Showing posts with label Famous Dogs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Famous Dogs. Show all posts

Dog History: All the President's Dogs - Washington to Monroe

President Barack Obama and his dog Bo, playing on the
White House Lawn. Bo is a Portugese Water Dog.
There's no doubt about it, Americans love dogs!

There are millions of pet dogs in the United States, and more all over the world. Dog fans love to see "dogs of influence", like the pets of the actors they like, pets of royalty, animal TV and movie stars, and especially, the pets of the Presidents.

Good news, dog lovers! There have been dogs in the White House for as long as there have been Presidents in the White House. Although not every President has had a dog, many furry friends have accompanied many Presidents through their years of service as President of the United States (POTUS).

Since we love to explore canine history and, lets face it, put our two cents in on just about everything we write, we're going to break this article down into several parts. That way, we can better explore the Presidents and their canine pals, with a few little anecdotes thrown in for good measure. With 44 POTUS so far, there is a lot of ground to cover. Part one of this series will cover the first 5 Presidents and their dogs (or lack thereof).


Pluto the Dog.
via Fair Use for commentary purposes.
As you probably know, Pluto the dog is a lanky, mustard yellow hound mix who belongs to a mouse called Mickey.

He has been coined as a mutt, but seems to be fashioned after a pointer and a bloodhound. He has a very good tracking ability and sense of smell. Walt Disney Productions first introduced Pluto in 1930, and at the time, he was Minnie Mouse's pet dog. He has been called Pluto the Pup as well as Rover, and is considered to be a part of the group that has been coined the “Sensational Six”, which are featured in all kinds of shows and films, such as the popular "Mickey's Clubhouse" series. The Sensational Six includes Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Daisy, and Pluto.

When Pluto was first introduced into the cartoons, he was a dog with no name who was sent out to track down the escaped convict, Mickey Mouse. The cartoon was called "The Chain Gang", and the dog who would later become Pluto was drawn by Norm Ferguson. The same dog later appeared in a cartoon called "The Picnic" and was Minnie's dog, who was then named Rover. He was liked enough that the dog switched hands again and became Mickey's pet, and was dubbed Pluto in 1931.

Dog History: The Sainted Dog

greyhound illustration public domain
In the French tale, the dog is a greyhound.
There is a legend, whether truth or fiction (likely fiction born out of some former truth, as most legends are), of a dog risen to sainthood, after protecting a child and receiving a swift execution as his reward.

There are two stories, one Welsh and one French, both with similar motifs, and one was almost certainly copied from the other. We'll focus on the French one first, and touch on the Welsh one later.

In this tale, a French noble from the 13th century raised a greyhound named Guinefort like it was his child, and had a great trust for the dog due to this relationship with him. Some stories say the man was a prince, while others say he was a nobleman or knight, but that is neither here nor there. What is important to know is that this lofty French fellow later had a baby with his wife, and began raising the child with his beloved dog. He trusted the dog so much that he decided that he could leave his baby alone with the dog while he went out hunting (OK, so he's not in the running for Father of the Year or anything here!). It is unknown where the baby's mother was when this noble hunter decided to go off hunting and not scrounge up a few bucks (17th century French bucks, of course) for a sitter.


benji pr photo
A Benji publicity photo.
Benji is one of the most famous movie dogs in the world.

There have been several Benji movies made since 1974. The dog is played by a mixed breed or mutt in each movie, which is great publicity for "mutts", and there have been at least 4 different mutts to play Benji. He is a small lovable dog who is quite clever, always solving problems and helping people. The first Benji character was a stray dog who living in a small town in Texas, and had many human friends that keep him fed and cared for. This version of Benji doesn't want to settle down with any one owner, he likes to play the field! Each Benji movie has a slightly different, but similar, plot.

