An Interview With Ace Collins
by Charlene Molnar
Almost Home has strict guidelines we follow in the adoption of our dogs and take the process very seriously, as most of you reading this know. Our special needs dogs are especially dear to us and normally we adopt them to families close to our base in Columbus.
Every now and then rules were made to be broken. The adoption of Sammy, our blind Collie rescued from a puppy mill breeder in Missouri was one of those times. It began with a simple email from Ace telling us that he wished Sammy well, and ended up with Sammy finding the best forever home we could have imagined.
We interviewed Ace to find out his thoughts on adopting a special needs dog and his feelings about the process. Please enjoy and consider adopting a special needs dog or a senior dog into your home and family.
Note: Ace keeps a blog about his experiences with adopting a blind dog into the family. You can follow along at Lessons Taught by Sammy.
Q. How did you find out about Sammy and Almost Home?
While I have had other breeds of dogs as well, collies have been the dogs that have spanned my entire life. Collies literally raised our kids. You couple that to my having written two books with the Lassie franchise and it was natural for me to seek out sites on the breed on the web. Thus I found Almost Home’s page on Facebook and spotted Sammy there.
Q. What made you decide to adopt Sammy and adopt from Almost Home?
As I watched dogs being adopted on Almost Home’s page, I was shocked when Sammy was passed over. He had a dynamic look and a certain charm about him. Yet it became obvious that most who saw him must have been scared of taking in a blind animal. I had a very good friend who went blind and I have also worked with and known many blind people, so I began to wonder if we could bring Sammy into our family of another collie and three cats. As the months went by and no one adopted him, we decided we had to.
Q. What did you think of the adoption process you went thru with AH? How was your experience?
The AH adoption experience was smooth and relatively easy. I like the fact AH checked us out to make sure we would be a good home for Sammy. Our contact with the foster family assured us we could do this.
Q. How did you get Sammy to your home?
That was the challenge from Day One. We lived in Arkansas and Sammy was being fostered in Michigan. What make it easier was that I was speaking in Illinois and Grace, the foster mother for Sammy, drove the six hours to where I was speaking to bring Sammy to me. At that point Sammy and I drove the ten hours back to our home in Arkadelphia.
Q. What were your feelings and thoughts in the days leading up to meeting Sammy?
I was both excited and apprehensive. We have a tree-covered backyard and a two-story home. I wondered how a blind dog would function in this environment. I also thought about transitioning him from a foster family where he was dearly loved and who had experience with blind dogs to ours. I didn’t want him to feel abandoned or betrayed.
Q. What kind of support did you get from AH during that time?
Once again, the support of having Grace share with me what Sammy ate, his schedule, how to talk to him, what he liked and didn’t like was a huge help. She even furnished videos that showed him in action. Thus I felt like I knew him well before I even met him.
Q. What was your first impression when you actually saw Sammy face to face?
My first thoughts were that he was one of the most beautiful dogs I had ever seen. He was a big teddy bear and my wife and I instantly fell in love with him. I was sure at this point we were doing the right thing.
Q. Why did you consider a “special needs” dog?
We wanted to rescue a dog that no one else would. We also felt that Sammy could teach us a great deal through the way he adapted in life. Kathy, my wife, who teaches education at Ouachita Baptist University, sensed Sammy could even give her insights in how to teach her education students techniques to deal with special needs children. And he has done all that and more.
Q. What have you been surprised at in taking on a blind dog?
Within a day or two he mapped out our house and our yard, and as well he has learned to fearlessly navigate our steep steps. His ability to adapt is amazing. I soon discovered that except for a few minor issues, there was nothing different about having a blind dog as per having one that was sighted.
Q. What would you tell anyone who was considering adopting a dog with special needs?
In my mind this is one of the greatest experiences I have known. Sammy is also the happiest dog I have ever seen. Our friends have bonded with him and have become huge Sammy fans. If they are good with training sighted dogs, having a blind dog should be no problem at all.
Q. What have you learned about rescues and about AH as a rescue?
Our cats are all rescue animals, in fact way back in 1941 the first Lassie was dog rescued by the Weatherwax family, so I am very familiar with rescue animals in many different ways. What never ceases to amaze me is the way these animals love you back. They seem to know that you cared enough to reach out to them. Thus their loyalty is one of the most humbling and rewarding things I have ever experienced. As he sits here by my desk as I work, I can’t imagine life without Sammy.