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The Sunnybank Collies

Lad, Bruce, Wolf, Bobby, and Gray Dawn | Fair Ellen, Jean, Lady, Beth, Andeen, and Bunty | Treve, Sandy, Thane, and Jock
| Sigurdson | Explorer | Chaeroplane | King Coal

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Sigurdson
(Squire)

Son of Ch Sunnybank Sigurd and Sunnybank Alton Andeen
Feb 25, 1922 - May 20, 1931

 

 

. . . "a richly colored sable you could easily pick out because of the splotch of white to the right side of his nose."

 

 

 

"Just as Treve had been, he was 'fiery and temperamental, and as playful as a kitten.' He had some of Treve's strange sense of humor, too."

 

 

 

 

"The best Collie in America today." -
Dr. John DeMund, President of the American Kennel Club

 

 

 

"Like his namesake he bubbled with personality and had his own unique character. Early on he formed a special friendship with maternal little Jean. A journalist who saw the two Collies together called them soul mates."

Champion Sunnybank Sigurdson
Son of Ch Sunnybank Sigurd and Sunnybank Alton Andeen
Feb 25, 1922 - May 20, 1931

From His Dogs, by Kristina T. Marshall, The Collie Health Foundation, 2001, Pp. 53-54

He was one of Treve's puppies who appeared destined to follow in his sire's footsteps. They called that puppy "Squire," and in the ring he would live up the dignity of that name by showing with what the Master called "calm perfection." He was the biggest boy in Andeen's litter, a richly colored sable you could easily pick out because of the splotch of white to the right side of his nose. There were other things to notice about him, though, especially the specific trio of traits that Terhune thought equaled a good Collie: coat, bone, and expression. Dr. John DeMund, President of the American Kennel Club, who had imported some good Collies in earlier times, would later dub him "the best Collie in America today."

Like his father, Squire was excellent in muzzle and nice in eye, and though his head was only moderately long, it was well-balanced, an even more elusive virtue than mere length.

Just as Treve had been, he was "fiery and temperamental, and as playful as a kitten." He had some of Treve's strange sense of humor, too.  Bert would remember how he "used to stray to an open window of the kitchen on summer evenings. There he would bark softly until one of the maids gave him a triangle of toast left over from breakfast. Then he would trot around to the front porch, where I was sitting. Presently, back he would go again to the kitchen window for another piece of toast. When I turned on the veranda light, before going to bed, I used to find anywhere from seven to ten triangles of toast neatly distributed on the floor in a half-circle around my chair. It was his idea of a joke, for he ate none of it."

Terhune could see that he "was in many ways like his sire," so when it came time to give him a registered name, Bert wanted it to be a tribute to Treve. His first idea was to call the dog "Sigurd Second," but then he had a brainstorm:

"One afternoon as I was dressing to go out to dinner, I called out to the Mistress in the next room that a good name for the pup had just occurred to me. I said I was going to give him the name of Sigurdson, all in one word; not Sigurd's Son, but Sigurdson."

Like his namesake he bubbled with personality and had his own unique character. Early on he formed a special friendship with maternal little Jean. A journalist who saw the two Collies together called them soul mates. "Jean is a splendid dog," she wrote, "with the patient, placid eyes of long experience. She seems indisposed to hurry and takes everything with great casualness, with the exception of Sigurdson. . . . Sigurdson is exactly her opposite in disposition. He's young and lithe and fiery and a force to be reckoned with when the dogs get together. But when the merrymaking is over, he always comes back to Jean. He took her in as an affinity when he was still a young pup, deserting his mother to do so. Jean immediately took him under her care and he has remained there ever since. When bones are to be had, Jean gets the choicest ones. And when there is only one, there's no argument as to the dog who will gnaw it." Their bond may have inspired some of the Master's stories.

As Squire grew up, Terhune recognized that he had "an uncanny knowledge of voice tones; and a strange susceptibility of noises, seeming to classify them as might a human being." That sensitivity led to his one and only phobia. "The sound of an electric gong, or, indeed, of any harsh-toned bell, fills him with instant terror," Terhune admitted in a Saturday Evening Post articleand Bert once took advantage of the fact.

