Blind Fair Ellen by Albert Payson Terhune-taken from Baltimore Sun Magazine 1933

Sunnybank Fair Ellen was a strange little golden collie, a dog that never saw a glimmer of light. She was born blind – as are all dogs – and she remained blind throughout more than a decade of such gay happiness as falls to the lot of few collies or humans. When the other pups of the litter opened their eyes, Fair Ellen’s lids remained tight shut. A week of so later they opened. But expert vets found there were dead optic nerves behind. There seemed to be but one merciful thing to do. I loaded my pistol to put her out of her misery. It was my wife who intervened, reminding me that Fair Ellen had no “misery” to be put out of – that she was the gladdest and liveliest member of the litter.

When the six-week-old family of pups were turned loose in the huge “puppy yard,” they began at once to explore this immense territory of theirs. At almost every fifth step Fair Ellen’s hobbyhorse gallop would bring her into sharp contact with the food dish, the fence wires or some other obstacle which her four brothers avoided with ease. Always she would pick herself up after such a collision with tail wagging and fat golden body wriggling as if at some rare joke. Not once did she whimper or fail to greet each mishap merrily.

Then I noticed that never did she collide with the same obstacle a second time. Coming close to food dish or the like, she would make a careful detour. In less than a week she had learned the location of every obstacle, big or small, in the yard. She could traverse the whole space at a gallop – without once colliding with anything. It was not a spectacular stunt, perhaps. But to me it seemed – and still seems – a minor miracle.

It was the same, presently, when I took her out of the puppy yard for a walk with me. Into tree trunks and into building corners and posts and benches and shrubbery clumps the poor little dog bungled, but never into one a second time. Bit by bit I enlarged our daily rambles. I was teaching her the lay of the whole forty-acre place. And never did a pupil learn faster. Within a few weeks Ellen could gallop all over the lawns and the orchard and the oak groves and could even canter along close to the many-angled kennel yards and stable buildings without a single collision. She had some nameless sense. I don’t know what it was; but by reason of it I often saw her stop dead, short not six inches from a wall or a solid fence toward which she had been galloping at express-train speed.

It was on one of these educational rambles of ours that her fast-running feet carried her into the lake up to her neck. With a gay bark she began to swim. Most dogs, on their first immersion in lake or river, swim high and awkwardly, buy Ellen took to water with perfect ease, as to a familiar element. She swam out for perhaps a hundred feet. Then she hesitated. I called her by name. She turned and swam back to shore, to my feet, steering her sightless course wholly by memory of my single call. Thereafter her daily swim was one of Ellen’s chief joys.

I noted something else in my hours of unobserved watching. That yard full of collie pups was one of the roughest and most bumptious of all the hundreds of litters I have bred and raised; play was strenuous almost to the point of mayhem. Yet when Fair Ellen joined in the romps, as always she did when she was in the yard with them, they were absurdly gentle, awkwardly gentle; very evidently they were seeking not to hurt her.

Ellen invented queer little games which she played, for the most part, all alone. One of these was to listen to the winnowing of the homecoming pigeons’ wings. The birds might be flying so high as to make this winnowing inaudible to human ears, but Ellen would hear. Always she would set off in pursuit, running at full speed directly under the pigeons, swerving and circling when they swerved and circled, guided wholly by that miraculous hearing of hers – the same sense of ear which told her from exactly what direction a thunderstorm was coming, long before we could hear thunder.

A veterinarian told me there was no reason to think Fair Ellen’s blindness would be carried on to any puppies she might have. He was right. She had several litters of pups during her twelve years, and every pup had perfect sight and perfect health in every way. I sat up with her all night when her first puppies were born. There were nine of them. She did not seem to have the remotest idea what or whose they were. The night was bitterly cold. Ellen for once in her life was jumpy, with taut nerves. For many hours I had a man-sized job keeping her quiet and keeping the nine babies from dying of chill. At last, long after sunrise, Ellen began groping about her with her nose, snuggling the puppies close to her furry, warm underbody and making soft, crooning noises at them. Then I knew that my task had ended; that her abnormally keen ears had caught Mother Nature’s all-instructive whisper. Thereafter she was an ideal little mother.

