My love for collies began when I was about nine years old. My grandma and great grandpa told me all these really amazing stories about a collie they once owned, Princess. Princess played jump rope and hide seek. Princess watched over my grandma’s younger sister when she was a baby and Princess was my grandma’s friend and playmate. I remember admiring the dog in a picture my grandma let me keep. I thought she was the prettiest dog and I wanted one just like her. Eventually I became a huge Lassie fan, of course, and watched Lassie, Jeff’s Collie, and Timmy And Lassie almost everyday. When I was twelve I told my Mom I was going to ask for a collie for Christmas. She told me Santa didn’t bring live-stock (ha, ha) and that I should earn and save my money for one instead. She helped me come up with a budget system (10% went to tithing, 20% went into savings, 30% went into my collie fund, and the remaining 40% was mine to spend) and I started saving for a collie right away. For the next year I took just about every babysitting and petsitting job I could get and worked very hard for my dream dog. I even did a lot of research on the collie breed.
When I turned thirteen everything seemed to change suddenly and it seemed like my whole world fell apart. Friends were turning their backs on me for reasons I didn’t know of. Without any warning at all my best friend called me up and told me she hated me. It hurt and I had no idea what I had done. Girls in the neighborhood were suddenly looking at me like I was the biggest loser they had ever seen. They’d look me over with the most judgmental looks and then whisper to their friends and laugh. Worst of all, they did this at church. They did this in the one place that should’ve been safe. At thirteen years old I had no idea what was going on and I blamed myself. I blamed the clothes I wore, I blamed my ugly hair that wasn’t a new color every week, I blamed my height, my weight, my clumsy feet, my lack of athleticism, the things I said, everything about me was wrong. I hated me and I was so lonely. I started daydreaming about having the most loyal friend in the world and that friend was always in the form of a Collie. A Collie that looked just like the famous Lassie. I needed and wanted my dream dog more than ever before and I started working so much harder for him.
Finally one December night all that hard work paid off. I had earned up roughly around $550 and I already owned all of the necessities a dog would need. I had food and water bowls, a collar, toys, brushes, a leash, etc. The only things I needed was a puppy, puppy food, and some spare money for shots. So I hopped online and began my search for the perfect puppy. I had the perfect image of this dog in my mind. I wanted a boy and I wanted him to look exactly like Lassie, the hero dog. And I found that look, many times, but I always found a reason to scroll on by and keep looking. It wasn’t until I found this little puppy that I stopped searching. He may not have looked exactly like Lassie, but he was going to be my Lassie and I knew it the second I saw him.
He was a fat little fluff ball and I was completely smitten. I emailed the breeder right away to ask about him. I let her know that I was thirteen years old and had earned up the money myself (and that I had my parents’ permission). She emailed me back right away and answered all my questions. I emailed her back with one final question: the cost of the plane fare from Oklahoma to Utah. The puppy himself was going to cost $350. I wasn’t going to spend more than $450, because I would need some spare money for shots and food. She emailed me back and told me the airfare would cost $200. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t panic. I still knew this dog would be mine. I thought I would just have to wait a little longer until I had some more money saved up. I emailed the breeder back to thank her for her time and tell her that I didn’t have quite enough just yet. To my surprise, I wasn’t at all discouraged. A little later that evening I received another email from her, the best email I’ve ever received. She decided to take $100 off the price of the puppy so that I could have him for Christmas. I still, to this day, tear up when I think about it. It was one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me and because of her kindness I had my collie puppy just days later. I had my very own Lassie, which is exactly what I called him.
Picking him up from the airport. 2004.
I’ll never forget what his breeder told me when I thanked her. She told me “Don’t thank me, he’s your Christmas gift from God.” And that’s exactly what he was. He was a gift from God. One of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Training a puppy was a lot of hard work and was, at times, very frustrating, but I learned so much. I learned patience, I learned to put someone before myself, I learned how to budget money and the importance of it, I learned loyalty and friendship, but the two most important things I learned was faith and exactly what unconditional love meant and how it felt. Lassie didn’t care if people thought I wasn’t cool and he didn’t care what rumors they were spreading about me, to him I’m the most amazing person there is, to him there is no one cooler and no one better than me. He wouldn’t trade me for anyone else and I wouldn’t trade him.
With Lassie around it became so much easier for me to talk to people. I loved (and still love!) any chance I had to talk about my dog and it was— and still is— so easy and comfortable for me. Even more so when he was actually there, I felt so much safer with him around. Even as a tiny little 9 week old puppy he would defend me if he thought I was in danger. He made it so much easier not to care what other people were thinking or saying about me because I could look down at this happy dog who was happy simply because he was standing next to me. This dog who’s completely devoted to me. The girl who wasn’t ‘cool’ enough for the other kids was the coolest person in his eyes.
Lassie introduced me to a whole other world: the dog lover world. What a crazy fun place to be. I’ve met many great people and so many great dogs! Sure, the people were quite a bit older than me, because how many thirteen year olds had, and cared for, their very own dog? Probably not many. But age didn’t matter, we had that one thing in common: a love for dogs and that was all that was needed to make conversation and friendships. Lassie and I had many friends at Petsmart. We also loved chatting with the sweet owners of Red Bandana and Lassie loved seeing his Bearded Collie buddies.
Since we moved we’ve found two new stores to frequent, Bone Appetite and Urban Dawgz.
I fit in and feel the most comfortable when I’m with my dogs or even just talking about my dogs. I could literally spend hours talking about them to anyone who will listen.
My dogs play a huge part in who I am and without Lassie I don’t know where I would be.
Thank you, Lassie, for living up to your name and being my hero.
I love you, buddy!