His Dogs, Pp. 107

Now life had become unbearable to our gorgeous ten-year-old Champion Sunnybank Sigurdson. And there was but one thing to do. Sparingly and seldom do I give lumps of sugar to our dogs. . .. But, after show victories and at other gala times, a lump of sugar had been tossed to Sigurdson. He loved sugar better than anything and everything else on earth."

Thus, on the morning of May 20, 1931, continued Terhune:

A pound of cut-up porterhouse steak was set before the blind and paralyzed old champion. He ate it with dainty relish.

Then, into his food dish was poured a whole pound of lump sugar.

It was pathetic to watch his unbelieving delight as he nosed out and ate not merely the single morsel of this delicacy which sometimes had been apportioned to him in former days; but lump after lump. Dozens and scores of delicious lumps of sugar.

With the zest of an epicure he chewed and swallowed them, one after the other. Long and slowly he ate. It was his crowning moment. He thrilled to it.

As he swallowed the last lump of the entire pound and bent his sightless bead to grope for another, the merciful bullet went through his brain.

He did not know what had happened. His death was instant and painless; in the midst of the most stupendously happy feast he ever had known.

Laugh at me, if you like, for that foolish waste of sugar and meat on a doomed dog to whom the food could do no lasting good.

I grant it was maudlin. And I am not interested in anyone's opinion of itor of me. My old chum died supremely happy; he to whom happiness bad long been a stranger.

It was the last, best thing he could do for the dog who had given him so much. Afterward, Terhune wrote to one of his friends in the Collie fancy that Squire "was even more of a chum, to me, than a champion; and I miss him."

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Explorer

Son of Ch Sunnybank Sigurd and Sunnybank Alton Andeen
Feb 25, 1922 - March 30, 1930

 

 

"But this puppy was much different. He explored all the forty acres of Sunnybank, as thoroughly and conscientiously as if he were mapping out an unknown country. He made a solemn business of it all."

 

"Never have I seen so young a dog so ambitious to find out what the wide world was like. So I named him 'Explorer' Sunnybank Explorer"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

". . . it is still a testament to Explorer's instincts and intelligence that he was able to get so far in the right direction before the river got in his way. His name had turned out to be an amazingly appropriate one."

 

Champion Sunnybank Explorer
Son of Ch Sunnybank Sigurd and Sunnybank Alton Andeen
Feb 25, 1922 - March 30, 1930

From His Dogs, by Kristina T. Marshall, The Collie Health Foundation,
2001, P. 55

One of those dogs who represented the complete Collie for Albert Payson Terhune was Sigurdson's brother SUNNYBANK EXPLORER. Like his grandfather CH Alstead Aeroplane, Explorer had both beauty and brains. "He was one of the quietest and most diffident and sensitive dogs I have owned," Terhune said of him. He also was destined to have one of the greatest adventures.

Like Sigurdson, he had a distinctive face marking that makes him easy to identify in photographs of the Sunnybank dogs. A thin white blaze ran all the way down from his backskull, widening halfway down his muzzle so that it completely circled his nose. Also like his brother, the question of his registered name was a heavy one. In Explorer's case, the puppy solved the problem himself with his own personality.

"When he was barely three months old," recalled Terhune, "he developed several sore lumps on various parts of his body (which we found later had been hornet stings). The vet, fearing infection, bade me keep him away from the other pups in the litter for a while. I did so. I turned him loose on the grounds of Sunnybank, and let him wander. Now, the average puppy, thus freed, would have stayed around his former kennel for the most part; or at most would have taken only short walks. But this puppy was much different. He explored all the forty acres of Sunnybank, as thoroughly and conscientiously as if he were mapping out an unknown country. He made a solemn business of it all." Of course this meant that his master had to rescue him from some sticky situations . . . like the bottom of a dry well. Still, Terhune said that "always he kept on hunting for new areas of Sunnybank. Never have I seen so young a dog so ambitious to find out what the wide world was like. So I named him 'Explorer' Sunnybank Explorerand I had him registered by that name . . .." In a few years Explorer would show just how appropriate his name was.

