Thursday, February 11, 2016


Albert Payson Terhune & Lad
When I was a little girl, I galloped everywhere on my imaginary horses across the fields of my grandparents’ farm next door while leaping ditches and logs. I was going to have hundreds of horses on a ranch out west someday. While in this stage, I read every horse book in our small rather dark library at the rural school I went to. I read them not just once, but two or three times, until I discovered a book by Albert Payson Terhune, Lad, a Dog. And thus began my love of collies that’s never ended.

Albert Payson Terhune was born in 1872 in New Jersey. He graduated from Columbia University, and from 1894 to 1914, he worked as a reporter for The Evening World. His first wife died at age 23, nine months after they married and four days after giving birth to their daughter, Lorraine.  Eventually, he married again, and they never had children.

Terhune settled in the summer home of his childhood, Sunnybank in 1912 and made it his permanent residence. With his wife, he started raising and breeding rough collies. Sunnybank Kennels became the most famous collie kennels in the United States, and most collies today can trace their lineage back to these collies.

In addition to raising collies, he started writing stories about his dogs. He first published short stories about his collie, Lad, titled Lad Stories in various magazines like Red Book, Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal and The Atlantic Monthly. From short stories he started writing novels. The first book published about his dog in 1919, was Lad a Dog. The novel was a best seller in both adult and young adult markets, and has been reprinted over 80 times. It was made into a feature film in 1962.  In his lifetime, he wrote sixty books, mostly about his dogs.  He died in 1942, and today his estate, Sunnybank in Wayne, N.J. is maintained as Terhune Memorial Park. Someday, I want to visit it.

A man of his time, he is now criticized by some for his racist depictions of minorities, hill people, and so called half-breeds that peopled New Jersey less idealized than Sunnybank. I don’t remember that in the books I read, but then I was a child. All I remember is the beautiful place he wrote about and the collies making me a lifelong lover of these beautiful, intelligent, and loyal dogs. Terhune died in 1942 before I started reading his books. I still have a few of them.

Excerpts from the Stories of the great Sunnybank Collies, I found online under this title.

Sunnybank: “There are woods running down from the road – just woods. Not a dinky park. And a drive wound down through them, a furlong or so, to a gray old stucco house with dark woodwork and with wisteria all over it and a comfy green barn set back in the trees.”

“There was a glorious big collie asleep on the steps, and there were glowing flowers in tubs and boxes on the gray veranda, and flowers and vines everywhere and stretches of shade-dappled grass.”

“The lawn was on a kind of point that ran out into the lake; and all around the lake were soft green hills with bluish mountains beyond. They circled The Place as if they loved it and as if they were guarding it from harm.”

“And down to the left, close by the lake, there was a line of weeping willow trees. They were trailing their leaves into the blue water. Over the whole Place a strange light seemed to hover just then. Perhaps it was only the sunset. Or perhaps it was the blessing of God!”

Terhune adds, “I make no apologies for quoting this rhapsodic word picture. To me, it is Sunnybank, to the life.”
His Tombstone

Can you see why I fell in love with the place as well as the dogs, especially Lad? In this section  he also wrote: “Here, with the Mistress and the Master whose chum he was, dwelt Sunnybank Lad; glorious mahogany-and-snow collie, whose eyes had a Soul back of them. Here Lad lived out his sixteen years of staunch hero-life and of d’Artagnan-like adventure. Here he died, in the fullness of serene old age. Here he sleeps near the house he loved and guarded.”

