Lad: A Dog


By: Albert Payson Terhune

This will be revisited at some point, but it came up as a GoodReads recommendation, and I wanted to share my memory of this book.

I read my pop’s old paperback copy of this, and encountered my first (traumatizing) experience with old paperback book-binding glue. It was tragic. I was 9, and not at fault, but since my father loved this book, I got chewed out thoroughly for the pages that were falling out like leaves from an autumn tree, regardless of how lovingly and reverently I treated this copy.

Sadness aside, I have mixed memories of this book, some sad (as Lad drags himself across the snow unerringly), some happy (he was a wonderful family dog), and some adorable (him mouthing the lady’s foot).

This is a book for dog lovers, written by a dog lover. Flat out. And I loved it. Even the sad bits (which I generally hate, but always stand out so strongly for me in retrospect).

I had sung the praises of Rin Tin Tin to my pop, and read many Jim Kjelgaard (why does my spell check want to change this name, when I memorized the spelling to better peruse his works in our various library card catalogues?) doggie stories which I enjoyed, wanting each of the breeds written on, and at this point added English Collie to this list. My sweet father who knew that I was so like him, let me borrow his ancient paperback copy that he had enjoyed as a boy himself.

We knew each other as if I were cut from the same cloth he had been. And I appreciated that about him. So when I read this story, I knew that I would enjoy it just as he had. And I did. Until I returned the book, and the pages were beginning to slip free. I felt bad. He felt bad. It was a bad experience.

But even with that, I recall this book in the light of the love of a good dog.

Years later, when I wound up with a rescued Collie whom I named ‘Prince’ (his real name, turned out when his delinquent owner showed up, was Cheeseballs) it was this story that came to mind as I brushed him for what was perhaps the first time in his life, loosening mats and burrs and scabs from old scars, telling myself stories of Lad and where all that came from as he trembled in my lap, unwilling to get off me. He was a culmination of my hopes and dreams and memories of this book, and too short with me.

But still, I have always dreamed of having a dog as loyal as this. This book is the ideal, the standard, the pinnacle all good dogs can be measured against. Lad is not just a dog, but a saint in canine form.

A story to be savoured, for sure. It has stood the test of time.

Also, you can check out and visit The Place, here. Real collies, real times, real places.

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