SI Vault
Robert H. Boyle
January 15, 1968
To the young readers of a few decades ago Albert Payson Terhune, a prolific writer, revealed collies as more than dogs. They were—well, they were collies
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January 15, 1968

Kind And Canny Canines

To the young readers of a few decades ago Albert Payson Terhune, a prolific writer, revealed collies as more than dogs. They were—well, they were collies

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Terhune always had doubts about his writing, stating at one point, "I found I could make more money as a scrawler of second-and third-rate stuff. While it is a noble thing to starve in a garret and to leave to posterity a few precious volumes which all folk praise and few read, yet to me there was something better worthwhile in grinding out work which brought me plenty of cash, if no high repute." In an even darker moment, he wrote, "I have become an Apostle of the Obvious, a writer for the Very Young."

In the 1930s Terhune discovered he had cancer. He bore the illness as would Bruce or Lad or Buff, stoically. Bruce Chapman, producer of Terhune's radio show, says that Terhune would tell the doctors, "Take out enough so I can be on the air next Sunday." Always close to his wife, his dear "chum," he loved their hours together at Sunnybank. "He was happy in the simple sense," says Chapman. On Feb. 18, 1942 Terhune died at The Place. A religious man, his last words to his wife were, "I know the Dear Savior will help me across."

The story of Albert Payson Terhune does not end there. Mrs. Terhune survived him for 22 years. A gentle, old-fashioned Victorian sort of lady, Anice Terhune continued to set her beloved Bert's place at the dinner table. For solace, she wrote music. She wore flowery hats, and she was upset by women in slacks. Before his death, Terhune had prepared rough notes for an article, Across the Line, in which he speculated on life in the hereafter and which he ended, "It is not ridiculous to believe—to KNOW—there is something very definite, Across the Line. It is ridiculous to believe there is not." The psychic had always held an interest for him. Indeed, he touches on this in a couple of stories, most notably Something, where a collie howls at his master's death far away.

Mrs. Terhune's loneliness did not last for long. According to a book she wrote and which she called Across the Line, Bert first manifested himself to her while she was searching for the pedigree papers for their dogs in his untidy study. "Bert's voice—dear and familiar—suddenly startled me. It came clear, distinct and natural." He told her where to find the missing papers. "'Look behind you, little girl!' he said. 'Look right behind you! They're all there! Everything! Look! Look right behind you! Turn around!' "

In time, she wrote, she was able to take dictation from her husband, a celestial being who, through electrical impulse, manipulated a pencil she held. He reported, "Laddie and Wolf knew me at once. It was so good to have them bounding around me again!" He still loved her and Sunnybank. He gave her advice on how to handle a mischievous dog. She once asked, "How about swearing? Do you still do it?" Terhune replied, "No, Annie; I no longer swear. I had to clean all of that out of my heart at once." When she asked Terhune about John the Baptist, she reported her husband replied, "He is here. In a droning, resounding voice he tells us the Eternal Truths." She then asked, "Why does he do it in a droning voice?" To which Terhune replied, "Because he is the same soul he was on earth."

In the old house by the lake the servants grew fewer, and in 1964 Mrs. Terhune died. Under wills set up by her husband and herself, the Albert Payson Terhune Foundation and Albert Payson Terhune, Inc. came into being. Terhune, Inc. earns money to give to the Terhune Foundation, which dispenses largess to charity. Sunnybank was sold to earn money. A housing developer ended up with the final 10 acres, including the house, kennels, barn and gazebo. A year ago Wayne Township condemned The Place. Weeds grew around the graves of Lad and Bruce, and vandals pillaged the house for souvenirs. Last October the township dedicated The Place as a park. The house stands, in need of repair. From time to time collie fanciers, dog lovers and people who remember the stories and books with affection drive in to look around. They come from all over the country, and one of them who lives nearby, Mrs. Claire Leishman, of Paramus, N.J., has started a drive to restore the house as a shrine. She has written about her efforts in the monthly Collie Cues, and the response has been excellent. One lady in California pledged $1,000, writing, "Everything I am and ever have been in collies is because of the Terhune books."

Apostle of the Obvious, writer to the Very Young, Albert Payson Terhune is still very much alive.

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