When the Master and the Mistress later offer Bruce for service as a courier dog in France to rid the world of the Hun pestilence, the Master suddenly has second thoughts about his dog: "To think of him lying smashed and helpless, somewhere in No Man's Land, waiting for death, or caught by the enemy and eaten...! Or else to be captured and then cut up by some German vivisector-surgeon in the sacred interests of Science!"
Not even devotees of the dog game were exempt from Terhune's wrath. Woe to the breeder who foisted off a poor pup, or "purp," as Terhune wrote, on some innocent buyer. Woe, too, to fanciers who cared only to exhibit dogs at shows. Terhune was repelled by the anguish bull terriers underwent for shows "by the harsh rubbing of pipe clay into the tender skin. Sensitive tails, and still more sensitive ears were sandpapered, for the victims' greater beauty—and agony. Ear-interiors also were shaved close with safety razors." Even collies were hurt by "murderous little 'knife combs' " that transformed "natural furriness into painful and unnatural trimness. Ears were 'scrunched' until their wearers quivered with stark anguish—to impart the perfect tulip-shape; ordained by fashion for collies....
"Few of these ruthlessly 'prepared' dogs were personal pets. The bulk of them were 'kennel dogs'—dogs bred and raised after the formula for raising and breeding prize hogs or chickens, and with little more of the individual element in it.
"Brain, fidelity, devotion, the human side of a dog—these were totally ignored in the effort to breed the perfect physical animal.... The body was everything; the heart, the mind, the namelessly delightful quality of the master-raised dog—these were nothing. Such traits do not win prizes at a bench-show. Therefore fanciers, whose sole aim is to win ribbons and cups, do not bother to cultivate them." But for all this, Terhune was ready, willing and able to enter his own dogs at a show, provided the show was not too taxing. After all, showing dogs was "the straightest show on earth. Not an atom of graft in it, and seldom any profit." For four years Terhune served on the board of the American Kennel Club, the ruling body of dogdom.
When the Lad stories were done, Terhune looked around for a book publisher. John Macrae of Dutton offered to gamble on a book about Lad, and it was a success at once. Published in 1919, it went through 38 printings in 10 years. Lad has now sold so many copies the publisher has lost count. The same is true of any number of other Terhune books, some of which are still in print.
After Lad, Terhune went on to Bruce, Buff, Gray Dawn and a host of other canine do-gooders. One theme common to many stories is the dog as an instrument of salvation. Thus it is in the story, The Foul Fighter, with Champ, a collie adopted by Dan Rorke, a dirty fighter who wins by fouling. "That was how he made his living—by tactics his own dog would not stoop to." After seeing Champ fight clean against a mongrel, Rorke vows to do the same in his next bout. He does, and he wins. In the book, His Dog, Link Ferris finds a collie purp by the side of a road. Because of the dog, named Chum, Ferris gives up booze: "I stopped drinking because I got to seeing how much more of a beast I was than the fine clean dog that was living with me." With Chum's instincts for herding sheep and cattle, the sober Ferris pays off the mortgage on his farm, prospers and marries the beautiful Dorcas Chatham, daughter of the postmaster.
Ferris, incidentally, originally found Chum when the dog was tossed from a speeding car going around a curve. A curve in the road was one of Terhune's favorite plot devices. Screeching cars threw forth a veritable army of collies, babies, stolen goods and picnic hampers, all grist for stories. It so happened that The Place fronted, and still fronts, a wicked curve on Route 202, a fact impressed on Terhune himself, who was once struck there by a car doing 60. As a result of the accident, Terhune lost much of the use of his right hand, and he had to give up longhand for typing, a chore he disliked.
Another favorite device was to have two characters explain the whole background and point of the story in the opening dialogue. There are times where the leading character does this in a soliloquy to a dog, as in the novel Buff, where a maltreated purp is rescued by a man named Michael Trent. As Trent drives off with the dog, he says, "I'm an outcast, you know, Buff. An Ishmaelite. And I'm on my way back to my home-place to live things down. It'll be a tough job, Buff. All kinds of rotten times ahead. Want to face it with me?...Not to take up too much of your time, Buff, here's the main idea: I'd just got that farm of mine on a paying basis, and changed it from a liability to something like an asset, when the smash-up came. Just because I chose to play the fool. It was down at the Boone Lake store one night...." After Trent goes on for another two pages of dialogue and tells the dog about his being wrongly sentenced to prison, he pauses. Buff snuggles close and licks his hand. "Good little pal!" exclaims Trent as he heads home to attempt to clear his name. Does he succeed? Of course, and he wins the heroine, too, winsome Ruth Hammerton, daughter of the local judge—but none of this would have happened were it not for the collie Buff, who pursues his kidnaped master with all the eagerness of a man from a bill-collection agency. "Dizzy from his wound, faint from loss of blood, heart-broken and frantic at the vanishing of his master, the collie sped in pursuit...."
Faithful collies! Tireless collies! Psychic collies! They ever carry onward. "A dog is a dog, but a collie is—a collie." Some of what Terhune wrote is outdated or flimsy cardboard, but much still has a magic. He was perhaps at his best in some of his Lad stories or stories where collies revert to the wild, such as in Fox! and Lochinvar Bobby. The writing, at least for children, is highly effective, as in this passage from Fox! where Whitefoot, the registered silver fox escapes from the fur farm: ''Wriggling out of his tunnel, he shook himself daintily to rid his shimmering silver-flecked black coat of such dirt as clung to it. Then he glanced around him. From the nearby wire runs, twenty-three pairs of slitted topaz eyes flamed avidly at him. Twenty-three ebony bodies crouched moveless; the moon glinting on their silver stipples and snowy tailtips.
"The eyes of the world were on the fugitive. The nerves of his world were taut and vibrant with thrill at his escapade. But they were sportsmen in their own way, these twenty-three prisoners who looked on while their more skilled fellow won his way to liberty. Not a whine, not so much as a deep-drawn breath gave token of the excitement that was theirs. No yelping bark brought the partners out to investigate. These captives could help their comrade only by silence. And they gave him silence to a suffocating degree."