My parents should have known I was going to be an extreme animal lover when I carried around cotton balls and called them “Kitty.” I loved my grandmother’s evil cat that would swat you as soon as look at you.When I was five, I crawled into a doghouse to see a neighbor’s protective mother English setter and her pups even though there were spiders and webs all around the opening. Growing up, I knew the neighbor’s animals better than I knew their kids.
My mother says I began asking for a dog or cat, didn’t matter although I would have preferred both, when I was three and I didn’t stop asking every day until we bought our first collie, Kelly. I wanted a poodle because my cousin had one but I have to admit, Lassie definitely trumped poodle even if our Lassie was black. I enjoyed educating everyone young and old about her color: black, white, and tan, or tri-color. And she could have been a show dog, I continued except she had an overbite and a pointy- head. She outgrew the pointy-head but the overbite stuck and she had an atrocious eye check, according to our vet who must have had some knowledge of ophthalmology. But we were happy to have a puppy that could see since Chicago was filled with blind puppies in 1972. Not PRA but severe CEA I learned years later.
Kelly was a big bitch with a champion pedigree and a champion father. Her breeder shared the dam’s pedigree with us and it went back seven generations to show kennels like Hertzville, Bellochanty, Tazewell, Caledon, Vi-Lee, Poplar, Hazeljane’s, Cainbrooke, Brandwyne, Gaylord, Scotlyn’s, and Sterling. I spent many hours reading her pedigree and trying to figure out how Brandwyne’s Tom Foolery could be her great-great grandfather, great-great-great grandfather and great-great-great-great grandfather multiple times! Her sire’s pedigree only went back four generations but today I recognize names like her grandfather, Ch. Jadene’s Breeze Along, Ch. Stoneykirk Starberry, Ch. Kittredge Conjurer, and Ch. Cul-Mor’s Conspirator. I was proud of my collie and all the red in her pedigree denoting the champions.
Kelly came with us when we moved to Texas in 1976 from Illinois and she never carried that huge coat again and fleas were her bane but other than that, she did well with the transition. She was by far the greatest dog ever and had a profound effect on my siblings, my mom, and all the neighbors. She was never bred and when she was gone, my mother said, "No more dogs, it was just too hard." By then I had begged and finally gotten a cat and bought my own horse when I was sixteen so I was hardly home but I missed her.
We made it three months without a collie and that is the last time I have not had a collie in my life. We brought Penny, a cute foxy looking sable who had prick ears that shocked us as Kelly had natural ears her whole life but it was hard to compare the two. Penny was a true blonde and loved life and barked her joy every day, all the time, as loud as she could. My parents bought her a mate, Max, a 100 lb tri-color, thinking they would breed to make money, but nothing ever happened between them and thank goodness as Max was blind by 3 with PRA.
I got married and moved into an apartment but I visited the house and collies every chance I got. My new son was sniffed and licked by the big furry dogs and I knew I now wanted a collie of my very own to grow up with my son. A house would be in my future and a place to own... and raise collies of my own!