By GW Thomas
Kjelgaard did so well with Big Red that he made a regular business of writing dog books with two sequels, Irish Red (1951) and Outlaw Red (1953), as well as Snow Dog (1948), Kalak of the Ice (1949), Lion Hound (1955), Desert Dog (1956), Trading Jeff and His Dog (1956), Rescue Dog of the High Pass (1958), The Duck-Footed Hound (1960), and Dave and His Dog, Mulligan (1966), all of which look at that special relationship between a dog and his master.
Kjelgaard appeared in 'the Unique Magazine' four times between September 1945 and July 1946. His second appearance was with a tale called "The Fangs of Tsan-Lo" (November 1945) and it begins with a familiar ring. Clint Roberts, a dog trainer, is about to meet his newest charge, the Chesapeake terrier, Tsan-Lo. Clint has a shine for the wealthy Sally Evers, introducing Kjelgaard's second familiar theme: poor versus rich. Tsan-Lo, who has been sent by a strange and mysterious customer, Dr. Ibellius Grut, turns out to be something different. The small dog radiates a feeling of hatred and repulsion. Clint, being a rational person, ignores these sensations. When the beast attacks him, going for his throat, Clint is forced to tame it with a baseball bat.
Tsan-Lo with his meal in tow heads for the woods and then the lake. He only drops Clint when the monster spies Sally, whom he has had an instinctive hatred for. The dog heads for shore. Clint wants to save his love, but he is too beaten up. He only survives drowning because his faithful dog, Buck, pulls him from the lake. When he wakes, he finds Sally nursing him and declaring her love for him. She survived the monster's attack when the gigantic dog tried to cross a dugout filled with quicksand (Kjelgaard mentioned this earlier, a rather clumsy device and you know it will come into the story at some point.) Even the monstrous Tsan-Lo can't escape the sucking mud and its three thousand pound skeleton is dredged up later, fascinating scientists. Clint doesn't care. He has what he wants: dogs to train and the love of Sally Evers, and later a little Sally too.
Kjelgaard wasn't quite done with prehistoric dogs though. One of my favorite books of his is called Fire-Hunter (1960). In it, he follows the innovations of a group of cavemen. One of those adaptations is the first raising of wolf pups that would lead to the future breeds we know so well. Kjelgaard really had a love for dogs and their breeding that filtered into most everything he wrote, even the goofy little horror tale that is "The Fangs of Tsan-Lo". It makes for an odd little footnote in a much better saga, the Big Red trilogy.
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GW Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, magazines and ezines including The Writer, Writer's Digest, Black October Magazine and Contact. His website is gwthomas.org. He is editor of Dark Worlds magazine.