SASSY, a 3-year-old Shetland sheepdog, is more of a retriever than a sheepdog, says her owner, Andy Smith of Parkville, who will be ''18 in December.''
Sassy, he says, will fetch anything. ''She'll go after balls, socks, papers and anything anyone will throw, and she doesn't want to quit,'' he says.
And, with a family of eight, Sassy has a sizable fetching job. Andy's parents, Sandy and Steve (he's a computer analyst with the City's Department of Education) have one daughter -- Heidi, 20 -- and four sons: Scott, 12; Jeremy, 15; Gregory, 16, and Andy. And the family has just welcomed a foster child, Jamie, 5, who came to them through Catholic Charities.
Sandy says the family had discussed taking a baby for some time and ''Jamie had a need for us. So we welcomed a little stranger . . . If there is one message we want to give our children before they leave our house, it is to share love and to always take the time to give back.
''Also,'' she says cheerfully, ''we were ready for Jamie -- with a big family, a dog, an aquarium -- and we still have the sheets with dinosaurs on them.''
As an animal advocate who's especially interested in dogs, Andy once planned on being a veterinarian before he became interested in medical school. He got Sassy from a breeder almost three years ago.
''I chose a Sheltie because of their incredible intelligence,'' he says, explaining that at the Parkville Recreation Center, where he had obedience trained a Labrador retriever named Samson, which the family once owned, he had watched the Shelties work and knew then that someday he would own one.
Sassy was trained at the center's obedience classes and while she is obedient, excellent at fetching, a good sleeping companion, jogger and camper with her owner, she has also been a valuable asset for school work.
''At school we must choose and do a community service in order to graduate from Loyola and I chose Pets on Wheels for Sassy and me. We visit residents at the Belair Convalesarium every Saturday or Sunday and Sassy is so gentle and great as a visitor.
"When I see how happy she makes [the residents] -- and some of those people don't ever have visitors -- I'm sure I'll never give up visiting," Andy says.
''I've enjoyed Sassy since she was 8 weeks old and I enjoy giving her to [the residents] to enjoy for an afternoon. I know that if couldn't have a pet I wouldn't like it,'' he says.
Andy, a senior at Loyola High School, is making plans for medical school. An excellent student, he was given the headmaster's scholarship to Loyola.
He is captain of the varsity wrestling team and in his fourth year on the varsity team. All his brothers wrestle and their mother complains that none of them will eat for fear of gaining weight.
The family also helps feed the needy. Sandy says the children "help pick up and deliver casseroles for Our Daily Bread'' and since 1981, the family is one of many belonging to the St. Thomas More parish who make casseroles to be picked up and taken to the food kitchen each week.
Andy is industrious as well as kind. When he was 9, he and his brothers and sister had three newspaper delivery routes. ''That doesn't exist now. I've worked in an animal hospital, as a dishwasher and I just quit as a bus boy for wrestling season,'' he says, patting his Sheltie. ''We love to run in the woods.''