogs to run on.


My higher power, Nature, who protects my field with a cover of organic materials, also wrapped me in protective blanket of family and friends.  Much of the time I wouldhave spent on my field, I spent with my father and my sister and brothers. Each with our own fields of debris, we grieve for our mother who lies peacefully in the earth, in a field of lawn and trees.

The layers of tears and excuses, reasons why I cannot return to my agility field are my grief.  I can’t go there.  It is too thick, too heavy, to overwhelming to clear away.  It will take a leaf blower, weed eater, chipper mulcher, rakes and shovels to get the bottom.  The bottom that nature has worked three seasons to renew is the foundation for me to build a new field, a new life, a new beginning.

Agility Field January 2012

My friends are coming on Monday.  I will provide the tools.  They provide the strength; the power to peel off the layers that Nature has protected me with.  With each layer, they will be helping me get my life back.  Together we will shred the debris, the pain of the past year and spread it on the field as Nature has done.  My husband will bring new wood chips to make the footing for me to run on as Nature has intended.



December 26, 2011

The very first time my husband and I entertained together, we had only been dating a few months.  It was New Years Eve.  We went to the grocery store together to buy food and soft drinks, the package store for alcohol, then to his apartment to get ready.  As soon as the groceries were put away, Bob said he had to run an errand and would be right back.  I didn’t ask any questions and kept cleaning as he walked out the door.

A few hours later he returned, more excited than I had ever seen him.  He found a vintage guitar and wanted to buy it.  As he paced around, I encouraged him to go back and get it before someone else bought it.  When he came back a few hours later, the apartment was clean, the prep work was done on the food, and all that was left to do was cook.

Seventeen years, fifteen guitars and countless parties later, Bob still disappears on the day we have company.  Each time he says he will be there to help, and each time he comes rushing in just an hour or two before company is expected to arrive.  He does the cooking and he entertains as he does it.  This Christmas Eve while I was home preparing a Feast of Seven Fishes for twelve people, he was at the galvanizing plant watching zinc melt.

I could hear myself yelling above the sound of the vacuum cleaner, “seventeen years and he is never here to help me get ready for a party, why should this party be any different…”  I was so mad.  Then I stopped.  The next voice I heard was my oldest brother saying the eulogy at my mother’s funeral.  He was telling the story of how my father would always come home late on Christmas Eve because he would stop on the way home to visit his friends.  My brother said, “Ma would get so mad…this happened every year.”

When Bob finally got home, he was so excited.  He said “the kettle didn’t crack and the temperature was at 850 degrees, right where it needs to be.  Everything is going according to plan, the zinc should all melted and we will be ready to galvanize product on Tuesday.  What do you need me to do?  I was thinking I would dust the guitars.”  I tried not to be mad and replied, “Do what you want, I will have everything ready, all you have to do is cook and entertain.”



November 21, 2011

I need to build a bat house.  When we moved here in 2007, there was one bat living on the front porch behind the shutter.  She didn’t bother anybody, and nobody bothered her.  Recently, though, there seemed to be more bat poop on the porch than usual.  I kept checking at different times of the night to see if she was okay.  Then, one night, I saw them, yes, them: six bats!  There are now six bats living on my front porch!

My friend, Alison, who loves animals of all kinds, told me if I put a bat house close to where they are now and made the spot they’re in now uncomfortable, they may relocate to the new house.  Bat houses are fairly easy to build; there are basic plans on a number of different websites.  The houses are all pretty much the same — typically made of a couple pieces of plywood and some nails.  Fabricating one, I determined, would not take long;so I made a list and got myself ready to go buy the materials.

There are two home improvement stores I could go to get what I need — one blue and one orange.  The blue one is brightly lit; the shelves are well stocked with goods that are neatly organized; and the people who work there are very helpful.  The orange store is dark.  The aisles are lined with displays in front of shelves that are often messy and disorganized.  The employees always seem too busy to help.

“You’re joking; you brought a crate.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“The look on your face . . . I can tell when you’re lying.”

“I am a terrible liar.”

“Well, go get your crate.”

“I didn’t bring one.”

So went the conversation, recently, at a disc dog contest.  I brought my dog, Boston, but not a crate to keep him in.  I wanted to drive the two-seater sports car, and a crate just didn’t fit.  I wanted both, drive the Z3 and bring a dog.  So, I had to leave the crate at home.

