|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.”
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.
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?