When my 12 year old collie Sassie died on June 27th, 2011, I wasn't quite sure if I would ever have another dog again. The pain was so intense (my friend Tom from "The Tonight Show" describes it as a 'knife through the heart') that it wasn't something I was anxious to experience again. Even if it was 10 years or so in the future.

7 months after her passing, Sassie's former trainer Cathy contacted me through e-mail. She's been friends with the people who raise and train the dogs for the Lassie franchise for years. Even though a new Lassie movie hasn't been made in a while, the owner of the Lassie image keeps a current Lassie trained and ready-to-go for events, charities, appearances and such. I had left the idea of getting another dog up to the universe, so I wasn’t actively looking for another dog. I figured if one fell in my lap I would entertain the notion. Cathy approached me with an idea.

In February of 2012, Cathy took me up to "Lassie Land" just north of Los Angeles to meet a gal named Carol, who breeds and trains the new Lassies. Occasionally they’ll adopt out “line dogs” (dogs from the Lassie bloodline) to friends who are worthy candidates. All of the official Lassies are descendants of the original Lassie (named Pal) from 1943, when they started the highly successful film series! Apparently she felt that the time had come for one of the many collies she had on the property to get a human of her own. Carol asked Cathy if she knew anyone who would be interested in adopting a 2 year old colle, and Cathy told her all about me and my history with Sass. Cathy also knew I wasn’t a “puppy” person, so this might be a perfect match. So we drove up to “take a meeting” on a Saturday afternoon.

I drove up with Cathy, and my friends Edi and Amanda. We were greeted at the gate by two beautiful collies (both of whom looked like Lassie!) named Bobby and Rocky, and a great German Shorthair named Remington. Then we were welcomed inside to meet two new puppies...Bertie and Major...who were running between us collecting all the affection they could get. (Carol said that Major is the heir apparent to the Lassie moniker…and most likely will be Lassie #11) Then she brought out Junior...aka Lassie #10! Regal, majestic, and wonderful. A beautiful specimen, and a perfect representation of Lassie!

But as wonderful as the day had been so far, I suddenly felt my heart breaking and had to excuse myself to the bathroom. I thought about Sassie, and meeting all the great collies made me remember just how much I still missed her after all these months. I got myself together and as I prepared to leave the bathroom I heard a ruckus outside the door. I walked around the corner and this big, brassy honey-colored collie, who had been excitedly scurrying around the living room, ran up to me and planted her front paws right on my chest! Say hello to Roxy the hugger! What a nice, timely surprise it was! I really needed that hug! Roxy was 3 years old, bright, playful, beautiful, smart, curious and a real lover. And she’s Junior’s sister and litter-mate.

Peas in a pod! Roxy the collie with her brother Junior (the current Lassie!)

We sat and chatted with Carol about Roxy's history. A year earlier Roxy needed several emergency surgeries which rendered her infertile. But she got through them all with her wonderful attitude and personality intact. She was in the process of growing her lovely coat back, and Carol felt that Roxy really needed her own human. Competing for attention against the other dogs wasn't fulfilling Roxy's intense need for one-on-one companionship.

On the drive home I pondered how my life would be changed by the presence of another dog. I promised myself that if Roxy came to live with me, I would resist the temptation to compare her to Sassie in any way. Roxy would be her own dog and have her own special place!

I remembered the circumstances under which I adopted Sassie. The lady who had her was very sick with diabetes and needed to place her dogs in good homes quickly. As a result of the abrupt adoption, Sassie spent the first month and a half wondering who I was, where she was living, and what the hell happened to her family. She didn’t eat very well and I believe she suffered a slight bit of depression. But after we bonded fully it was onward and upward, and happily ever after.

In order to mitigate this type of circumstance with Roxy, I asked Carol if it would be alright if we made the transition with Roxy more gradual. She thought it was a great idea. My first trip back to Lassie Land to get her was great. I was with Edi at the time, and we’ll never forget that first vision of Roxy bounding out of the house. No other dogs were around. She had just been bathed, and her coat was full and lush. It bounced in the breeze as she bounded down the stairs to greet us. The sight took our breath away, and we looked at each other and said, “WOW!”

The beautiful Roxy on a walk in the park

Is that the face of a happy dog or what?!

For the next several weeks I went up to Lassie Land to take Roxy out of her surroundings for an afternoon, and enjoy some time together in the park. We stopped at the KFC drive-thru and got lunch to go, then went to the park to eat and just walk around. I discovered that Roxy loved the Colonel as much as I did! It gave us a chance to work together on behaviors, get her familiar with the leash, and getting in and out of my car.

Are these the eyes of love? Or just a blatant plea for more KFC?

We continued this ritual for a few weeks, and Carol commented that she noticed an almost immediate change in Roxy’s demeanor. She wasn’t the erratic bundle of energy she normally was. Now that she had someone to pay attention only to her, she seemed more focused and at ease. The first time I brought her back home after our afternoon outing, something really funny happened. I took Roxy out of the car and brought her up to the front. Rocky and Bobby were there curiously popping their noses through the gate to see how Roxy was doing. Almost as if they were saying, “Where did you go? What did you do? What’s it like on the outside?” Unable to resist their beautiful faces, I bent down to pet their noses through the slats of the gate and talk to them. But then I felt two giant paws on my back. It was Roxy reminding me who was numero uno. Almost like a nervous prom date when the hot cheerleader walks by. “Ahem… remember me?” Then she got down and touched noses through the gate with Bobby and Rocky, and she snarled her lip upwards and growled softly. Almost as if to say, “He’s mine!” My friend Edi and I laughed about that all the way home.

