When I told a friend of my latest reading material she responded, “I can’t image why any girl over the age of 15 would read Lassie Come-Home.” I saw this (faux) leather-bound 75th anniversary edition and while I purchased it for my nephew for the next gift-giving holiday, it triggered something within me. It is the work of British-born author, Eric Knight about a collie living with a boy, Joe Carraclough in Yorkshire, England in the 1940s.
On a Sunday afternoon in 1950, at age seven or so had gone with my four-year-old sister Susie to the tiny theater in our hometown to a matinee, to see a story about a dog. This was a movie mom knew we would enjoy and in those days in our small town, going to the show unescorted was safe and commonplace. We immediately fell in love with Lassie but very quickly the tide turned and with no warning, she was pulled from her boy’s arms to ease the financial burden on the destitute family and sold to a wealthy duke who had long admired and coveted her. Lassie’s strong will, determination and connection to her master soon became apparent when she repeatedly escaped to return to the school gate at four o’clock to meet her boy, Joe. She was taken away again and again. The disgusted duke became so angry he moved her to his estate in Scotland figuring problem solved. Lassie once again escaped only to face a four-hundred-mile trek to return to her master. That southward journey to England and the dangers she encountered were so vivid and horrific they would terrify anybody. For us, Lassie’s attempt to cross a river on a teetering tree limb was more than we could handle. I grabbed my sister’s hand and sobbing, pulled her up the aisle of the dark theater to the ticket booth. Through tears I managed to get out, “My sister is crying and we need our daddy to come and get us.”
By the 1960s Lassie, Joe (now Timmy), and his Yorkshire farm family had morphed into an American family and the show a Sunday night staple on TV. Somewhat older and wiser Susie and I gave the adventures of the noble collie another try---along with almost every other kid in America. To this day we both love dogs and it is possible that Lassie is responsible. Mom Olive always said we had tender hearts. Just the other day, reading the novel, the basic and simple values we were taught shone from every page. Terrible challenges, hard choices and the strength and goodness of a dog won the day. The title is hyphenated because Joe officially made Lassie Come-Home his dog’s name when she returned for the last and final time.
Do you have stories about a beloved dog, cat, or other creature? Those pets have impacted your life. Do yourself (and perhaps others who might one day read them) a good deed by preserving stories by writing your memories in a journal. Not another soul on earth possesses those exact experiences. Nobody else can describe them as you can. Use your experiences to teach and benefit others. They show our connectedness to nature and shine a light on humanity that goes well beyond words on a page.