Friday, July 3, 2015

SNB Logo -- origin story



This origin story starts with a boy and his dogs....
The Stuart Ng Books logo, with art drawn by Stuart, is a tribute to our collie Ripley. She ruled our home for 12 years.

But she was not our first dog. That distinction belonged to Danny, our rescue collie.Yep, the dog in the photo below had been picked up as a stray near San Diego. A contact at the animal shelter alerted the local collie rescue, where Danny stayed for a year before we adopted him. Other families overlooked him because he was an older dog (and not as fluffy as the photo here, after about a year with us). Stuart picked him out, telling me "This one seems nice...." I had been sponsoring rescue collies for many years. I spent my youth enjoying the hobby of training show dogs. I thought I would know the right dog for us. Stuart, finder of all things inspiring, saw the golden boy in Danny.
After a long stretch with no pets, a dog like Danny was worth the wait. Collies are known as great family companions. Danny's sound character and gentle nature were exceptional, even among his breed. He was chivalry and kindness. A true Collie gentleman. His motto was: "Dignity. Always Dignity."
Ripley, the mercurial silvery one, came to us as puppy. We found her catchphrase in a children's book about a self-centered collie pup who would rather run in the fields than look after sheep: "Surely you can't mean me? I'm just a wee little beast!"  Like the story-book pup, she grew into her noble heritage. She just had to find her place. We started with the basics. Many collies score well on herding instinct tests. Ripley...not so much....
Ripley was our second dog because I had been on a waiting list for a show prospect. She arrived as my four-footed engagement gift (less likely to lose down the drain than a ring, etc). Her birthday is still the way I keep track of how long Stuart and I have been married.
The picture below is not the most flattering shot of Danny, but it captures Ripley's idea of their relationship. Ripley was the self-proclaimed silvery princess of the universe. Danny was deservedly dubious. He had not only schooled her about indoor dog etiquette (leading by impeccable example) -- he even housebroke her!
It was hard to believe Danny had been abandoned on the streets...lived outside for a year...had scars. Ripley had her own sliding scale of suffering. Like that awful time, one day, when her favorite stuffed animal toy, "Red Mousie," kept poking her. Poking!  Right through her double-thick pet bed.
Ripley expressed her many slights and opinions with an operatic range of whimpers, whines, sighs, yips and yodels. In addition to barking. Lots of barking. She was what collie owners call "a talker." Danny was mostly silent. He had a hoarse, deep bark that sounded like he was saying the name of his favorite food: "Ham." Or perhaps it was his assessment of his roommate.
Ripley enjoyed being dazzling. She turned heads in public. Total strangers kept telling us: "She's so unusual!" She heard that phrase so often, she believed it. Actually, her blue merle markings were fairly common in her family of champions.
Like most modern collies, her pedigree traced back to the Sunnybank kennel show dogs from the 1920s. The Sunnybank collies lived on the east coast, at the pastoral estate of journalist, fiction writer, and collie breeder Albert Payson Terhune (1872-1942).
Terhune's short stories, and articles on sports and travel, filled leading magazines of the 20s and 30s. His writings crafted his public image. He was the stern but benevolent "Master" of Sunnybank in print and in person. Terhune promoted the virtues he most admired: loyalty; honesty; courage.  His dog books (loosely based on his own collies' adventures) launched him to world-wide fame. "Lad: A Dog" was a best seller for decades. It was translated into several languages and sold over a million copies.
Photo-journalist Margaret Bourke-White took pictures of  Terhune's home and grounds for his 1934 "Book of Sunnybank."
Noted animal illustrators like Paul Bansom and Charles Livingston Bull were friends with Terhune and knew his dogs. Their art contributed to Terhune's image of the collie as a loyal chum, keen judge of human character, and protector of the family.
 Here are two Sunnybank collie story illustrations by Charles Livingston Bull (1874-1932) http://anaturalistsmiscellany.blogspot.com/2014/09/charles-livingston-bull.html

This 1926 1st edition Terhune title was illustrated by highly collected dog artist Marguerite Kirmse (1885-1954) http://dogpainting.com/info_detail.cfm?type=artist&arts_id=MK
Terhune's Lad and kennel mates were great publicity for collies when the breed was just getting established in America. They set the stage for author Eric Knight's "Lassie" to become the film and TV collie star. Photos of our visit to the Sunnybank grounds (now a public park) and Terhune artifacts can be seen on this previous post..http://stuartngbooks.blogspot.com/2009/08/sunnybank-terhune-bransom-kuhn.html

