Shelties Come Home

Story by Jeannie Stone

For 15 years, Tammy McKellar raised shelties to show. When one of the dogs she had raised from a puppy came back to her abused, however, she couldn’t continue to breed any more.

“That’s when I started rescuing them,” she said.

Jon-Tam’s Pet Boutique Boarding and Grooming, situated on Highway 105 north of Russellville, is the business McKellar and her husband John run (with the help of Wendy Pitts) to finance the rescue operation.

McKellar switched from breeding and showing to nurturing and rescuing seven years ago. Her past experience has impacted the way she conducts business nowadays.

“I won’t let the dogs go unless I know the new owners will provide a good home,” she said. “I had one dog for two years, but I couldn’t find a good enough home. My husband about pulled his hair out over that because it takes a lot to feed and care for animals.”

Providing a good home is something McKellar does well enough to attract pet owners all the way from North Little Rock and Ft. Smith who travel to Jon-Tam’s to board their pets.

Patches — a cat needing a home — lounges in a fleece hammock within her two-story cat bunkhouse. Everything he needs is provided including a private self-enclosed litter box.

“Patches is spayed and declawed,” McKellar said. “He needs a good home.”

She doesn’t solicit other animals to adopt out, but she couldn’t refuse the cat.

Her success rate is fueled by her tenaciousness.

“I just keep asking folks I think would make good pet owners until I find someone,” she said.

“People bring us their shelties to find homes for if they are relocating or if they have an unexpected litter of puppies,” she said. “I have a bulletin board folks use to advertise other pets.”

As with Patches, McKellar will occasionally work on finding homes for other breeds, but she prefers to concentrate her efforts on the shelties which first stole her heart.

“They are so shy and very loyal. I’ve never had one try and escape.”

When Hurricane Katrina, then Hurricane Rita, sent New Orleans residents scurrying to the River Valley, McKellar came to the aid of dozens of pet owners. Jon-Tam’s boarded almost 30 pets at no charge to the owners staying in nearby hotels that didn’t allow pets. The McKellars and Pitts loaded down the truck with donated food and supplies and spent days handing out the necessities to folks in hotels, shelters and campsites.

“When you’re told to evacuate you take your food and medicines and the dog, but you forget his food and dishes,” McKellar said. “It was amazing how many people commented on the dishes we’d bring them. Local radio stations broadcast our efforts, and we made up hundreds of flyers and distributed them to the hotels. The people in the community were so generous we were able to take leftovers to the animal shelters.”

McKellar receives Christmas greetings and updates from some of the grateful pet owners they served.

“It was just pitiful,” she said. “Their dogs were caked in mud, and they were scared. Most people don’t know what all we do way out here.”

McKellar hasn’t totally escaped from the showing aspect of owning pets. She organizes the annual American Canine Association show at Hector Dog Daze. Her certified hospice therapy sheltie Little Big Man, now deaf, won several AKC awards of his own, and his grandson Sebastian won Best of Show in 2008 at the Hector event.

Jon-Tam’s continues to find ways to serve the needs in the community. They provide weekly pick-up and delivery for elderly or mobility- challenged pet owners in Atkins and Russellville.

They also sponsor Canine Capers, a doggy talent show, during Fall Fest in Russellville (scheduled for Sat., Oct. 31.)

“We care for over 2,000 pets in the area, and we see a lot of them at Fall Fest. We have boxes of Halloween canine costumes we sell like crazy,” McKellar said.

Jon-Tam’s carries a strong line of healthy homemade dog treats. They also carry the Bubba Rose Biscuit Company line from New York, owned by
the daughter-in-law of Russellville resident Jean Talley.

“I always wanted collies,” McKellar said. “My husband came home with the first two shelties, a mother and son, and he said since they were smaller I could collect more. I don’t think he had this in mind.”

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