Sunnybank, Terhune's home, today
Albert Payson Terhune wrote books about dogs in the 1920s and 30s, and through his books he created a spark of love for dogs in general and for Collies in particular. Terhune also wrote lovingly of Sunnybank, the estate he shared with his wife and with Lad, Bruce, Grey Dawn, and all the other Collies he raised and trained. Today, he and his dogs are memorialized at the estate that is now a state literary monument attracting thousands of visitors each year.
Each year Collie fanciers gather at Terhunes Sunnybank Farm to pay tribute to Lad on his birthday and to raise money to support breed health research. The event carries special significance; it celebrates the dog who brought national fame to the breed and opened the eyes of thousands of children to the potential for a close relationship with a dog.
Lad was Terhunes first Collie. Born in 1902, he lived to a ripe old age of 16 and was immortalized in Lad, a Dog and several other books and stories published after his death. Heres how Terhune described the big dog who won his heart in Some Sunnybank Dogs, a chapter in "A Book of Famous Dogs: "
He was a big and incredibly powerful collie, with a massive coat of burnished mahogany-and-snow and with absurdly small forepaws (which he spent at least an hour a day in washing) and with deepset dark eyes that seemed to have a soul behind them. So much for the outer dog. For the inner: he had a heart that did not know the meaning of fear or disloyalty or of meanness.
Lad: "Thoroughbred in body and soul"
But it was his personality, apart from all these things, which madeand still makeshim so impossible to forget. As I have tried clumsily to bring out in my three books about him.
He was immeasurably more than a professionally loyal and heroic collie. He had the elfin sense of fun and the most humanlike reasoning powers I have found in any dog.
Terhune wrote with unabashed emotion and appreciation for each of the Sunnybank dogs. He praised their loyalty, playfulness, affection, bravery, intelligence, and character, leaving the reader with an understanding of each individual dog and the hope that one day, such a dog would come into his own life.
Almost 10 acres of Sunnybank remain
Sunnybank was Terhunes childhood home on the shores of Lake Pompton in New Jersey. The house and most of the land are gone, but nearly 10 acres, including the homesite and the graves of the dogs have been preserved. Those who visit the park often remark that they recognize each vista from the book, for Terhune wrote just as lovingly and completely about his home as he did about his dogs.
Some writers have described Terhune as a complex man with many faults, but his love for his dogs is clear probably never more so than in this passage: I wonder if it is heretical to believe that when at last my tired feet shall tread the Other Shore, a madly welcoming swirl of exultant collies the splendid Sunnybank dogs that have been my chums here will bound forward, circling and barking around me, to lead me Home!
Terhune died in 1942 at the age of 70. Lad, Bruce, Wolf, Fair Ellen, Treve, and all the other Sunnybank dogs live on in the pages of his books.
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