Arlene Soderlund and her Sheltie at their local Panera bakery-cafe

A Treat For Dog Lovers

This club comes together at a Panera Bread bakery-cafe for a love of dogs: their Shelties. Here’s what they love about the breed—and how you can help dogs in need.

You never know what you might overhear at a Panera Bread bakery-cafe. At the bakery-cafes in South Barrington or Fox River Grove, Illinois, you just might catch a meeting of the Chicagoland Shetland Sheepdog Club. The dog lovers come together at these locations to share information about grooming, obedience, and health concerns for Shelties.

But it’s about more than a love for the breed. In addition to educating members, the club is committed to helping dogs in need.

A Larger Mission

This group loves their dogs. In fact, each February, the club hosts a two-day event at For Your K9, a large dog training facility in Melrose Park, Illinois. Along with running a show similar to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the club sponsors a raffle, with the proceeds going to organizations such as the Midwest Sheltie Rescue.

What can you do? Club member Arlene Soderlund recommends these four ways to help dogs in need:

Donate to local shelters. Money is always appreciated, but shelters also need old towels, blankets, and food. Check before donating toys, though.

Give dog food to food banks. Folks who receive food from food banks may have pets, too. By donating dog food to food banks, you’ll help those families and their pets.

Volunteer time. Shelters are often all-volunteer organizations and would appreciate any time you can give to help walk, feed, and water the dogs. An hour or two a week is all it takes.

Foster rescue dogs. Saving pooches from kill shelters by fostering them gives these animals time to find a home. For fostering in the Chicago area, Arlene recommends connecting with Castaway Pet Rescue at castawaypetrescue.org. “Who knows, if you foster, maybe you’ll fall in love and adopt,” Arlene says.

Sharing at a Panera Bread Bakery-Cafe

When the club comes together at a Panera Bread bakery-cafe, up to 20 members will share a meal while club officers and committee members present reports. And there’s usually a presentation about various aspects of Sheltie ownership, such as the best kinds of dog food for Shelties as well as Sheltie-specific health concerns.

“Club members can be anyone who owns a Sheltie as a pet - everyone can learn something new,” says Linda Kunicki, the club’s vice president. Like so many Shetland sheepdog owners, Linda has a deep bond with the breed and her own pooches. She grew up with Shelties, and a Shetland sheepdog even saved her mother from a bull.

“Shelties really have a humanlike quality,” says Linda, who has three shelties: Angel, Royal, and Faith. “They’re loyal and attach themselves to us.”

Such devotion helped establish the Chicagoland Shetland Sheepdog Club in 1963 (which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary). In addition to sharing education and fund-raising for rescue dogs, club members also stroll in parades, strut in dog shows, and share their Shelties at community-service events in hospitals or senior centers.