We have a large gray Tomcat. He loves his sweater lined box. One morning as Tom got out of his box, yawning and stretching, Rob noticed, "Tom's having an out of box experience!"
Recently a friend and I unpacked a box of my painted dog treasures, stashed away for eight years! It was like a ceremony. We even dressed up fancy! We are having an out of box experience along with the art work!
Journey of the Collie
I reflected back many years to wonder how I became connected to the dogs I love so well....
Who were the Sunnybank Collies?
Albert Payson Terhune was a journalist, writer and mystic. He penned stories, sometimes fictionalized but based on fact, about the Collies he owned and loved. He and his wife lived on an estate named Sunnybank in Pompton Lakes N.J. Terhune penned a tale, Lad A Dog, and through his writing the Collie breed commanded attention along with the Lassie movies and later the Lassie TV show. Terhune's Collie stories touched hearts in animal lovers and ignited many a collie fan, including me. "Superdog" events were painted with Terhune's words into vivid mental movies....
I stood in the toy store near my home and stared at the colorful dust jackets of beautiful paintings of Collies on Terhune's books. I was in grade school teaching myself how to paint animals. How would I paint such dogs? I bought the books, one at a time, and studied the words and paintings, (mostly the paintings and pen and ink illustrations) and began my own painted journey with the Collie, imagined and real.
Of course I wanted a gold and white Collie of my own! How would I acquire one?
We saw a classified in our local newspaper for purebred Collie puppies. My Mom and I went to a farm in Pennsylvania, Coolspring, and there was a mom Collie and two puppies nestled in the straw. One was a golden Laddie, "mine!" I named him for Terhune's first Collie, Lad.
We brought Lad home and began to feel the energy of the young three month old pup. I had books about dog training and began to train my Collie. He was very easy to train! His registered named was Loch Haven's Hi Land Laddie celebrating his Scottish ancestry. He had a beautiful face and lovely full white collar. His soft dark eyes shown into mine.
The growing Lad smiled and waved his plumy tail, leading the way, as we hiked through the woods behind our house and up the beaten trail. We'd climb up the rocky bluff. In the Pennsylvania spring, we saw Trailing Arbutus and the snowy three leaved Trillium flowers in bloom. Summer was hazy, hot, and dusty. Dry grass snaked underfoot at each step. Winter was a blue and silver wooded wonderland of crunchy wet snow. Lad's coat grew huge and thick, I brushed the snow from him as he shook it off. I loved to watch him run through the snow at top speed. He paused to scoop up snow with his nose then roll and bark with sheer joy!
A. P. Terhune wrote a book, Gray Dawn, about his blue merle (gray) Collie. I was determined my next Collie would be a blue merle. The marbled coat is an ancient color. I remembered a poem fragment:
"Shades of gray from smoke to pearl,
Mottled with black is called blue merle."
Twenty years later we received our blue merle puppy. We named him Rare Edition's Cloudy Sky. Sky sat on my husband's shoe while I was working with painting some of the Collies at the kennel. Naturally we went back and bought the silver baby. Sky was our "best dog ever" event! He herded our young children away from the road and barked a protective warning. Sky knew the boundaries of our unfenced property. When we walked Sky down the street, pedestrians often crossed to the other side, not knowing what Sky was. Perhaps a large silver wolf was near! We chuckled....
*By this time my journey path with the Collie had taken many exciting turns.
Pilgrimage to Sunnybank
While we were still living in the Washington D. C. area, I had the chance to attend Sunnybank Festival on the grounds where the Terhune family lived. The Victorian house had been torn down, but the lake was still there, vibrant and shimmering. Graves of the famous Collies are set in sacred stones scattered on paths the joyous dogs romped so freely.
Some Collie paintings and I made the pilgrimage to Sunnybank! When I awoke that early morning, a foggy mist glowed at 5 AM. I had muscle cramps in my back, common for me in those years. How could I even go on the trip? Two Collie loving friends and I piled into the car with the painted dogs and off we went. The New Jersey Turnpike soon loomed ahead...The outdoor art show under the trees was refreshing. People came from miles around and some brought their Collie pets and show dogs!
The journey to Sunnybank was a Healing Path: my back relaxed during the day, and I was pain free upon my return home! A joy filled day out with Collie lovers was so needed. Thinking out of the box, I like to think the invisible Collies helped!