As the years crawled on, Ellen’s jollity and utter joy with life did not abate. Gradually her muzzle began to whiten; gradually the sharp teeth dulled from long contact with gnawed bones. Her daily gallops grew shorter, but the spirit of puppy-like fun continued to flare.

One afternoon Ellen and I went for one of our daily rambles – the length of which was cut down nowadays by reason of her increasing age. She was in dashing high spirits and danced all around me. We had a jolly hour loafing about the lawns together. Then, comfortably tired, she trotted into her yard and lay down for her usual late afternoon nap. When I passed by her yard an hour later she was still lying stretched out there in the shade. But for the first time in twelve years the sound of my step failed to bring her eagerly to her feet to greet me. This was so unusual that I went into the yard and bent down to see what was amiss.

Quietly, without pain, still happy, she had died in her sleep

You can read more about her in SUNNYBANK HOME OF LAD and in THE WAY OF A DOG by Albert Payson Terhune, two great books!

Sunnybank Fair Ellen

Now, the first big selling book was Lad, a dog.  Here is a link to a photographic copy you can read online.  To read go here;


I hope this is helpful.  These books are from a different era.  But, I love them immensely.  Perhaps it is because I am a collie lover, perhaps it is because many of the collies he writes about were ancestors of the wild, crazy bunch I live with now.  Whatever it is, I love these books and I hope you may find enjoyment from them also or that perhaps someone you know who loves animals will like them too….

gray dawn with childHere is one of my favorite collies from Terhune’s Sunnybank Collies.  Gray Dawn was a character who was a happy soul full of life and fun who had a true propensity to turn that fun into trouble in a innocent way.  A big Blue Merle who became a true buddy of Terhune’s.  He especially looked after Terhune after Albert was hit by a car.









Terhune%2018My favorite Gray Dawn stunt of all time is the day when Terhune and his wife were getting ready to go to a wedding.  Terhune was waiting for his wife wearing his Tux standing by the Lake.  Gray Dawn ran up behind him to give him a big hug greeting playfully like he loved to do.  He came from behind Terhune and was so quiet he hit him and knocked him face first into the lake!  Terhune later admitted that as he flew into the water his thoughts consisted of regretting he had saved Gray Dawn when he was a puppy! LOL…..





398059_206208216133805_100002338830497_454087_1749683708_nIn the winter Gray Dawn is in the center of the picture.   Gray Dawn was the son of Bruce who was a gallant collie pal of Terhune’s.  There were two lines at Sunnybank.  Treve’s and Bruce’s.  Born three months after Lad died Gray Dawn lived through the Golden Age and saw all the most famous and well known collies at Sunnybank live and die.  On May 30, 1929 Gray Dawn laid down on the rug to the left of Terhune’s desk and passed into the afterlife and with him passed the golden era of Sunnybank.  A bit of irony is that 9 years to the day of Dawn’s death, his son Sandy laid down in the exact same spot and passed away also…… having collies I can tell you that irony abounds with them as Terhune could tell you.

The only other day to be more ironic for Terhune was the date of June 24th.  On this date in 1922 Treve died, in 1923 Wolf the son of Lad was hit by a train saving a dog on the tracks and died and in 1925 Bobby died of meningitis.  Wow!!!

To the June toll we would humbly add our own Sunnybank descendent who on the 26th died two years ago… Trevor.

-for 35 years he owned Old Allis and it was almost 4 years ago I bought her from him.  This man was my high school teacher who taught me some really cool things.  He was a kind man with a lot of patience and very wise mechanically.  I wouldn’t say I was close to him but he was one of the teachers I enjoyed having classes with.  He was well liked in the small town I went to school in and was well liked.

