by Glenn Balch
Another attempt of mine to find a book by the author Glenn Balch that I like just as much as Buck, Wild, which I loved as a kid. White Ruff is a dog story very similar to Lassie Come-Home. It's about a smart valuable collie dog that originally belongs to a father and son who live up in the mountains, herding sheep and living off the land. Being a skilled sheep dog and a beautiful animal, White Ruff is stolen. He gets transporting a far distance and then the faithful dog tries to find his way back home (of course). He runs into all kinds of adventures: surviving a car wreck, being smuggled into a dog show, taking up with another herder and accidentally getting locked in a train car with a shipment of sheep. At one point he winds up in a dog pound, at another he's crammed in a pet shop cage. Lots of different people try to adopt or keep him -from wealthy spoiled kids to a wandering hobo- but the dog is always anxious to continue his journey and find his real family. He learns to judge which people to trust or flee from, and even figures out how to hitchhike. It was the end of the story that really stretched my credulity, when the dog gets involved in a circus and it turns out - so conveniently!- that the boy who originally owned him as a sheepdog had also trained him to ride horseback. So of course he gets put into a circus act and that's where his boy finds him. The final pages reminded me a lot of a certain scene in Beverly Cleary's book Ribsy, where the original owner and a new adopted owner are both vying to see who will keep the dog; they let the animal decide by seeing which one he comes to when called. This circus scene was a lot more spectacular, as the dog was called by the boy right in the middle of his circus act, but it also seemed kind of cheesy to me. I guess this story really had appeal a few decades ago; I gather it was something of a classic, but I can't see kids nowdays really enjoying it with all the exclamations of "gee whiz" and the over-handy coincidences.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 235 pages, 1958