Famous Dogs of Print and Screen

While it is the case that you come to this site in search of practical information for the animal you are either about to bring into your home or the one with whom you have lived and whose behavior has been troubling you, sometimes we all need a little levity in our lives. While the following may not be rooted in pragmatism, it certainly underscores why dogs are so beloved. Indeed, so much so, they get to star in their scripts and command large salaries.Is it not true that every dog has his day? Some of man’s best friends have become permanently etched into our subconscious, either for humbling heroism, where they brave tremendous odds to save those they love. Or for those delightful and quirky dogs on Saturday morning cartoons and in kids’ programming who teach children about the meaning of bravery or how to share when playing with others. From the cowardly to the cuddly, the quirky to the sinister, dogs, both real and fictitious have left an indelible mark upon our hears and minds for the roles they have played in literature, cinema and television.ArgosThe tragic loyalty of Argos, Odysseus’ hound in Homer’s eponymous tale shows us a sincere and immediate loyalty, despite Odysseus having been away from his home for twenty years. Sadly, the once hale and hearty hound, best of all hunters and trackers, had fallen on ill times, and was found by the hero, lying in a pile of manure, infested with lice and fleas. Yet, after so long, the bold beast recognized his master and greeted him after a dog’s fashion, by wagging his tail. Odysseus’ companion, Eumaeus, commented on the skill and tenacity of the dog and how, in his youth, he could not be bested by any beast of the forest. Argos, after waiting patiently for two decades for his master, in a final act of devotion, passes quietly as the hero goes by, preserving Odysseus’ plan to remove his wife’s suitors from his house.Though The Odyssey was decidedly not of the ‘a boy and his dog’ brand of cinema or story telling, there were numerous stories in that vein – from Disney and other sources. From the heart-tugging and tearful tale of the Labrador/Mastiff mix adopted by the poor Coates family in Old Yeller to the endearing charm, tenacity and loyalty of Old Dan and Little Ann, the protagonist’s prized Redbone Coonhound hunting dogs in Where the Red Fern Grows, there is a rich, thriving history to be found.Disney and Other Animated HoundsBut if you think that tearful and sweet tales of the dogs we adore (and, especially in the case of the previous examples, the lives they lose) are the only thing that an artist’s brush or an author’s pen can conjure up, we advise you to think again. Animated works, from some of Disney’s greatest classics, to the fun and quirkiness of cartoons in modern times aim to capture the tenacity and spirit of every dog in their tales. You’ve got the bold and daring cross-country chase of the Dearly’s dogs Pongo and Missis (Darling and Perdita in the animated Disney movie) in The One-Hundred and One Dalmatians, to Clifford the Big Red Dog, to Courage, the anthropomorphic purple dog who lives in Nowhere, Kansas, defending his elderly owners from all manner of surreal and sinister things in Courage the Cowardly Dog (Cartoon Network).Here’s a bit of trivia for you – while Clifford was born tiny (he was the runt of the litter after all), he eventually grew to be about 25 feet tall – though as with tales of giants in medieval literature, the inconsistency of his size is one of the most constant things about him. In the books and early kids’ show, he was based on a red-hued Labrador vis-a-vis his friendly and helpful personality. In the latter series, which had the late John Ritter as his voice actor, Clifford was modeled after a Vizsla, a Hungarian pointer-retriever. Last but by no means in the exhaustive list (that would take far too long to completely detail here) is Ace the Bat-hound, a black or black and straw (depending on which comic or cartoon you are watching) GSD who is the companion of Bruce Wayne/Batman.’Real Life’ Dogs Who Have Captured Our HeartsBut animated furry friends aren’t the real meat on the bone. They’re merely the icing on the cake. It’s the real stars, the dogs who played iconic figures like Lassie that tend to strike a chord with dog lovers of the purest form. Of course Lassie was played by a male dog, despite what many believe. One of the best known dogs, or at least most visible, was Skippy, a.k.a. Asta, who appeared in numerous films during the 1930s. Asta, a Wire-haired Fox Terrier, was the highest paid canine star of his time, not to mention arguably the most intelligent. At his peak, this feisty and clever fellow was earning $250 a day. His filmography includes such greats as The Thin Man (and other entries in the Thin Man franchise), The Awful Truth, Bringing Up Baby and Topper Takes a Trip (his final film before retiring).Enjoying a lesser but no less important role, especially for you fans of ’80s and sci-fi films is Freddie, the Catalan Sheepdog who portrayed Doctor Emmett Brown’s Einstein in the Back to the Future films. In the movies, he was just a normal dog named after the father of relativity, yet in the cartoon that spawned in the ’90s following the success of the third film, he became anthropomorphic and assists the good doctor in many adventures. On a less specious note, we can’t leave out other greats like Strongheart, the noble and talented GSD who was one of Hollywood’s first canine stars, working in the 1920s. Rin Tin Tin (and his descendants) followed over the decades. Indeed it was thought by film producer Charles Jones that ‘Rinty’ as his owner called him, could serve as an outstanding replacement for Strongheart (who passed in 1932).And we’ve just barely scratched the surface. Whimsical, sweet, goofy and memorable, dogs of cinema and literature are every bit as endearing as your favorite pooch with storied lives to make even the most pampered pooch growl with envy.

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