Although his brother was flashier and more like Treve, Explorer had a high rank at The Place. No other Collie produced more puppies for Terhune than Explorer. In his lifetime he would sire seven litters at Sunnybank alone and one of those pups would grow up to be the greatest of all the Sunnybank show dogs. Though Explorer held his high qualities as he matured, he had "a glum distaste for crowds," recognized his Master, and that may partly explain why his more extroverted brother finished his championship first, even though Explorer was the one out of the litter to make the biggest wins as a puppy. Sigurdson's beautifully smooth, full muzzle was closer to the Collie Standard, but in the opinion of at least one expert, Explorer had the sweeter Collie expression.

From His Dogs, by Kristina T. Marshall, The Collie Health Foundation,
2001, Pp. 81-82

In the spring of 1925, Terhune drove Explorer up to the Torreya Kennels in Mount Kisco, New York. He left the dog with Miss Torrey, hoping Explorer would return home with a title in front of his name. As it turned out, Explorer just wanted to go home, title or not. 

His grandfather, Alstead Aeroplane, had been an escape artist. Explorer had apparently inherited his talent. He had been secured in an outbuilding on the kennel grounds. That very first night, a kennelman opened the shed door to see to his needs. In an instant Explorer had ducked out between his legs and into the darkness. As Terhune tells it: 

Early next day I was notified of the mishap. I drove to the kennels at once. It was a long trip. I kept a sharp lookout on every side for sign of my musing Collie. I stopped at a dozen places, police stations and the like, to make inquiries. But I drew blank.

 

When I reached the handler's, I drove up to the side of the porch and stepped directly to the veranda from the car, without my feet touching the ground. When I left, I stepped once more across the narrow space without putting foot to ground. Then I drove home.

 

You will see presently why I tell these dull details of my trip to such length.

 

Now this is what Explorer had been doing after his escape:

 

When he dived to freedom, between the kennelman's legs, he set off in a fairly straight line for home, traveling cross-country part of the way and part of the way by road. It chanced to be a different road from the one I took the next morning.

 

After a long time the Collie came to the edge of the Hudson River, near Tarrytown. At that point the river widens into what is known as the Tappan Zee. a stretch of water several miles in extent. And here Explorer paused. He began to cast up and down stream. Then he circled, nose to ground, in widening arcs.

 

A dog's scent is miraculously keen. His hearing, too, is far more acute than is yours. But his sight is not good. At night he can see much better than can a human. But by daylight he cannot see very far. Sight is the weakest of his senses.

 

Thus when Explorer came to the brink of the Tappan Zee he could not possibly see across to the other side, whence it was a bare twenty-one miles to Sunnybank. It was as though a man should come to the edge of a boatless ocean in the course of a journey.

 

So the Collie circled, and cast about for some means of skirting this illimitable sea. If his vision could have reached to the far side of the stream he might have swum for the other shore. But he had no way of guessing that the water might not extend for a thousand miles. And Explorer was neither a fool nor a suicide. So he stayed on the eastern bank.

 

As he was casting around, he caught the track of my tires. And he followed them all the way to the distant kennels whence he had escaped. It is a miracle some motorist on the way did not hit and kill him. He reached the handler's house soon after I had left by another road. The tracks led to the porch. Mounting that, the dog caught the more familiar scent of my footsteps. They led him to the doorway I had entered. As they were not on the ground or anywhere else but in that one straight line, the dog must have assumed I still was in the house at whose threshold the trail scent ended.

 

Accordingly, he lay down on the door mat to wait patiently until I should come out again. Which, I think, savors strongly of human deductive reasoning. Even if, like so much of human deductive reasoning, it was built on a stratum of fallacies.

 

Hours afterward the handler found him lying there, on the mat, still waiting for me to come out of the house where my trail stopped short.