Ripley's Terhune-bred ancestor was the blue merle dog named Sunnybank Gray Dawn...
Terhune wrote several stories about Gray Dawn's attachment to a flannel stuffed elephant. Dawn protects it in this drawing titled "He Slept With It'" by Paul Bransom (1885-1979) http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2011/11/18/art-entertainment/paul-bransom-animal-covers.html
Some collectors of Terhune books are particularly fond of the 1960s and 70s Grossett and Dunlap editions. These had colorful cover art (mostly uncredited) by Robert Kuhn (1920-2007).  More on Kuhn here: http://www.wildlifeart.org/collection/artists/artist-robert-kuhn-240/
Gray Dawn is pictured below (far right) on the rolling hills at real-life Sunnybank.... with author and composer Anice Terhune (Mrs. Albert Payson Terhune) and Champion Sunnybank Explorer. More on Terhune's collies and Sunnybank park here http://www.sunnybankcollies.us/
Both of Ripley's parents were champions. However, like many well-bred pups she didn't achieve breed-ring quality herself. We all have faults and virtues. Our goals can expose our weaknesses. How we cope can reveal our strengths.
In dogs, a breed standard is a goal to aspire to. It's just one way to measure how we've adapted dogs to help us. There are water dogs, desert dogs, sled dogs, farm and field dogs, dogs in war, assistance dogs and everyday companions. Judging dogs began with our dependence on them. We needed dogs that could do certain jobs, and a way to keep those traits for future generations. Modern dog shows continue to evolve. They showcase the character and temperament portions of breed standards with events like rally, agility, obedience, team fly-ball, and breed-specific instinct trials. Some of these performance events are open to mixed-breed dogs.
It was Ripley's quirkiness that put her in a class of her own. She carried herself with confidence. She knew she was clever. She contributed to her family's blue ribbon reputation with titles and awards in dog obedience. Like her breed-ring relatives, her wins at AKC licensed trials became part of the permanent record of dog shows.
Her specialty was competing in the "non-regular" classes.
Ripley EXCELLED at being non-regular.
At one show, she proved it for the record books ---  winning best non-regular dog at the entire event.
The toughest exercise for many dogs in the non-regular "Graduate Novice" class was an extended sit and stay with a twist --  the owners left the ring and hid out of sight, behind "the blind" (a wall or curtain away from the ring). The long wait started with 5 minutes of agony while the stopwatch ticked down. It wasn't over when the judge signaled us back to the ring. Not yet. The dogs had to stay put until we returned to them. We couldn't relax and praise them until after the judge announced: "Exercise finished." Chaos could happen when a dog broke the stay and started wandering around  -- or even bolted out of the ring. If the dogs faltered they failed the exercise. Still, owners collected them and we all ended up side-by-side for the finish. Reunited.

Ripley was rock solid when it came to the long stay. Her confidence was her superpower in the ring. She knew I would come back for her. She was the queen.
As for sitting for long periods of time.... with a ringside crowd of subjects admiring her silvery splendor glittering in the sunlight.... oh yes, Ripley could do that.
Silliness aside, there are benefits beyond ribbons that come with having a well-trained dog. The group of us in training class together were resources for each other's dog issues. We enjoyed cheering or commiserating with each other at shows. Our vets, groomers, pet sitters, etc appreciated giving great care to such cooperative dogs.
Training our dogs also asked them to take a leap of faith with us. They might be confused or uncertain at first, but with effort and trust came understanding and rewards. Looking back, I realize there were lessons on both sides. When we left them behind for the long stay, we were totally confident we would be reunited. It was their turn to be patient. Even when they couldn't see us..... Now the roles are reversed.
While she wasn't a therapy dog, Ripley was a good collie ambassador. She was my constant companion for the 10 years that I organized the collie booth at the America's Family Pet Expo, an annual event to educate the public about responsible pet ownership. http://www.petexpooc.org/
Ripley also participated at the Companion Collie Parade, a fund-raiser I helped start with the local collie club. It is still held every summer and is open to all pet, show and rescue collies...
We enjoyed the quirky side of Ripley but, to her credit, she had chops. She brought her own sparkle to the Super Bowl of the collie world -- the annual Collie Club of America (CCA) show.
Also known as "the National," this show is held in a different state every year and attracts the top winning collies in the country. To have a dog win a prize at the CCA is a once-in-a-lifetime dream for many collie fanciers. When the show was held in California in 2012, Ripley competed in two days of non-regular obedience classes. She won a first place and a third place.
Our dogs have been rescues, retired show dogs that re-homed with us, or puppies I've raised for others. Ripley is the only dog I've had from puppyhood all the way to her golden years. Below are two of my favorite pics of her: the headstudy photo fondly referred to has her "prom queen yearbook shot" and her show photo as high scoring novice obedience dog.
Ripley and I bonded over years of training classes, shows and public service events. I've trained other dogs besides Ripley but, in the ring and out, she delivered like no others.
Stuart's sketches of our dogs captured their personalities in expressive silhouettes. These collie cartoon adventures started as napkin doodles, then progressed to postcards and even Christmas cards. The examples here are from postcards that Stuart would send me while he was on bookscouting trips.

The top one is a riff on the origin story of pointy-sharp princess Ripley. It co-stars Danny (in his noble library-lion pose) .. and our other collie Frasier (who was such a happy dog and always wagging his tail). Frasier joined our family after Danny passed away.
 More Ripley and Frasier antics on this card....
Ripley dines out .. and Ripley and Frasier as superheroes..Blinding bad guys w/ silvery light... or smothering them with waggie-tailed puppy love...
Frasier was a famous Champion collie who came to us as an 8-year old "veteran" .. or retired/senior show dog. His happy heart was our joy to share. While he lived with us, he went on to complete his Companion Dog obedience degree..  became a registered Therapy Dog .. and won his Veteran Dog (11 years and older) class at the 2012 Collie Club of America show.
but as Ripley would remind us .. this post is about her...and behind the scenes of her legacy....
In the Stuart Ng Books logo, Ripley wears her silvery princess crown and graces a sheet of old-school animation paper.
Those distinctive holes are how the paper was attached to the light boards the animators worked on at their tables. Photo below shows animator Tom Bancroft at a traditional animation table, using animation paper with the pins and pegs...

Logos are supposed to clearly communicate something about the company. Ours is a bit like French Comics. It starts with the art, but you have to know codes and cultures to really translate it. Bienvenue a SNB :)

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