When we read a good book about Collies we form pictures in our minds of what the dog looked like. Maybe these mental images are based on the book’s illustrations or on a movie made from the book or maybe based on a Collie we have known. These books below were actually inspired by old fashioned Collies, dogs that in some cases looked quite different from the illustrations or the movie Collies.
1. Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight
Eric Knight (1897 – 1943) was born and grew up in Yorkshire, England where he no doubt heard stories about and knew old fashioned Collie dogs. Yorkshire is in the far north of England near the Scottish border in an area where old fashioned Collies were still in common use in herding sheep at that time. The Border Collie was just starting out and gaining popularity then and had not completed its eventual takeover of shepherding duties in the UK.
Mr. Knight was a lifelong dog lover and had owned a number of dogs including Collies in Pennsylvania before selling all but one little Terrier before moving to California. When this little dog was hit by a streetcar and killed he brought home a new puppy for his wife Jere. This new dog proved to be different than the others he had owned, it was an old fashioned type Collie so in the eyes of some not as pretty. But what it may have lacked in looks it made up for in loyalty, devotion and brains. Toots or Tootsie as they named her was a “one man dog” and was fiercely devoted to Eric despite the fact that she was intended to be Mrs. Knight’s dog. She would spend hours at the gate in front if the house waiting for Eric’s return when he was away from home.
Eric had moved out to California to start a career as a film writer but this little dog changed those plans. The love and devotion of Toots, combined with memories of dogs he had known in his childhood in England, inspired Mr. Knight to write another novel (he had already written five novels before this). Lassie Come-Home was published in 1940 but it had originally been a short story published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1938, and was by far his most successful endeavor.
Eric Knight never saw the completed Lassie film, he died in a plane crash during service in World War 2 before the movie was completed. Toots did live to see it (what might she have thought) she died a few years later in 1945. Toots is buried on Eric Knights farm in Bucks County Pennsylvania called ‘Springhouse Farm’ and her grave is said to have a marker placed there in the 1970s. Try as I might I can find no photos of Toots grave on the internet. If you live in that part of the world, please get a picture of Toots grave for me and I will post it here.
Here is the link to purchase Lassie Come-Home on Amazon.
2. Wolf by Albert Payson Terhune
Albert Payson Terhune (1872 – 1942), like Knight was a lifelong Collie lover. He owned a number of Collies, showed some and bred litters too. But some of his most famous dogs which he wrote about were not show quality dogs. You see Mr. Terhuine lived at a critical time in Collie history, the show dogs were quickly changing into something else but Terhune loved the old fashioned Collies and he was caught between both worlds. So he kept a foot in both camps, he cherished and wrote stories about some of his more old fashioned Collies while at the same time breeding and showing modern Collies.
Like Knight, he started out writing short stories about his Collies, these appeared in Redbook Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post and other publications starting in 1916. The success of these stories compelled him to publish a book with was mostly just a compilation of these short stories into one volume. Lad A Dog was published in 1919 and was widely loved at the time and remains popular today.
Lad was an un-papered, Collie that was a more old fashioned type than was in style at that time but he was Terhune’s favorite because of his intelligence and devotion. Lad’s son Wolf was what Terhune called a “throwback”, a real old fashioned Collie and was also exceptionally smart.
Mr. Terhune went on to write over 30 books about dogs, many of them like Lad and Wolf, based on actual dogs that he owned. His writings were so popular that they allowed Terhune to quit his job writing for a newspaper and to purchase his ‘Sunnybank’ property from his mother. Sunnybank is now a county park in Wayne, New Jersey where you can see the graves of many of the Collies that Terhune made famous.
The Collie Health Foundation hosts an annual gathering at Sunnybank to celebrate Terhune and his Collies, however they only care about the AKC Collies. In 2017 the Collie Health Foundation denied the Old-Time Scotch Collie Association’s request for a booth at the Sunnybank Gathering because their Collies are not AKC registered. How ironic given Albert Payson Terhune’s love of the old fashioned Collies, perhaps Lad himself, not being papered would not have been welcomed at this event.
Here is the link to purchase Wolf on Amazon.
3. The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter
Beatrix Potter (1866 – 1943) was born into a wealthy English family and grew up with lots of exposure to art and literature. She was drawing animals from an early age and became adept at illustrating. In 1901 she published her first book, Peter Rabbit based on an actual pet rabbit that she kept, in fact many of the animals she illustrated were based on real life animals.
Potter’s first book was very successful and she produced more in following years. She used the money from her books to buy a farm, “Hill Top Farm” in the Lake District of Northern England and became involved in the business of farming. The illustrations in her books show the countryside that she was enjoying on and around her farm at the time. Farming in Northern England brought her into close contact with Collie dogs which there were several of on her farm, one in particular though was not a working dog but her pet and “house dog” a Collie named Kep.
As was her habit of illustrating her pets, it wasn’t long before her beloved Collie Kep appeared in a Beatrix Potter book. The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck was published in 1908 featuring Beatrix’s Scotch Collie Kep prominently as the hero of the story.
Kep died in 1917 and Ms. Potter had many other Collies over the years but none ever as well know as Kep, the Collie she immortalized in her book.
Here is the link to buy Jemima Puddle-Duck on Amazon.
More Pictures of Old Time Scotch Collies
The Scotch Collies of old are a fascinating subject to study because of that changes that overtook the Collie breed in the early 1900s. You can see many more pictures of these old fashioned dogs by following this link to some of my photo galleries. If you are interested in how the Collie came to change in appearance check out this link to my article on the complete collie history.