When I was a young girl I would stay with my grandparents while my Mother was working. With the beach at the end of the street, Summers were always fun, there was swimming, exploring the beach and collecting sea glass with the other neighborhood kids. But in the cold New England Winters there was less to do, less to entertain children. And while there was always television, this was back when families only had one TV, a limited number of channels, and a ten year old was not usually interested in watching soap operas with Grandma. On one of those days a random act had a profound impact on my life.
Searching for entertainment, an old, worn book cover caught my eye. I pulled it off the shelf, recognizing it as one of my Uncle Fran’s books, which he had left behind many years ago. I immediately knew it was his because it had a collie on the cover. From my earliest memories of my Uncle, every time he would visit with his children, he would have at least one collie by his side. The book was about a collie named Lad.
I still remember reading that book for the first time. I fell in love with the beautiful, heroic collie named Lad. I had always loved the Lassie movies, which were usually shown on Sunday afternoons, along with the old black and white Shirley Temple and Tarzan movies. But when I discovered Albert Payton Terhune’s books about his collies, I knew I had to have my own collie one day. Those books weren’t works of fiction to me, I believed every story about his amazing dogs. The collies were real, he wrote about his own beloved Sunnybank Collies, and some of the stories actually did happen. Some of the stories were slight fictionalizations, some were true stories about other dogs incorporated into his books, and some were pure fiction. But at the time, I believed every word, and vowed I would have a collie to love.
When I was little, all of my Uncle’s collies were rough coated. It wasn’t until the late 1980’s that he got his first smooth collie. I didn’t like the way the smooths looked at first, they were so different in appearance from the famous Lad and Lassie, and my Uncle’s other collies. It took a while, but since they had the same great collie temperaments as the rough coated variety, they soon won me over. They didn’t resemble the collies that graced the pages of Terhune’s books, in fact he never mentions smooths in any of his stories. But if you look into their eyes, you can see that smooths are just as devoted and loving as any collie found in the pages of a book.
So when my daughter and I finally got our first collie twenty years ago, he ended up being a sable and white smooth collie, and of course we named him Lad. He may not have had the beautiful, majestic coat like Sunnybank Lad, and during his lifetime he may not have performed any of the heroic acts found on the pages of Terhune’s books, but he was perfect in our eyes. Our Lad taught us just how amazing life with a collie truly was and how much joy this wonderful dog breed elicits in the hearts of their families.
There have been many collies in our family, each beautiful and unique, and their stories can be found in past and future posts on our blog. I may not have the talent to write entire books about my collies, but I can share them here, with you. They are all loved and every day with them is treasured, and my life with collies started with the opening of a book.