Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Collies of the past...

Collies have a rich history, and even though they are not as popular as they once were, they have devoted fans.  Whenever I take my collies for a walk around our neighborhood, or a hike in the woods, people often stop me.  They want to say hello to my collies, and they want to share stories of their childhoods, when they had a collie of their own.


With the Lassie movies and television show so popular in the 1940’s – 1970’s, generation after generation of people fell in love with collies.  But even before Lassie started winning hearts, people discovered this wonderful breed through the writings of Albert Payson Terhune.  His first book, “Lad: A Dog” was published in 1919.  He wrote over thirty additional books about his beloved collies.

Lad and Bruce

Terhune lived in New Jersey, and his home was called Sunnybank.  His kennel, also called Sunnybank, produced many collies.  And  these collies, the Sunnybank Collies, were the subjects of his stories.  People would travel from all over to visit Sunnybank and the beloved collies.  He was a man who valued his privacy, and while many people were turned away, a lucky few were invited to tour his kennels and property.  His stories, though mainly fictional, were about the humorous, and often heroic exploits of his collies.  Some of his stories were real.  Terhune’s collie, Wolf, really was killed by a train while saving another dog.

Albert Payson Terhune and some of his Sunnybank collies

Terhune with Chaeroplane leaping, and Gray Dawn on the left

Terhune with Bruce, Wolf and Lad

Sunnybank, or “The Place,” as Terhune called it, was 40 acres of mainly wooded property, bordering a lake.  After the death of Terhune and his wife, the property was sold off in pieces.  The main 10 acres, where the house and barn once stood, has been preserved.  The town of Wayne has turned those remaining ten acres into a park, and many of Terhune’s belongings are now on display at the local Pompton Lakes historical museum and in the Van Riper-Hoper museum. 

Abby on the banks of Sunnybank

At Sunnybank you won’t see the beautiful house, as that was neglected and eventually torn down, as was the barn.  And collies no longer live and play at Sunnybank, but they are not gone.  Every American collie line can be traced back to one or more of the Sunnybank collies.  And every summer something wonderful happens, it’s called “The Gathering.”  For one weekend every August, collie lovers and their collies gather together at Sunnybank.  For this weekend, collies can once again be seen playing and relaxing on the banks of Sunnybank. These are the descendants of the great Sunnybank collies of the past.  Collie breeders and fans can wander the grounds and visit the graves of all the famous collies.  There are lectures and auctions, and a collie puppy match. 

Sunnybank, during a puppy match

This upcoming weekend is The Gathering at Sunnybank.  We will be making the drive to join in the festivities with our puppy, Scarlett.  And while we are there, we will take Scarlett to visit the graves of her ancestors, Gray Dawn, Bruce and Thane.  Visiting “The Place”  is like stepping into the pages of one of Terhune’s books, and it is an experience all collie lovers should have at least once in their lives.  I do have to wonder though, with Terhune’s desire for privacy, how would he feel about all the strangers wandering around Sunnybank?  I think he would approve, because above all else, Terhune loved collies…

Abby, visiting the grave of her ancestor, Bruce

1 comment:

  1. Our wicklow collie died 4 weeks ago, we are lost and sad and devastated. The vet put her to sleep, we should have let her die herself