When someone mentions a collie, most everyone’s mind jumps to Timmy's famed canine heroine Lassie. In fact, I bet you're humming that famous whistle to yourself right now. The long-running TV show Lassie made the collie breed extremely popular and famous during it's time on air in the 50's, and the stigma of a beautiful, strong, and heroic collie running to the rescue of her beloved owner has stuck in the minds of Americans ever since.

However, not all collies are as lucky as Lassie. Although we'd like to pretend every collie is standing heroically on a rock overlooking a billowing field of grass, the reality is many of these dogs are living abandoned by owners who, like many other Americans hit by the recession, just can't afford to feed and vaccinate them anymore.

It's nothing new. The media has been inundated with stories about animal neglect due to varying circumstances, and several large puppy mills have been busted right here on the South Plains in just the past year (one with, you guessed it, collies.) The State Legislature has passed several laws in an effort to prevent animal neglect, but unfortunately it's not enough to save the thousands of animals that are abandoned or abused in Texas each year.


Thus enters Houston Collie Rescue. HCR, along with hundreds of other small rescue groups across the nation, take the abandoned dogs' welfare into their own hands. It is a (501)c non-profit organization based out of Stafford, Texas near Houston that specializes in rescuing collies. They provide food, shelter, vaccinations, and in some cases expensive medical care for the animals until they can find a place to call their "forever home." It was formed in 2000, and is now led by current board members Barbara Lewis, Vickey Willard, and Angela Walker with a mission of giving every collie a safe place to live, regardless of their physical or mental needs.

Pat Booher, a volunteer and the Treasurer of HCR, said providing essentials for the rescues isn’t always easy. "(HCR) is a non-profit organization, consisting of all volunteers and relies on the generosity and donations of many people and businesses. We never turn a collie away, and with the tough economy, we have seen an increase in senior collies in our program, as owners can no longer afford their medical care." They do not have a central kennel location and instead rely on foster families and donations to keep the organization running.


Many dogs rescued by HCR are heart worm positive, and with the influx of elderly dogs, it's a credit to the organization that they manage to stay on top of the ever-growing medical costs. Generous individual donors and businesses keep HCR funded so they can provide aid to foster families and spay and neuter the dogs. HCR is also quite active in their community, holding several fundraisers throughout the year. "We meet so many wonderful people and our collies work their magic," Pat says, referring to their yearly fundraiser, the Reliant World Series of Dogs Show. "We could not operate without help from our many volunteers, transporters, foster homes, donors and adoptive families."

Although the organization's focus is in Southeast Texas, its work has spread far past the Houston city limits. The most striking thing about the Houston Collie Rescue is how willing they are to help a collie in need. They frequently help out-of-state rescue organizations with transportation, or even finding foster homes for their rescues. Their attitude is positive and loving, focusing on providing a dog a bright future instead of it’s dark past.


One rescue in particular, a collie named Dandy, illustrates the willingness of HCR to help a collie regardless of its circumstances. Dandy is a full-blood collie who was found roaming the streets of Puerto Rico by a group named Save a Sato. Rescues in Puerto Rico usually don't end happily, with most dogs being abandoned again shortly after their adoption, so Dandy’s chances of finding a good home were slim. That’s when a volunteer named La Lola found out about Houston Collie Rescue. She contacted them, asking for their help in finding Dandy a home in the states. HCR agreed, and soon Dandy was on a plane to Texas. Upon his arrival, he was placed in a foster home with volunteer Alice Rostkowski, and began adapting to his new life as a pet. “It has been a pleasure to watch as he becomes more self confident, happy, and hopeful every single day,” Rostkowski said. “He has the true collie nature, purely gentle and sweet.  He will make some lucky family a wonderful companion.” HCR is now waiting for an applicant that can give a good permanent home for Dandy.

Dandy’s story is one of many happy endings made possible by HCR. The organization is the epitome of what a rescue organization should be: caring, involved, supportive and devoted. It’s organizations like this that make the Lassie dream possible. They can take a dog covered in grime and doubt, and in a matter of months turn it into a hero; just ask the families that have been blessed with an HCR rescue. Remember HCR when you're looking  support a rescue group or adopt. Let's help them keep up the amazing work.


If you are interested in supporting HCR, there are several ways you can help. Visit their website for a wish-list of donations. If you’re interested in becoming a foster family, download a foster home application. Supporting HCR can be free too, just like them on facebook to show your support and keep up with their projects; they always have something amazing in the works. Finally, share the link. The more people talk about HCR, the more homes could open up for collies across the nation.

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