Readers of ST. NICHOLAS who are dog lovers and I
feel certain that you all must be will no doubt recall two stirring
stories written by Albert Payson Terhune, one of which appeared in
April, 1918, and the other in December, 1919.
a big, loyal collie dog was the hero of both these tales, one of
which, perhaps, as with me, made upon you a deeper impression than
the other. Does the title "One Minute Longer" bring it back to you?
There was Wolf and the Boy of the place, who loved his red gold and
white companion as much as the dog, in his mute, appealing way,
worshiped him. It tells of a hunting expedition, enjoyed by the dog
as much as by his inseparable friend the Boy. While trudging across
the frozen lake, the Boy suddenly steps into a gaping air hole. It
is needless to repeat all the incidents, but at the end when the
dog, bleeding and exhausted, leads the rescuers to the spot where
the Boy, half frozen, is mum bling as he clings to the crumbling
ice, "Heroism consists in hanging on one minute longer", something
queer and un comfortable seems to stick in your throat. "Gee whiz!"
you say to yourself as you close the magazine, "it must be great to
have a dog like that! Wonder if there was a real Wolf, or did Mr.
Terhune just make him up."
Later, you probably read the two books of Mr.
Terhune's, "Bruce" and "Lad a Dog," the latter a story of the father
Then you perhaps wondered again if there was really
a Wolf and a Bruce and a Lad, and if they really worshiped their
master as told in Mr. Terhune's stories. Of course, you realized
that all the thrilling parts of the various tales could not be true
but the lovely things, the bits of true dog devotion were they true?
And so if you thought these things, just as I must confess I did,
you may save yourself further perplexity by answering the questions
in the affirmative. Yes, there was a Lad and a Bruce, and there is
now a Wolf, who is loved and returns the love of his master just as
the story said he did. I know, for I have made the journey to
Sunnybank, Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, the home of Lad and Bruce
before they died, and the kingdom now of Wolf. I have seen the grave
where Lad lies buried, the cave under the piano where in his kingly
days he reigned supreme, just as Mr. Terhune related in the ST.
NICHOLAS stories; and what is more, I have had the cold nose of Wolf
tucked affectionately into the palm of my hand. For a morning, at
least, I have lived, it seems, within the very pages where
youngsters have existed many times in fond imagination.
However, I am getting ahead of my story. So to
begin at the beginning. As I swung through the wide-open gate and
down the zigzagging road to the house, a stone's throw from the
silver gleam of the lake, there was no question that I had really
reached the home of the Sunnybank collies. A chorus of ear-piercing
"yap, yaps," punctuated by an occasional youthful squeal, heralded
my coming. They apparently were not un-friendly barks, but merely of
warning. The collies were leaping about in their screened enclosure,
telling those in the house below that a stranger had entered the
gates. To their master they left unconditionally the decision as to
what sort of welcome I should receive.
so I came to Wolf's kingdom; for it is he who rules the clan now
that Bruce and Lad are no more. Then came the master. And here,
perhaps against his will, I must pause a moment to speak of the
author of these charming tales. The one word which describes Mr.
Terhune is "immense" immense in stature and in heart. He has a hand
shake that measures up to his size; and yet those vise like hands,
which had made me wince, turned immediately to pat tenderly the well
formed collie head that rested against his knee. His eyes were just
as kind as the caresses which he had been bestowing upon Wolf.
There are ten collies at Sunnybank now, Bob son of
Bruce, Wolf son of Lad, who are house dogs, and eight others who
live a less palatial existence in the kennels adjoining the house.
Hardly a day goes by that the diary of these frolicsome, four legged
companions is not crammed to the very margin with interesting
events. Perhaps it is a wild chase after Tippy, the dreamy eyed
Persian house cat, or maybe the arrival of a new family of fluffy,
clownish looking puppies. But be the event ever so humble, it is
never theless of great import to the Terhune house hold and to the
Sunnybank collies in particular.
Mr. Terhune is, naturally, not without his host of
admirers. Few and far between are the summer days that several
motoring parties do not whim through the open gate and draw up,
simply bubbling over with excited youngsters, in front of the
veranda. "Where is Laddie's cave?" "Show us where Lad is buried."
"Which dog is Wolf?"
The questions are fired like shots from a machine
gun, and Mr. Terhune would have to have at least a dozen tongues to
keep up with them. The great majority of Mr. Terhune's visitors are
those American boys and girls who have learned to love these story
dogs just as if they really knew them. Of the grown ups who find
their way along the lake shore to Sunnybank, there are few mere
curiosity seekers. Most of them are true dog lovers who have either
lost their own four footed companions or have dogs at home who have
earned as warm a place in their hearts as the Sunnybank collies have
in the affection of their master.
And also to Mr. Terhune's mail box every day come
many letters from little admirers some wanting to know if there
honestly is a "Wolf"; others asking for pictures of the great dog.
Though these letters average a hundred a week, he has answered every
one of them that is, all but two which blew out of his automobile
one day. He was unable to find them and has always had a guilty
feeling in his heart about the incident.
"There must be two youngsters in this big land of
ours who must think me the worst kind of a piker," he said, as he
stroked Wolf's straight, pointed nose. "But it could n't be helped.