When I bought Old Allis I didn’t know he was the one selling her until I showed up to look at her.   Old Allis was owned by the family of a teacher who was my High School Government and history teacher and it was about 8 miles from where I grew up where old Allis toiled.  Old Allis went back to her original farm and then to a show just around the block from where my teacher who last owned her lived. He saw her and was happy to see what she looked like.  The last thing he ever told me was “I am glad you ended up with her, I wanted her to go to someone who would take care of her.”  That made me feel good.  Well, last month at the age of 89 he died and I felt bad of course but I thought a lot about him before I wrote this.

They don;t make men much better than this man was.  He taught me some neat things and he was a smart guy.  He grew too old to keep Old Allis where she needed to be and so she got old and needed a lot of work done to her.  It happens to every tractor because we get old and can;t take care of them like we should.  So, for the second time she was restored and this restoration was easy in many ways for mechanically Old Allis was very sound except for leaky seals and gaskets.  That he approved of my job made me feel good.  I know it made him feel better that she has a good home and he did his job in preserving her future.

Old Allis now has outlasted her original owners and her second generation of owners.  The oldest known survivor is a neighbor who is well over 90 who was there the day she arrived to her original farm sold by the company I later worked for in high school.   So, old Allis has outlasted  them all and is still working.  It is amazing.  But, this post is a tribute to the last man who owned her and kept her working and well maintained mechanically.  To the original owner a hats off to him for he loved old Allis too.  She replaced the horses and today as I listened to my father and another old man talk about the horse farming days it was fascinating.  They loved those horses, but they loved the tractors that replaced them too.

So, goodbye to a man who impacted so many lives…….  RIP……..   and THANK YOU!

A big Collie salute and a pic of Old Allis who still exists because of him….





Its Mine

Rutherford- Branwen’s does not need this bat… I do!!!!


Ellie-Hahahahaha!  He dared grab your bat Branny!!!


Branwen-Drop it Rutherford or you will not need your leg!!!!

Rutherford- Wow!  What a grump!  She wasn’t even playing with it…..


Skylight-Get used to it son,. what is yours is Branwen’s, what is Branwen’s is Branwen’s and she will never let you forget it!


Rutherford- So what!!!  What is a bat without a ball! I’ve got the ball so take that Branwen.  Get mad all you want you can’t run as fast as I can…. plus the ball is more fun!  Look dad, I am kicking it like a soccer ball!  brrrrrrapppp to you Branwen!!!!



I hate to inform you Rutherford, but the ball is mine also!!!!!  Also, STOP BREATHING MY AIR!!!!!

This is great, Ginger just got slingshotted….. its amazing how far she flew before landing in that cow pie…….. heheheh Dad got her that time……she is vowing revenge…….collies 5

I couldn’t take it anymore… he looked so content and happy in that Hammock!  So, I Ginger, your future world dictator made my move.  Lets see how he likes fixing the fence after I slingshotted him out of his hammock into it… muwahahahahahahaha  That will teach him to be happy and content in MY world!



On Sunday I took lil Hallie down the road for a stroll to a friend’s and she loved it.  She reminded me of her grandmother Hallie so much.  We had a good time and she was very good while waiting for us as my friend and I talked.  Coming back I decided to run with her and she loved it!!!  We ran into the garage where I took time to wipe down and check out the tractors and she laid there watching me and even then she enjoyed her time with me. She listened to me as I talked and I could see she was soaking it all in and she was understanding a lot of what I was saying to her. We interacted on a deeper level than ever…..

While she has been my right hand for a while now,  I felt on Sunday that our friendship took the final step on Sunday.  Lil Hallie was very mature and the whole walk wasn’t about her by the way she was acting. She was just happy being with me and was content just hanging out watching me work on the tractors, like Trevor, Big Hallie did.  Its hard to describe but it went to another level that one rarely experiences with their furry family members.  That night as I was sleeping I felt her jump up next to me and she cuddled up closely and groaned her happiness for a few minutes then stretched out and slept next to me for the rest of the night.  Yeah, I think she just stepped into those big paw prints left by Niamh, Hallie and Trevor…… by the way she is acting I think she will fill them just fine!





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