by Albert Payson Terhune
This was a favorite of mine many years ago, and it hasn\’t lost much by its age. I didn\’t realize back then, but it\’s based on some true stories about the author\’s dog, a purebred collie. I might be biased due to nostalgia, but I thought the stories really well-told, with great characters some noble and sensible, other foolish or rough around the edges. Lad the collie dog has pretty much free run of a large estate on the edge of a lake. He pays close attention to his master\’s commands and has his duties as guard dog, but also a sense of mischief and likes to chase squirrels. Suffers the attention visitors give him (because he\’s so beautiful) only because his master orders him too, attacks tresspassers without pause, and loves little children no matter how much they mishandle him. He\’s just an overall fantastic dog. Well, some of the stories seem rather over the top- the dog is just a bit too perfect- even when he\’s accused of some wrongdoing it always turns out to be a mistake- but I greatly enjoyed them regardless. Lad shows his intelligence, grit and sense of honor at every turn. Among the adventures he is taken to a dog show (and hates it), gets lost in the city and finds his way home again, saves a crippled child from a snake, rescues a puppy from drowning, rounds up a visitor\’s straying sheep without any training (but then doesn\’t know what to do with them), defends a stranger from a bull at a livestock show, and in the end (getting old) has to defend himself against other dogs on the estate who suddenly decide to overthrow his dominance.
There\’s more detail and complexity to these stories than you might expect, quite a few have surprising turns and are just as much about the people Lad adores and serves, as they are about the dog himself. It\’s really a glimpse into the past. Looking at other views on Goodreads reminded me how some of the attitudes in this book will be problematic to modern readers- especially children- the dogs often bite people (\”slashed to the bone\” is a common phrase), and are beaten by their loving masters to teach them. Although the author gives them limitations, they still understand more than is really possible, (though it doesn\’t go so far as to make them speak). The attitudes towards uneducated people, those of lower economic standing, and women, is less than stellar. Any child younger than five is referred to as a Baby. It\’s pretty obvious what the author\’s attitude about certain aspects of \”modern life\” in the early 1900\’s was! And yet, I was glad to read it again. It\’s that nostalgia. I\’m glad I knew this book as a kid. I wonder if I\’ll like Terhune\’s other books that I never read before, as much? Going to find out at some point, I acquired several off Project Gutenburg for my e-reader.
Rating: 4/5 286 pages, 1919
more opinions: Semicolon
One more thought as I mused over this book more- how Lad was often referred to as \”vain\” because he always licked clean his dainty white paws. I bet the actual dog Lad did lick his paws all the time, but it was probably an obsessive behavior (lots of dogs lick a body part repetitively, to the point of getting sores) rather than the dog wanting to stay clean and pretty! Ha. Also, I found a page that has photos of the author and his dogs: https://web.archive.org/web/20190314103936/http://www.sunnybankcollies.us/collies.htm