 

Before I received the telephone message telling me of the Collie's safety I had sent an advertisement to the New York papers offering a reward of $100 for Explorer's return or for tidings which would lead to my finding him. I added a full description of the dog. I would have offered much more cashfor he was worth several hundred dollarsbut I feared the sum might rouse doubt of my good faith.

 

As it was, I received a sheaf of letters from persons who had seen him somewhere along the way. From these letters, as well as from later news, I reconstructed easily every stage of his frustrated effort to come home.

What we in turn can reconstruct from the newspaper accounts of Explorer's adventure is a slightly different story. Yes, the Collie escaped from Miss Torrey's Mount Kisco kennels. Yes, he was seen in Tarrytown, apparently trying to find his way home. But The New York Times does not confirm that Explorer was able to backtrack along the tire trail left by his Master's car.

One article ran in the May 3rd issue of the paper. It read:

 TERHUNES PRIZE DOG LOST

Novelist Fears Collie, Explorer, is Suffering in Woods.

Albert Payson Terhune, novelist and biographer of dogs, has lost a Collie, Explorer, son of Sigurd. Because Explorer is a "one man dog," Mr. Terhune fears that he is suffering.

Explorer was lent to Miss Genevieve Torrey of Mount Kisco a few days ago. He wandered, it is thought, into the woods near her kennels, and although a man reported he saw near Tarrytown  a gold and white marked Collie which he believed to be Explorer, the dog did not come near him. That is his nature. He was trained to come only to his master. He will not approach a stranger and wag his tail for companionship, so with Mr. Terhune at Pompton Lakes in New Jersey and his dog wandering somewhere in Westchester, it is feared Explorer may be suffering for company and even food, unless a show dog can learn in a day to forage for himself.

 

Explorer is insured for half his value, but Mr. Terhune, with many dogs, wants to find him as much as Explorer, with only one master, wants to find Mr. Terhune.

Two days later the paper printed the end of the story:

 TERHUNE GETS HIS DOG

Explorer, Prize Collie, Found at Tarrytown by the Police. 

POMPTON LAKES, NJ, May 4. Explorer, the prize Collie owned by Albert Payson Terhune, novelist, who escaped from his kennel at Mount Kisco last week, was found today near Tarrytown by the police.

The dog had been lent to Miss Genevieve Torrey of Mount Kisco by Mr. Terhune, and since it was the first time he had been away from home he tried to get back. He got as far as Tarrytown, where it is believed he decided the Hudson was too wide to swim and had to stop. Since he is a "one man" dog he would accept no food from strangers and he was hungry and almost exhausted when the police found him. They will get the $100 reward offered by Mr. Terhune for Explorer's return. 

Explorer thus seems to have been found near the Hudson by the police, rather than by Miss Torrey on her front porch. A magazine interviewer who met Explorer later that summer confirmed that "after officials had scoured the country he was finally found and returned by them in a closed car."

Still, Terhune wrote about Explorer's escape many times and in many places and always claimed that the Collie had followed the scent of his car. Did he invent that out of whole cloth to make the tale more dramatic? Even if we discount Terhune completely here, it is still a testament to Explorer's instincts and intelligence that he was able to get so far in the right direction before the river got in his way. His name had turned out to be an amazingly appropriate one.

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Chaeroplane
(Major)

 

Champion Sunnybank Coltness Chaeroplane
Son of CH Alstead Aeroplane, half-brother to Sunnybank Alton Andeen

From His Dogs, by Kristina T. Marshall, The Collie Health Foundation,
2001, Pp. 56 - 57

Fair Ellen's first litter would be sired by a dog who had to live with the name of CANADIAN CHAMPION SUNNYBANK COLTNESS CHAEROPLANE Thankfully, around the kennel he was known simply a "Major." We cannot blame Terhune for the word "Chaeroplane"-the Collie came to Sunnybank with it. His breeder, James D. Strachan, is the guilty party.