My  younger sisters with Dusty taken with my Brownie camera

I finally got my first collie when I was sixteen. Dusty was a stray that showed up one day. Not a full collie but mostly collie. We roamed the fields and woods together. I had her until I got married, and then because I was living in an apartment and couldn’t have a dog, my parents gave her to a farmer. Throughout my married life I had more collies, almost all of them strays or ones the owner didn’t want anymore, but all were pure collies. After I moved to the small farm I have now, I didn’t have a collie until a little over ten years ago. I lived alone, was teaching full time and didn’t think it fair to have a dog.  But when I saw an ad in the paper for a free collie, I answered the ad and got a white collie. I only had her for a few months. While I was on vacation, she came down with encephalitis and died within a day or two.
Molly with me on our morning hike

By then I decided I wanted another Collie. They’re not easy to find anymore, but I finally located someone a distance north of me who had two puppies still available. That’s when I got Molly, a six-week old little ball of fluff I fell in love with. Molly lived until she was almost five years old, and then developed grand-mal seizures, and became paralyzed in the hind quarters. She’s buried in a garden near my home. I later learned a certain kind of heart worm pills should not be given to herding dog breeds. Maybe that’s what caused the problem.

Maggie in my garden

Next I got my adorable, beloved Maggie. She was eighteen months at the time, and I was told she didn’t show well because of various faults the breeder pointed out. It wasn’t long before I figured the biggest fault she had for someone who wanted to show dogs was she was timid. There is no way she would go prancing into a ring with head up looking happy about being surrounded by strangers and yapping, barking dogs. She’s come a long way since those days.  I also found out the day after I brought her home, when her previous owner called to see how she was doing, she’d been muted and that’s why she didn’t bark. My California daughter who paid half for her (thinking I needed a dog to protect me) told me to take her back and get my money back. I told her, “Mary, you paid half and I paid half. You own the back half and I own the front half, and I don’t care if she barks.” Well, she does bark. She just doesn’t have the shrill bark that most collies have, but I can hear her even if I’m in the house and she’s outside.  
My sixty-two pound shaggy, hugable, lovable Maggie
I have to open the gate to the sunroom now. I banished Maggie there because she wanted to join in the long distance phone conversation I was having with my sister Catherine. She’s telling me it’s time to come out now that I'm off the phone.

Have you ever read an Albert Payson Terhune book?

Do you have a favorite breed of dog?


  1. Give Maggie a pat for me; she’s a fine dog. I remember reading Old Yeller as a child. And more recently I read a wonderful book, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle in which dogs were a major feature. We are currently without dogs, but we’ve had a number of Golden Retrievers.

    ~ Jim

  2. Jim, she just came in to get a pat from you. I read Old Yeller and cried and cried over it. I read it again to my students and choked up over it. After that I seldom read any book where the animal died to my students except one about a loyal dog in Scotland who spent
    most of his days lying on the grave of his owner. I forget the name of the book although
    somewhere upstairs I still have it. It was supposed to be a true story. I also read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle shortly after it came out. Another powerful book.

    Golden Retrievers are lovely dogs. They are friendly and beautiful, too. I understand why you don't still have a dog with the traveling you and Jan do. If you ever pass through anywhere
    near where I live, you can get a little doggie love from her.

  3. Collies, like Irish setters, have become less popular, though they are wonderful family pets.

    I grew up with miniature poodles. We acquired our first standard poodle in 2001 and currently have two, one a five month old puppy who is tall enough to be a demon counter thief.

    They are intelligent and conniving, able to unzip soccer bags and open doors with lever handles. And just as cuddly as their smaller counterparts.

    I'll look for the collies in the dog show next week.

  4. That's lovely, and how awful to mute a dog! One of our neighbors has two collies, they are both fabulous dogs, well behaved, and very friendly. Funny that they aren't more available these days. They form a backdrop of the childhoods of all of us who remember Lassie.

    I lived not far from Wayne, NJ and read the Lad stories as a child. We knew him as a NJ writer, but I never heard of Sunnybank. My parents were always taking us here or there to visit historic sites, I wonder if it was open in those days, seems like it would have been too close to miss. If I ever get back that way...I'll be sure to stop in.