It was soon agreed that I would take Roxy for weekend visits to my house for a period of a month or so before the adoption was permanent. It would allow her to familiarize herself with my surroundings, and it would allow me to identify any behavioral problems she may have at my house (like chewing, biting, fighting with the cat, wetting, etc.) Then I would report the progress to Carol so she could spend the in-between weekdays training her with basic behaviors and manners. After all, as great as Roxy was, she had spent the first two years of her life running completely free in Lassie Land. She wasn’t very used to city life, being on a leash, riding in a car, or having to mind her manners in large social situations.

The first picture of Roxy at Planet Wallywood! Sara tries to contain her so I can get a pic of her and Spook in the same general vicinity.

...just like she's always lived here!

Roxy gives Amanda one of her Collie hugs.

With each consecutive weekend Roxy became more and more comfortable in Planet Wallywood. In fact, the first time she got up on my bed to take a nap with me was nothing short of pants-wettingly hilarious. It was like a cat with catnip. She didn’t know what to do first. All she knew is that she wanted to be as close to me as possible. She started moaning like someone getting a massage from a very talented masseuse. She wriggled around on the bed, nuzzled, snuggled, rolled around, made more crazy noises and ended up flat on her back with her feet in the air. I had to re-enact the scenario for my friend Edi so she could see that my story was true.

And when exhaustion takes over...well...

Roxy started to enjoy all of the people that visited, though she didn’t have a good grasp of personal boundaries right away. While I enjoyed her spontaneous leaping hugs, they weren’t for everyone. So I started working with her to only do it on command, as opposed to doing it to every poor, unsuspecting soul who walked through my door. She also liked to get right in people’s faces. She loves people, animals…everything! She just didn’t know about personal space yet. But she’s learning.

Roxy's ready for another treat!

Roxy's very at home on the bed

She even likes her own bed quite a bit

Gnawing on a rawhide chewbone is the perfect way to relax

I also took great delight in taking her to the evening services at my church. It’s a casual service so people can bring their dogs if they like. It’s all good. At first Roxy was restless and unsure of where she was. She wouldn’t sit still, and she wouldn’t lie down on the floor. But as soon as I put her up next to me she settled down and remained there peacefully through the rest of the service. She just wanted to be up with me. Now after several weeks, the newness has worn off, and she’s an old pro at this churchin’ thing. In fact, she really loves it, because at the end everyone comes by to give her pets and attention. But taking her back to Lassie Land on Sunday evenings was getting more and more difficult for me. So the next move was to make it permanent.

During the costume fitting the day before Easter, Roxy gets in on the action. This photo is entitled "Jesus and His Faithful Dog."

At Rusty's Discount Pets on Easter Sunday, photographer Kathryn Segura captured Roxy with the Easter Bunny! CUTE!

Roxy gets acquainted with the neighborhood doggies...Gypsy, Ruby and Brutus.

Carol and I agreed that Roxy would make the switch-over late April. So I went to pick her up on Saturday April 28th for good. While Carol was sad to see her go, I assured her that it would be great for Roxy, (and me!) and she would only be 15 minutes up the road if she ever wanted to visit. Carol gave me a few pages of notes about the care and feeding of Roxy, and down the road we went. Roxy sat in the backseat quietly and comfortably. I thought about how much she had changed since I first met her. She used to be nervous and restless in the backseat of my car (probably expecting to soon be poked and prodded by the vet) but now she lays down and enjoys the trip like an old pro. (I'm sure she probably suspects there's chicky involved at the end of it all) Carol had done a tremendous amount of work with her in all sorts of behavioral areas. From getting in and out of the car, to riding in the car, to common manners, to the standard sit and lay down. I kept thinking that Roxy was the canine version of Eliza Doolittle. And Carol was Professor Henry Higgins! She had been cultured!

Rusty from Rusty's Discount Pets and Roxy relax together.

Our first stop off the freeway was KFC to get some celebratory chicky! Then it was off to Rusty's for a bath. Roxy seemed to like to find the dirtiest places to lay down at Lassie Land. She was a true dog of the land! When she was ready to go, I grabbed her poop scoop and walked walked over to Rusty's. She's always been very comfortable at my house during the weekends she visited. One of the first places she went was the bed in the Puppet Room. Only here a few hours and she's already staking her claim!

Roxy's first photo in Planet Wallywood as a permanent resident. "Hmmm...should I conquer the bed in the Puppet Room..."

"...or in the Master Bedroom?"

Roxy cuddles with my pal Bruce

Roxy is right at home with her rawhide chewbone locked between her paws!

While videoing Roxy relaxing, I discovered the most amazing thing!

Every day she does something to make me laugh, and we’re getting to know each other better all the time. Carol promised to get me a Lassie family tree so I can track Roxy’s ancestors down the line. Who knew that from that one dog back in 1943, so many great dogs would be sired? A friend joked that I now had the ultimate “collectible” in my collection…an actual descendant of a Hollywood movie star. But Roxy’s far more than that. In fact, to quote a Hollywood classic, “I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship!”

I "herd" it through the grapevine, that my dog Roxy could get some "sheep" thrills by running some sheep! It's true! Check out this video from the Drummond Ranch in Palmdale, CA!