Friday, December 21, 2012

Albert P. Terhune wrote Lad, A Dog

Albert P. Terhune
It is the birthday of writer Albert P. Terhune (1872), whose collected stories about his collie resulted in the bestseller Lad, A Dog (1919). He was the world's most prolific writer of dog stories and a famed dog breeder. Terhune was a prolific writer. For 30 years, he wrote 11 hours a day, six days a week, producing many novels and articles, and more than 30 books about dogs. Terhune had written about people for 20 years before his first dog article sold.

Lad, A Dog was a collection of 12 stories loosely based on the life of his rough collie. Terhune always referred to Lad's home as the Place. Lad lived there with Master, Mistress, and Lady, his mate. In the stories, Lad was a classic hero, noble and strong, intelligent and loyal. He battled human and canine villains, rescued the helpless (both human and beast), and understood his owners and their needs. Lad, A Dog was adapted for a 1962 film starring Carroll O'Connor and Angela Cartwright. 

Terhune's kennels on his 44-acre estate, Sunnybank, in Wayne, New Jersey, became the most famous collie kennels in the country. The dogs that Terhune raised there became fodder for his extensive writing on dogs.

Terhune once wrote of Blind Fair Ellen, a golden collie who was born blind, in a story that appeared in The Baltimore Sun Magazine and later was reprinted in Reader's Digest. All dogs are born with their eyes closed, Terhune wrote, but Fair Ellen's remained closed after the other pups in her litter opened their eyes. When her eyes finally opened, vets discovered the optic nerves were dead. "I loaded my pistol to put her out of her misery," wrote Terhune. His wife stopped him, reminding him that the little puppy had no misery to be put out of.

Indeed, she was the liveliest pup in the litter. Although at first she collided with the food dish and various other objects in the play yard, she quickly learned their location and never ran into them again. Blind Fair Ellen produced several litters, and none of her puppies were blind. She died peacefully in her sleep at age 12.

Terhune was  reporter for The Evening World (which later became the New York World-Telegram). He had written 18 novels in various genres before the Lad book. Ray Long, the editor at The Red Book Magazine (later Redbook), was visiting one day and Lad, who was usually standoffish, rested his head on Long's knee.  Long jokingly suggested that Terhune write a story about Lad. Terhune thought that was a splendid idea. In fact, he had been trying to figure out how to sell the idea of dog stories to magazines for several years.

After the first story appeared in The Red Book Magazine, other magazines wanted stories, too. Terhune wrote for Saturday Evening Post, Ladies' Home Journal, the Atlantic Monthly, the Hartford Courant, and other publications. The articles later were collected as a book, which became a bestseller. It appeared a year after the real-life Lad died. Two sequels about Lad followed.

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