Along came the wind, out went the letters, and that 's all there was
You might guess that a man who writes with as much
feeling as Mr. Terhune does about dumb animals would be a lover of
children. If so, you have guessed correctly. But in Mr. Terhune's
case it is like our rel-atives "who are thrust upon us," as some one
has said he can not get away from the young folks even if he would;
for hundreds of them have made, and will continue to make, their
pilgrimage to the lakeside home of the Sunnybank collies. Yet he and
the dogs are always glad to see them, and there is always a
welcoming handshake from the master and a sniff of approval from the
all the praise Mr. Terhune receives about his stories and dogs (and
he is far prouder of the latter), he cherishes most the kindly words
"I'd rather get a letter of praise from a youngster
than from all the grown ups in the world!" he exclaimed, as he laid
down a packet of letters which he had just received; "When they say
that they love Wolf, they speak from the depths of their hearts.
They are not ashamed to admit their fondness even for so vague a
thing as the dog character of a story. And it is their sincerity,
their childish enthusiasm, which makes me so proud and happy in
Many of the reminiscences which Mr. Ter-hune
brought to mind were of children. For instance, and he smiled
broadly as his mind went back in retrospect to the occasion, there
are the youngsters who want to see with their own eyes and touch
with their own hands every spot and object of which they have read
in the dog-stories. The spot on the piazza where so and so happened
to Lad, and the rug where Bruce as a puppy curled up and went to
sleep, and so on and so on. Often Mr. Terhune is nearly stumped, for
the youngsters have learned these trivial details by heart and
evidently begin to doubt the genuineness of the tales if he fails to
One day last summer, a little shaver came tramping
down the dusty roadway, whistling merrily. He rang the bell, and,
upon Mr. Terhune's appearance, graphically described himself as "the
one who wrote him about his dog stories in ST. NICHOLAS." Of course,
the mailman had brought Mr. Terhune about ninety nine other letters
from boys and girls that very week; but in this little fellow's
mind, his description of himself seemed quite sufficient. For had
n't he scrawled his letter all by himself, and had n't he told Mr.
Terhune in simple, but heartfelt, words how much he should like to
have a really truly meat and bone dog like Wolf to play with?
But the simple introduction was all that Mr.
Terhune desired. What matter if this little fellow were Pete or Jim
or Charlie? He was a lover of the Sunnybank collies and he should
have his reward.
Mr. Terhune related another interesting tale about
Wolf. Two boys about fourteen years old were the visitors on this
occasion. So anxious were they to pat and fondle the dogs which they
had heard and read so much about, that they let their affection
become a bit rough for Wolf's nervous collie temperament. He emitted
a deep growl of warning. Of course he did not mind having his ears
pulled by some toddling youngster who knew no better, but by a full
grown youngster well, that was stretching his good nature a bit too
far. Almost a month later, Mr. Terhune was
waiting in his automobile at the railroad station
when Wolf suddenly reared himself in the back seat of the car and
began snarling angrily. Another car had just passed by, and in it
you have guessed were the two boys who had maltreated him.
Not by sight had Wolf recognized the little
offenders, but by scent. And this is all the more remarkable,
because he had been in contact with them for a very short time. But
they had not treated him with the kindliness of other children, and
he had put their scent among those which were odious to him; and in
his life such scents were few, for he was a lover of children, just
as they were of him. Thus as the unwelcome signal was carried to his
nostrils, he immediately recognized it as something he did not like.
And his growl of disapproval had been his answer. This is even more
strange when one considers tympany thousands and thousands of scents
which fill the air and earth.
On one occasion a little girl was the heroine and
Wolf was the hero of an exciting drama played on the veranda at
Sunnybank. Like the countless other tots who had come before her,
she was there for the sole purpose of becoming acquainted with the
son of the dog hero that her mother had so often read to her about.
Barely had her father turned his back, when a
strange thing happened. Just as if Wolf had been a prancing steed
and she a fairy princess, the girl clambered aboard the Ělog's back,
and with happy "giddaps," she began digging her tiny heels into his
soft flank. You can readily realize her father's horror when he
suddenly looked up and saw what was happening. More quickly than I
can write of it, he was out on the porch and had snatched his
daughter from the back of her strange steed. But this is the
peculiar thing, the thing which makes you love the dog for his
almost human action: ambling slowly over to his little rider, he
thrust his muzzle into her pink, chubby hand. And if a dog can
smile, then there most certainly was a broad grin on Wolf's face.
And besides the smile, there was a deep affection in the dog's soft
brown eyes. For Wolf knew, even though perhaps the frightened father
did not, that in what this little girl had done she had meant him no
harm, and, doglike, he had known it instinctively.
This tale led Mr. Terhune to a discourse on the
feeling which dogs, as a class, have for children. A collie will
never attack a very little child, Mr. Terhune declared, no matter
how badly he is maltreated, for he instinctively sees in this small,
helpless little creature (perhaps in his own mind he thinks of the
child as a puppy) a thing which he naturally should protect.
