Pet rescue stories never get old

Facebook’s dog and cat rescue stories are must-reads because I love seeing the before and after photos.

The endings are fun, cheerful and comforting. OK, they’re also full of schmaltz. Or, as the dictionary defines it, “exaggerated sentimentalism.”

So here’s one more.

Chris Van Winkle is a photographer in northern Michigan. In 2002, he started traveling around the world with his camera and realized that “capturing images of people was something I really liked to do.”

He developed his style by assisting a wedding photographer from northern California. Chris spent the next 25 years in the fashion industry working in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. He opened his own photography business in 2012.

My family is biased, but we love his work. He’s been taking our family photos for six years.

Chris’s sweet,12-year-old, rescue, Loki, died in July 2021. A month later, he got a call from his friend Gary, who explained that his mom has Alzheimer’s and could no longer take care of herself, much less her dogs. She had made Gary promise that her two Shetland Sheepdogs, her most prized possessions, would never be separated and he would give them a good home.

Chris had met Sadie and Sally so he knew they were sweet: “When Gary told me he was having a hard time finding a home, I thought, ‘Why not?’ So I flew down to Florida and drove back with them.”

Being unfamiliar with the breed, he added, “I really thought Shelties were yappy and barked a lot based on a friend of mine owning a few.”

Chris was right. According to the American Kennel Club, “they like to bark and tend to be reserved toward strangers – two qualifications of an excellent watchdog.”

He was also correct about their personalities. The AKC describes Shelties as sensitive, devoted and warm, highly in tune with the mood of their family.

It took time and a lot of patience as Sadie and Sally adjusted to Chris as their new “dad” as well as the environment in which they now lived. Chris explained, “Well, they had never been walked on a leash and lived outdoors most of the. They had no potty schedule or much less enjoyed being walked on a leash … big adjustments.

“We live in Michigan in the summer and Mexico in the winter. Both my places are fenced in so they now come and go as they like and they love it. We travel back and forth in a van and they are great road dogs as well.”

A bigger problem for the 9-year-old sisters was their weight. Sally weighed 42 pounds, Sadie 33. According to the AKC, Shelties should weigh between 15 and 25 pounds. It took about six months, but by Chris giving them normal portions and getting exercise, they now weigh 33 and 27 pounds, respectively. Chris said, “Sally needs to lose just a few more pounds.” They love their routines and are happy and healthy.

Chris describes them as “funny, smart and sweet” and says, “Sally follows me almost everywhere. My office is on the second floor of my house and Sally usually comes upstairs. Sadie never. Sally makes sure the boy dogs know she’s the boss!”

“I really love them… having two sisters is fun!”

What more can you add to the story’s ending except for “Merry Christmas!”

To learn more about Shelties this website is a good place to start:‑breeds/shetland‑sheepdog

Karin Spicer is a member of the Dog Writers Association of American. She lives with her family and two furry pets who inspire her. She can be reached to

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