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A.D.O.P.T. volunteer shares home, love, spare time with foster dogs, cats

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Naperville TribLocal
Linda Kane
October 14, 2011
Singletary, a border collie-terrier mix puppy, is one of nine puppies fostered by Naperville native Colleen Collins. Singletary and many other lovable dogs and puppies are available at A.D.O.P.T. Pet Shelter for “Adopt-a-Shelter Dog” month (photo by C. Collins).

If Ernest Hemingway, American author, believed that “one cat just leads to another,” what would he say about the cat’s rival, the DOG?

Hemingway is no longer available to provide the answer, but Naperville native Colleen Collins may have some thoughts of her own on the subject.

Collins, who says she has always loved animals and once considered a career as a veterinarian, is currently the foster mom for nine (yes, 9!) puppies. And that’s in addition to her own four dogs and one cat….AND a full-time job.

Do the math. That’s 14 animals, previously 15 when Sheepie (aka Sheba), the mama dog, still resided at the Collins’ home, a two-story, three-bedroom house with a full basement and fenced-in back yard.

Collins, an Animals Deserving of Proper Treatment (A.D.O.P.T.) foster parent since 2008, said “it was the least I [could] do,” when fellow volunteer Laura Vivas recently contacted her about fostering the nine pups and their mom for approximately seven weeks.

The pups, all named for current and former Chicago Bears players, can be adopted at eight weeks of age, “which is next week [the week of Oct. 16],” Collins said.

All of this comes at the perfect time as October is National “Adopt-a-Shelter Dog” month.

“Honestly, I don’t know why anybody would ever go to a pet store to buy a dog; it just doesn’t make sense,” Collins said. “[Pet store dogs] are puppy mill dogs. They usually end up having a lot of health problems.

“When you go to a shelter, everything is taken care of. A vet has checked them out, they’ve been spayed/neutered, and they’re up-to-date with their vaccinations. [All of this] for between $225-250. You can’t get a surgery for that price usually.”

Collins added that you can find the same types of dogs at shelters if you’re patient. “You can find that little maltese or that little poodle, a lab, or whatever you’re [looking for],” she said.

Collins, who also volunteers at the shelter as a receptionist and adoption counselor, says people’s reactions often surprise her.

“I think people still [believe the] stereotype that shelter dogs are discarded, abused, damaged animals,” said Collins who adopted several of her own animals from shelters. “You can get perfectly happy, healthy puppies and adults [from a shelter].”

Collins’s love for both dogs and cats began during childhood as her family owned poodles, one of which the family acquired from A.D.O.P.T. In seventh grade, Collins’ shadowed a veterinarian at Naperville’s Boulder Terrace Animal Hospital for Career Shadow Day. Later, that same animal clinic would provide Collins with her first job.

In addition, Collins says she worked at Naperville Animal Hospital during high school.

At approximately 16, Collins volunteered at Naperville Humane Society where she cleaned the cat cages and litter boxes.

During college, she worked for a veterinarian.

Years after finishing college, Collins found her way back to A.D.O.P.T. where on Tuesday evenings, she cleaned dog kennels and on Saturday mornings answered phones and greeted shelter visitors.

The world of fostering first opened to Collins near Christmastime 2008 when Vivas contacted her about a cute little Chihuahua-mix named Tiny Tim (aka Timmy).

“I was considering adopting [Timmy], and then he hurt his knee and had knee surgery,” Collins said. Vivas contacted me, saying, ‘Well, why don’t you foster [Timmy] while he’s recovering from knee surgery?’ I think she knew what was going to happen, so I ended up keeping him. That was my first experience [with fostering].”

Today, Timmy and fellow canine friends Hailey, Rex and Sweetie along with 17-year-old feline Booboo join Collins as she regularly welcomes a continuous stream of fosters.

Collins estimates than since Timmy, the “failed foster,” she has taken in some 30 or more foster animals, including a litter of kittens and the current nine puppies.

“I think I’ll probably always foster,” Collins said. “I have the time and space. Why can’t I do this? It’s something I like. Even if I couldn’t foster, I would still volunteer and do everything I could to get these little guys adopted.”

So, what would Collins think about Ernest Hemingway’s famous line? She’d probably agree… maybe with one slight variation: “One foster just leads to another.”

Celebrate National “Adopt-a-Shelter Dog” month by visiting the shelter, 420 Industrial Drive, Naperville, or its website, www.adoptpetshelter.org. Click on “Adoptions” to view dogs (and cats) needing good homes.

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