"Coltness" was one of the largest Collie kennels in Canada, and it housed champion Cairn Terriers, too. In addition, James Strachan was heavily involved in how the dog game was run. He was Secretary of the Canadian Kennel Club, and would soon be a District Director for the CCA. Chaeroplane brought glory to the Coltness kennels. He had won his Canadian championship by the time he was eighteen months old, and was advertised as the "Canadian National Exhibition winner."

In 1922 Mr. Strachan sent his new champion to the United States for the big February shows. Chaeroplane earned no points toward his American title there, but he placed well, going second in a Novice class of thirteen at the Collie Club of New York under Dr. Burrows, and also getting the red ribbon in the same class a Westminster. The judges liked his "grand long frill and mane, good bone, eye, and head," but they could not get past his short wry tail. He was an excellent dog in individual parts, with a nice full muzzle and good expression but when you looked at him overall, his tail spoiled the picture and kept him from taking the highest prizes in tough New York competition. That tail may have been one of the reasons why he was listed for sale in the Westminster catalog. For $500 Mr. Strachan was willing to part with Chaeroplane.

Terhune was willing to buy him. By summer the Canadian Collie was at Sunnybank. The dog magazine reported his purchase in the same issues that memorialized Treve. In effect, Chaeroplane may have helped, Terhune get over Sigurd's death.

He was just over two years old then, and it is easy to see why he would appeal to the Master of Sunnybank. Not only did he have the coat, the bone, and the expression, but his pedigree was full of promise. As Chaeroplane's name suggests, he was a son of CH Alstead Aeroplane, which made him a half-brother of Sunnybank Alton Andeen. His background was actually very similar to hers, since his dam also traced to CH Tazewell Tantalizer. He had the high type Bert already admired in Andeen, without the savagery to strangers. The same magazine reporter who was afraid of Andeen marveled that Chaeroplane did not bark once as she passed his kennel run.

He would be a fine sire. He would also be a good chum, thanks to an inheritance of his father's spirit and sense. Chaeroplane had a good combination of fiery dash and solid sanity, as illustrated by one of Bert's anecdotes of him:

I had bought a new Collie, the Canadian champion, Sunnybank Coltness Chaeroplane. He and my other dogs got on well. One evening at dusk, about a month after I bought him, he and Wolf were walking in the orchard with me.

They had trotted ahead to some distance, side by side, amicably enough. Then Chaeroplane stepped on one end of a dead branch. His weight made the other end of the branch fly up. It hit Wolf across the nose. Instantly Wolf seemed to think the other Collie had done it on purpose. For he sprang at him.

In another second a fiery fight was on. I ran up to stop it. At my shout Wolf let go his hold. But Chaeroplane hung on. Chaeroplane had caught Wolf by the throat. There, in the dim light, he maintained his grip as if he were a bulldog.

I caught hold of both dogs by the nape of the neck, talking to them as I did so. Wolf's tail began to wag. So did Chaeroplane's. Neither struggled or growled. Both stood quiet. But Chaeroplane continued to grip Wolf's throat, nor could I pull him loose.

Now here was a funny sight. Two dogs, one with his fangs dug into the other's throat, yet both standing quiet and wagging their tails, their brief flurry of anger gone. I could not imagine why the hot-tempered Wolf should be standing there so peacefully and wagging his tail, while Chaeroplane's teeth were grinding into his throat; nor why Chaeroplane was so placid and happy about the ferocious job.

I got my hand against Chaeroplane's jaws and opened his mouth. The mouth opened readily. But he did not loosen his grip. This was no longer merely funny. It was impossible. No dog can maintain a grip on anything with his mouth open. I investigated and found the two great eyeteeth of Chaeroplane's underjaw had become hooked behind Wolf's collar.

He was not holding on. But he could not get that collar from behind his eyeteeth. So he was waiting patiently for me to free him.

Chaeroplane would father four litters for Terhune and more for others, passing on to his offspring the correct Collie characteristics of the Aeroplane line.