Boston did really well on the drive down.  He wore his harness and special leash that was buckled into the seat.  He likes riding this way with the top down.  He rested his head on my bag on the floor in front of the passenger seat, and slept most of the three and a half hours it took to get to the event.

When we got there, I let Boston out of the car, hooked his leash to my belt loop and grabbed the two bag chairs from the trunk — one for me and one for him.  Then, I set us up in the administration tent, where I do the scorekeeping for the club.

“Your dog is not chair trained.”

“He’ll stay in the chair or under the table.  He’ll be fine.  Don’t worry.”

Going into the blue home improvement store, for me, is like walking on stage in a theater.  As the bright lights shined in my eyes, I thought I heard an announcement on the intercom declaring, “Heeeere’s Debbie!”  I adjusted my eyes and saw the voice was coming from an associate who’d just greeted me, and asked if I needed help finding the items on my list.

“Building a bat house?  I can help you with that.”

“I’m okay.  Where’s the precut plywood?”

“Let me show you.”

“No, I can manage.  Is it over there?”

“Yes, just let us know if you need help.”

I said, “Thanks,” as I hurried to get away.

Everywhere I went, I was afraid to touch anything.  There was always someone behind me who wanted to know what I was making and giving me suggestions on how to improve it.  My list became crumbled and soft, as I held it tightly in my hand.  Despite all the help they offered, I could not find what I was looking for, and now had no idea how to build a bat house.  I was humiliated, so I left with only my list.

Boston was calm that whole day.  A couple of times someone would trip on him, because they did not see him lying down on the ground near the admin table.  I am not sure why everyone was so surprised.  Just because I don’t compete with him doesn’t mean that I don’t train him.  I take him with me a lot of places, and most of the time he walks along nicely with me or lays down and waits until I’m done.  If he can ride in a car with the top down, he can sit in a chair under a tent.

I took Boston with me when I later went to the orange home improvement store.  We walked in the contractors’ entrance door and were greeted by an employee in an orange apron which made him look much bigger than he actually was, who said, “Is that an Irish Setter?  He’s beautiful.”


“I’m building a bat house and need some . . .”

“Does he hunt?”


“No, your dog.  Does he hunt?”

“Sometimes I take him hunting.  We don’t kill anything, though.  We go to a wildlife management park and he runs in a field of tall grass and points and flushes birds.”

“That’s cool.”

“I want some of the precut plywood.”

“Oh, down that aisle on the right.”

“Thanks.” I love this store.

Before I went for the plywood, I stopped in the paint department.  I am planning on painting the bat house the same colors as my house and front porch shutter.  According to Bat Conservation International, bats are pretty particular about what color their house is.  They live behind the shutter, so they must like the color.  I figured I would make their house the same.

While Boston and I waited for our turn at the paint counter, a woman rode up on one of those battery-powered carts.  She stopped and said, “Oh, you have a dog.  I almost didn’t see him.”

“I’m sorry.  Is he in your way?”

She spoke in a heavy southern accent.  “No, no, honey, he is fine right where he is.  He is beautiful!  Look at him, just lying there being so good.  Is he one of those show dogs?”

She was a very distinguished looking black woman.  Her hair was gray.  Her forehead had creases in it that hid a lifetime of wisdom.  Smiling put the deep wrinkles around her mouth and eyes.  Although I’d never met her before, I knew her.

I said, “No, I don’t show him.  He’s my companion.  I take him with me whenever I can.”

She laughed as she said, “I wish I could take my dog with me, hehe, she laughed. ” He would be jumping out of the chair, getting into everything!  Oh, no, I can’t take him anywhere.”

“A year ago, I didn’t take him, either.  It takes some maturity and practice.  I am a dog trainer, so- . . .”

“You train dogs!  I see so many stray dogs in the street, Lord!”  She looked down at Boston.  “Maybe if some of those dogs had training on them, they could find homes.  What’s your name?”

“My name is Debbie.”

“Well, Miss Debbie, I think you are a wonderful person.  Stay who you are.  I will keep you in my prayers.” She looked away and drove off.

I got my paint and went to the aisle where the plywood is kept.  Stay who you are . . .  Who am I? I thought, standing there in front of the stacks of plywood.

I am a humble dog trainer.  My dog does not catch flying discs or retrieve game birds, but he does sit in a chair and behave himself in public places.  I shop in the orange home improvement store.  I do not seek the spot light or announce my presence.  And I pay respect to wise women.  Women who have the wisdom of ages and smiles on their faces.