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Lad: A Dog Paperback – July 1, 1993
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First published in 1919, Albert Payson Terhune's Lad: A Dog is actually a collection of immensely popular magazine stories. The hero is an extraordinary collie named Lad, "a thoroughbred in spirit as well as in blood." In each tale, Lad exhibits his pure strength of character as he fights off burglars, rescues an invalid child from a poisonous snake, wins ribbons in dog shows, and otherwise leads a dog-hero's life. This is a period piece--a threatened puppy is described, for example, as "a blinking pygmy who gallantly essayed to growl defiance"--and that touch of fustian is all part of Terhune's enduring charm. Because the stories didn't originally appear together, there's considerable repetition: nearly every story with a fight scene has the same authorial mini-lecture on the difference in fighting technique between collies and bulldogs. But Lad is a character who has poked his muzzle into a million hearts, and new generations of dog lovers will also appreciate his loyalty and courage. As Terhune himself wrote, "few... bothered to praise the stories, themselves. But all of them praised Lad, which pleased me far better." (Ages 6 and older) --Richard Farr
About the Author
Albert Payson Terhune was born in New Jersey in 1872. After receiving a bachelor of arts degree from Columbia University, he worked as a reporter for the Evening World from 1894 to 1914. Terhune was a breeder of collies and wrote a number of books based on his own dog Lad.
Sam Savitt was a renowned equine artist, the illustrator of more than 100 books, and a fine author in his own right. Several of his horse charts are considered authoritative works and have been used by the Smithsonian Institution. For a time he was the official illustrator of the United States Equestrian Team, and he was also a founding member of the American Academy of Equine Artists.
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This herding dog comes in 3 sizes and "rough" (long haired) and "smooth" (short haired) versions. The rough and smooth, I imagine, are the same in other characteristics, but the full size, Border, and miniature (Shetland sheepdog) have completely different "personalities", and it's the full size collie that is featured in literature.
The first full length book I ever read, at age 8, was Lassie Come-Home, and in adolescence I discovered the even older books by Albert Payson Terhune, dating from the time of World War I. Over time, I lived with three different collies, and one other dog, in real life - one collie was mine, the other two were my late sister's. Mr. Terhune knows a great deal about them, and I am quite sure his books are authentic renditions of what really happened in those far off days a century ago when Lad lived. In every person's life, there should be a special dog to love that person. For Mr. Terhune, it was Lad; for me, it was Samson, the second collie we had.
Compared to other dogs, collies are intelligent. Compared to humans, of course, they are rather stupid. But, they have ways of perceiving things that we don't. If a collie likes you, be assured, you're a good person. If he or she doesn't like you, you should worry about getting your life in order. How do they know? They just know. I fed and walked them, but they were not fooled: they knew my mother was the best person in the family and they adored her suitably, always greeting her first when we came home and curling up around her feet whenever she was in one place long enough (a great inconvenience for her, which she bore with long-suffering fortitude). Collies love children and tolerate most people; most of them are useless as watchdogs as a result. They have a powerful herding instinct; by contrast, the hunting instinct in most dogs has been practically bred out of them. Put one in an open outdoor space with several other animals (or children) and the dog will automatically round them up, whether it has been taught to herd or not.
Getting back to Mr. Terhune's book about Lad, it is a collection of short stories that I bought for my own children and reread myself after last seeing it as an adolescent. My favorite as a grownup is the dog show at Madison Square Garden, where the American Kennel Club (AKC) made the error of hiring as a judge a crabbed old Scotsman, Angus McGilead, who knew everything about collies but was not an "organization man". Ignoring the breed standards, which even in his time preferred an overly long snout and small eyes, a source of inbreeding and health problems in collies to this day, McGilead gave Lad first prize in the beginner's class, and then after discovering that one of the other handlers was cheating, Lad ended up as Best of Breed. The AKC fired the judge immediately. The bureaucratic infighting aspect is invisible to a child reading this story, but adds interest for an adult.
A minor objection to the book is that it's written for a much more literate audience than today's children; mine were unable to read it without help because of the sophisticated vocabulary and sentence structure. Books about pets are not common today, and they are not generally meant for adults. The Lad stories are suitable for children, but not as accessible as they could be. Whether that's because they were written for adults, or because today's educational system has been dumbed down so far that children are unable to read things their grandparents could have handled easily at the same age, I prefer not to speculate.
The edition I got from Amazon was a facsimile of the original with large, legible print that, were it not for its grown-up diction, would be perfect for children. I recommend this book, with slight reservations, for children in the age group from 8 to 12, as well as for adults who want to remember that One Special Dog that, in Terhune's words, graced their own lives for "a pitiful handful of years."
Terhune understood the collie personality and basic approach to life. He may not have been the best writer of his time, but the collie books kept me searching for his subject dog for over 60 years. It is a treat for me to have both Lad, A Dog and Laddy to share in may "declining years".
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