"It is just the same as with human beings," said
Mr. Terhune, by way of illustration. "If a three-year-old child
should hit you, you wouldn't strike back, would you? But if I
should, you 'd very soon do so, would n't you?"
I had to acknowledge that the example was an
excellent one; but when I measured Mr. Terhune's six feet and more
with my own five and some odd inches, I thought to myself that the
characters in his illustration might have been more wisely chosen.
In boyhood days, long before Mr. Terhune had ever
written his first dog story, he was a tireless reader of ST.
NICHOLAS. Particu-larly he loved the letters in the back of the
magazine, and he often hoped that some day he might read there a
com-munication from his own pen. One day he saw a pig eating a real
live pickerel, and he thought this would make an ex-cellent subject
for a story. But unfortunately, he couldn't spell "pickerel," and so
his great ambition had to b e restrained until a later day. At last,
years after, came the oppor-tunity to appear not in the LETTER-BOX
of ST. NICHOLAS, but in the story section, with one of his first dog
stories. One youngster who read the ST. NICHOLAS tale brought a copy
of the magazine all the way to Pompton Lakes to see if the line
drawing of Wolf was like the dog himself.
If Dawn and Bob and Wolf and the rest of the collie
band are not human beings, they come as near being so as dumb
animals can. Each year about the middle of December, the Terhune
family begins to think about returning to New York. A week or so
before the preparations are begun, the collies instinctively seem to
sense that something is wrong; they become nervous, and an unhappy
look steals into their eyes. What the explanation of it is, Mr.
Terhune can not say. Perhaps they catch smatterings of talk about
"New York" and "leaving Pompton Lakes." Who knows but what they
understand this much of the human tongue?
And a similar thing takes place in the spring-time,
only the dogs' eyes then are filled with dumb anticipation. Several
days before the family arrives, according to the keeper of the
kennels, the dogs become wild with excitement and there is no
restraining them. They are like children waiting for the curtain to
rise on their first theater party. There are little yelps of delight
from the younger dogs, and much wagging of tails and jumping about
by the older ones. Somehow they have learned that the folks they
love are soon to be with them again.
during the winter, Mr. and Mrs. Terhune make weekend visits to
Sunnybank and each time, before their arrival, their visit is the
signal for a day of rejoicing among the dogs. This Mr. Terhune can
more readily account for; as the fires in the house are lit a day or
so before their coming, and Mr. Terhune believes that the collies
know that smoke curling from the chimney and a warm feeling in the
deserted house is a signal that the master is returning.
Farewell between dogs and master is always a sad
time, for, of course, the collies can not be taken to the city, but
must be left where they can have the freedom that is just as vital
to their existence as sleep or food is to you or me. There is one of
the dogs which it is I can not recall which for half an hour after
the automobile has disappeared in the distance, will lie down and
moan like a child.
During the war the Sunnybank collies were far from
being slackers. There was not a single one among them who did not
earn, by his own efforts, at least one Liberty Bond, and some of
them gave substantial contributions to the Red Cross. Lad, in fact,
lies sleeping beneath the green earth with the honorary Red Cross
fastened about his noble neck. These funds were chiefly raised from
cash prizes which the dogs won at shows and from the sale of many
One of the oddest stories which Mr. Terhune told
was of the two collies Lad and Bruce, who were to pose for their
photographs. The plan apparently, did not appeal to them, and
despite the coaxing of the photographer, they simply wouldn't face
the camera. Each time the photographer jumped nimbly in front of
them they promptly turned their backs before they could be snapped.
Mr. Terhune at last came to the rescue, and taking the head of a dog
under each arm, he pointed their faces directly toward the camera's
eye. But the dogs were not to be outwitted, at least to their way of
thinking, and when the films were developed it was discovered that
both had their eyes tightly closed. Like the ostrich who buries his
head in the sand and thus believes that he can not be seen by the
approaching hunters, these dogs evidently believed that if they
could not see the camera, it, of course, could not see them.
I did not have to spend many moments at Sunnybank
farm to learn how deeply these collies love their master and what
implicit faith they have in his kindly treatment of them. Standing
in front of Bob, Mr. Terhune made a quick move, bringing his foot
within an inch of the dog's eyes, but Bob never stirred. Raising his
hand, he made another motion, as if to strike him upon the head not
an eyelash trembled. Instead, there was confidence that was almost
human shining in the wistful eyes. Bob knew that in all his life the
master of the house had never struck him, and that he would not do
As I stood on the veranda making my farewells, Wolf
walked up beside me and pushed his moist nose between my fingers. I
thought as I stood there, that here was Wolf, son of Lad, whose name
is almost sacred in the hearts of the youngsters who have learned to
love him, honoring with his friendship a poor dog-lover who at best
could only write a few heartfelt words of appreciation about him.
Soon our automobile had swung around the house and
past the kennels. Several collies were peering from behind the wire
of their enclosure. Perhaps they knew instinctively that I was going
to write about them and that it wouldn't be dog etiquette to bark at
me. As the driveway rounded into the main highway I glanced back and
saw them still looking after me. Trees hid the road and blue specks
of water gleamed through the thin November foliage. A hundred yards
more, and Sunnybank and its famous collies had faded into memory.