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King Coal
January 7, 1931

 

Sunnybank King Coal
Son of Sunnybank Sandstorm and Sunnybank Misty

From His Dogs, by Kristina T. Marshall, The Collie Health Foundation, 2001, Pp. 108 - 109

Fair Ellen outlived either of her brothersshe who had almost been put down as a puppy. But soon even she was gone. On July 1, 1933, she died in her sleep while napping in the shade of her yard after a romp with her Master.

Bert had now lost the last of Bruce's children and all of Treve's. No other dogs could replace them, and Terhune didn't try. He was slowly letting the kennels close down. In a 1931 letter to a fellow fancier, Bernice Unwin, he explained: "My kennels are much depleted in numbers; as I have been cutting them to the bone during the past two years. I am soft-hearted enough to keep my old dogs on in happy retirement, as long as they live; instead of shooting them or of selling them to some unsuspecting stranger. And as they die off, I don't renew them. I raise only about one litter a year; and sell it almost always. I don't show anymore or advertise; and I try to discourage breeders from sending their bitches here. But I shall always have one or two CHUM Collies at my heels, as long as I live. I am dropping out of the game, but not out of my ownership of a few dogs."

But just because there were few litters does not mean that there were no new puppies at all. Growing up at The Place as the decade began was SUNNYBANK KING COAL. Coal, as his name suggests, was a tricolor, which makes him very easy to pick out in pictures of the later Sunnybank dogs. He is the tri shown with Robert Friend in The Book of Sunnybank. He was born in January of 1931, and he would outlive his Master.

Blue-eyed sable merle Sandy was bred by Terhune only once, and King Coal was one of the pups in the litter. Sandy's mate was Misty, the tricolor daughter of Lochinvar and Katrine who had been born at the Sunnybank branch kennel in Pinehurst. It is possible that King Coal may have been whelped there, too; in fact, a sister of his found a home with a family in North Carolina. However, King Coal himself was officially registered with Terhune as his owner before he was a year old, and we can assume that he spent much of his puppyhood in Pompton Lakes.

King Coal had been bred to be a chum. His pedigree went back to some of Bert's best friends, including Bruce and Jean and Victrix. Thanks to Sandy and Lochinvar, he traced back to grand old Gray Dawn twice. Plus, both of Coal's grandmothers were Chaeroplane children.

King Coal was a worthy descendant both of Gray Dawn and Alstead Aeroplane.

He had Dawn's size and strength, for instanceand also Dawn's habit of grabbing you by the wrist and giving your arm a sharp tug. That was one of the real Gray Dawn's games, and it was one of King Coal's, too.

But Dawn was only part of King Coal's pedigree. Terhune also believed his tricolor Collie was "Aeroplane's living image except for the lack of some of his ancestor's physical perfection." Coal was an escape artist in the Aeroplane tradition, and could undo a complete series of bolts, hooks, and latches to let himself out onto Sunnybank's lawn to find his Master. Terhune claimed that he could even turn doorknobs!

Coal was also like his great-great-grandfather in the way that he listened to his instincts. Alstead Aeroplane had reverted back to the wild when he was loose in the Canadian woods, and King Coal, too, was able to tap into his primitive side. "Coal would lure one or more of the other Collies to run after him," Terhune said. "He would keep just ahead of the nearest pursuer in the mad race, meanwhile steering a course toward some tree. When he was within a few inches of the obstacle, he would veer sharply to one side, barely missing it. The dog in closest pursuit would crash with a force that knocked him over; making him risk a smashed skull or a broken neck. Now that dangerous stunt has been handed down, I am told, for thousands of years. A wild dog would rouse the fury of some stag or bull. The raging brute would charge. The fugitive would run away in mock terror, keeping just in front of his prey. He would veer aside just in front of some tree trunk. Then he would trot back at his leisure, to make a meal off the pursuer whose life had been crushed out by the impact. Coal's wild ancestors were 'talking to him,' when he devised that." Eventually, Terhune was able to break King Coal of playing this terrible trick on his kennelmates.


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