  5. Margaret, standard size poodles are majestic and beautiful dogs. I've always heard that poodles have are highly intelligent.Maggie's doggy treats are on a table next to where she
    sleeps at night, and although she could reach them if she tried, she never does. I wonder
    if one of your poodles is the instigator of what happens. When I was raising my children, our next door neighbor had an Irish setter, and a member in one of my book clubs has one. She loves him, but finds him highly annoying getting into mischief all the time.

    Kait, as I mentioned, Maggie can still bark. It's more of an "out, out" sound instead of the shrill collie bark. I certainly have no trouble hearing her. I think they're not as popular because people think they shed a lot and needs lots of grooming. However, they don't shed anymore than any other dog, and I don't brush Maggie more than once or twice a week, and those sessions don't last long, either, because she thinks it's a game of grab the brush. She loves having her belly rubbed and brushed, though.

  6. Gloria, I devoured Terhune's books as a youngster and have always loved collies. The first dog I remember was a collie mix and since then I've had several purebred rough collies. The last, a male, was timid and kept forgetting his house manner--I think he had been overbred for that narrow face. But the most magnificent dog I ever owned was a large mahogany male--the perfect gentleman. These days I'm a doodle dog owner--border collie/poodle mix.

  7. I had goldfish and turtles as pets as a child. The literature about those pets is minimal.

  8. I work at a park where people walk their dogs. If there is a pooch that I like, I go out to meet him or her. Annie the spaniel, Molly the basset, the Australian shepherds, and the pair of Rhodesian Ridge backs, are all great. The most popular breed in the park is the Rescue. I like them because there is so much variety. I've pretty much had Rescues my whole life.

  9. Judy, I think a border collie/poodle mix would be a nice mix. My youngest daughter just got a border collie, a dog the owner was willing to let her have because she thought the dog should no longer be used for breeding. She is very timid, but coming around for my daughter.

    Warren, I can't remember one book except Cat in the Hat that had goldfish in it. Not sure about turtles unless it was a nature book about reptiles and amphibians.

    KB, the only kind of dog I would never want is an aggressive dog. I've been at the vets where people have brought in dogs that wanted to attack other dogs, and one was a huge rothweiler that the woman had trouble controlling.

  10. When my kids were young, we had Newfoundlands. Wonderful children's dogs, very devoted and pretty much indestructible, no matter what little hands (and feet) tried to do. I remember coming home from work (I worked midnight-eight)one Christmas week, when no one else in the family had to go to work or school, and finding a huge, patient dog decorated with glued-on paper snowflakes and a few other ornaments.

    I think my most devoted dog was a Rottweiler. He obeyed commands instantly and unquestioningly.He did, however, have a suspicious nature, and didn't want people he didn't know to come into the house. Once we told him it was okay, he was fine, but I was always a bit nervous something would happen when we weren't around.

    We had a retired Seeing Eye dog, who was the closest thing to a "perfect" pet I ever saw, but since she was older when we adopted her, we didn't get to keep her for that long.

    Our last few dogs have been Rescues. We presently have a reddish-brown labradoodle. the size of a big standard poodle, and a Heinz 57, who is primarily some type of spitz, mixed with who knows what.

  11. KM, how funny about your decorated dog. I'll bet my Maggie would let kids do that to her, too.
    I know the dogs you have now, and they seemed very nice when I visited you. I'll probably be seeing them again this spring, unless I can find a ride with someone else from home, but it doesn't look like there will be one now.

  12. GLORIA: I was introduced to Mr. Terhune's books as a child, approximately 1968-69. My parents gave me a set of four Lad/Sunnybank books for Christmas. I read them all, and then exhausted our local library's supply of a few more.

    I read all these books again, as a teenager in the mid 1970's.

    And now, suddenly I discover online remarks and allegations that Mr. Terhune was a "racist". But despite diligent online searching, I am unable to find any information confirming or even suggesting this idea.

    Do you have any information regarding allegations that Mr. Terhune was a "racist"?

    Thank you.