It wasn’t until I was designing the pages of “Paws of the Panhandle” last summer that it dawned on me.
Am I seeing one breed more than any other?
I was and, once I started counting, I was surprised by the result.
Of the 51 dogs that appear in the pages of my book, four of them were heelers – and all heelers of Idaho.
Adventuring with heelers of Idaho
Heelers, also known as Australian cattle dogs, are great hiking buddies. They’re energetic and fierce and, like many working dog breeds, independent. They have a very affectionate nature, too, as the women who’ve been chosen by these four heelers of Idaho can attest.
One of them, you’ve seen in the pages of this website many times before. She’s also one of Bella’s besties.
My friend Cat didn’t want a heeler. She’d had an experience with a roommate’s dog in her early adult years and it was a “pain in the ass.”
When she was ready to rejoin the world of Dog Mom after losing her beloved Ripley, she went to the Kootenai Humane Society to pluck a pup from a litter of Malamute shepherds.
By the time she got to the Coeur d’Alene animal shelter, the puppies were all spoken for.
There was, however, a litter of heelers. Other adopters were playing with the puppies and Cat tried to resist.
“I finally walked over and this one puppy was being still, mellow compared to the others,” she says.
Almost six years later, Cat and Newt never miss the chance at an adventure together. They hike, backpack, camp, explore, wander … together.
“It’s hard to quantify when a soul jumps into your life and completely recreates it,” Cat says. “Newt makes life everything it was meant to be.”
Newt’s story is also the subject of the first Journey book to roll off the presses:
Lots of love can come in small packages.
Sami joined Beth’s family in 2021, shortly before “Paws of the Panhandle” was launched. A wee 30-pound red heeler, she’s the smallest member of the family.
She’s also the most affectionate.
Like most heelers, she’s standoffish with strangers but can be coerced with treats that have just the right sniff to them.
Sami joined a menagerie of three dogs and two cats belonging to Beth and her husband. She accompanies Beth on daily adventures to Pine Street Woods, the Laclede campground and all around the bike paths of Sandpoint.
“They all bring so much joy and love into our lives,” Beth says. “They make our lives better overall. I can’t imagine a life not shared with a fur baby.”
Life in Clark Fork wouldn’t be complete without Tink – and Tink wouldn’t be complete without life in Clark Fork.
A 13-year-old border collie-blue heeler mix, Tink has been roaming her property in the little North Idaho town since 2007. She was being raised by a couple in southern Idaho but they didn’t have the time a high-energy dog requires.
Tink ended up with Kae’s family, and became a perfect match for her son Bryce.
They were inseparable.
“She slept with him, was in the bathroom when he showered, in the bedroom when he was getting ready for school,” Kae says. “For the family, she has been our protector, our snuggler, our playmate. She is an absolute doll.”
Bryce left Clark Fork to attend college in Missoula and stayed in Montana to work. He would love to have her with him but, Kae says, she wouldn’t be the same dog if she left.
“She wouldn’t be able to run the property like she can here,” Kae says. “This is her home.”
When a dog is your best friend, you’re never alone.
Amy was volunteering at the Humane Society of Southwest Washington, keeping her eyes open for a heeler.
The one breed she always wanted. Only willing to rehome a rescue dog, Amy had to have patience.
Then she saw “Denzel,” walking with another volunteer. Amy put down a deposit but was told the animal control officer who found her did so first. Days later, the shelter called to tell Amy the officer never showed up!
On March 14, Pi Day for math nerds, Denzel came home to a new life and a new name.
Pi has since logged hundreds of miles, hiking in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. She and Amy, who found the two-legged love of her life in Spokane, are moving from Portland to make the Inland Northwest their new adventure home.
Heeler rescues of Idaho
If you want to find your own hiking buddy, try looking at some of the heeler rescues of Idaho.
You might be able to get hooked up with a Newt or a Pi of your own at:
All around the circle
Each one of these heelers of Idaho was an absolute joy to spend time with – and their humans, too. While “Paws of the Panhandle” raised $5,000 for the Better Together Animal Alliance in Sandpoint, it gave me the opportunity to hear and tell the stories of 51 amazing Inland Northwest dogs and their humans.
Now I get to do it again with “Paws of the Inland Northwest” and raise $10,000 for the Spokane Humane Society.
We’re starting Saturday, March 19, with a set of 30-minute sessions at Hauser Lake in Idaho. Hauser Lake is one of my favorite places for dog photo shoots. The scenery is nothing short of epic.
I just wonder what the most popular breed will be this year!
In the meantime, my friends in the worldwide pet photography circle are featuring their favorite breeds of dog. Let’s head Down Under to Canberra dog photographer Ina of Ina J Photography, who has fallen in love with the Havanese breed.
When you get to the bottom of Ina’s post, click the next link in the circle and then keep going to magical places like Madrid, Spain, and Texas and Toronto until you find yourself back here to the four goodest heelers of Idaho.
That’s when you know you’re home.
Right where you belong.