There were six movies featuring Benji the dog, one of which was a Christmas movie. There was also a science fiction type TV show created by Joe Camp with Benji as a character. This aired in 1983 and had 13 episodes. It was popular enough to have reruns air throughout the 1980's and it was released on DVD in 2004. The series was called Benji, Zax and the Alien Prince (we couldn't make this stuff up)! There was also a documentary called the Phenomenon of Benji which aired as an ABC special and featured the search for a dog to star in the new movie, from animal shelters across the US.

Clifford the Big Red Dog

photo of a clifford the big red dog mascot
Clifford at a White House Easter Egg Roll.
Have you ever heard of Clifford the Big Red Dog? Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last 50 years, chances are pretty high that you have.

Clifford, the famous "Big Red Dog", is the well known and much loved character from dozens of books, as well as a TV series. The dog in the books was not based off of any one breed, but meant to encompass an all-around canine. The book series began in 1963, written by Norman Bridwell and published by Scholastic. Since its beginning, Clifford the Big Red Dog has grown in popularity, and the dog Clifford even became the mascot for the publishing company!

The inspiration for Mr. Bridwell's character of Clifford came from the many years he spent trying to get into illustrating and writing books. One company he went to wasn't interested, but saw two of his drawings and told him there could be a story in it. The drawing were of a horse-sized bloodhound and a small girl. Bridwell went home that night and created the main character for his series. His first idea in naming the dog was "Tiny", but his wife thought that rather a silly name for a big dog (she failed to see the irony, perhaps?) She suggested the name "Clifford", after an imaginary friend she had in her youth. Bridwell liked the name and used it. Clifford's owner and best friend, Emily Elizabeth, is named for the Bridwell's daughter.

Clifford the Big Red Dog comes from normal sized canine parents. He also has two brothers and two sisters. Clifford was born the runt of the litter and adopted by the family of Emily Elizabeth. The story goes that the love from Emily Elizabeth was so great, that Clifford grew to be upwards of 25 feet tall! He is so big that Emily Elizabeth is often pictured riding on his back like a house.

Lassie: Part 2

lassie title screen circa 1958
The Lassie title screen from the original TV show.
The beloved collie called Lassie has been one of the most famous pet dog icons since the 1940s. We discussed, in our earlier article, the background surrounding the affable dog and the years of film and media surrounding her / him.

The first Lassie movie was released in 1945 and many thought it would not be very popular. After all, animal movies were not a big thing back then. But the popularity was astounding and the movie was named one of the years top ten films. The collie who played Lassie, a male dog named Pal, was rocketed to stardom. The movies made thereafter were just as popular, and Lassie movies were made regularly for over 50 years.

Lassie, the Radio Star?

The next big thing was the Lassie radio show, which can be downloaded for free at the Internet Archive. This started before television was the big thing worldwide, and people were still enjoying radio shows for their Friday night entertainment. The radio show premiered in 1947 and featured human characters for Lassie to interact with, and the voice of the barking Lassie was voiced by a few different dogs over the years. The radio show ran from 1947 to about 1950. It was a weekly show, about 15 minutes long, and featured Lassie in situations where she needed to help others.

The Lassie TV Shows

In 1954, the Lassie TV series began. It ran for the tremendous length of 19 years. It was the very first family drama TV series. It won several awards, including an Emmy for best children's program. The show was filmed in black and white until 1964, which was the time when the show changed a bit and Lassie began living with park rangers or on her own. The show began being filmed in color at that time, and aired for a few more years before beginning reruns.

Famous Dogs: Snoopy, Part 1

snoopy desktop perpetual calendar image
Snoopy Perpetual Calendar.
Snoopy is a beloved icon of the Charles M. Schulz comic strip, Peanuts. He is a cartoon rendering of a black and white beagle. Snoopy was based off of Schulz' childhood dog named Spike. Strangely, the real dog was not a beagle, but rather a pointer.

Mr. Schultz had originally decided on the name Sniffy, but remembered his mother saying once that if the family ever got another dog they would name it Snoopy, after the Norwegian word "Snuppa". This is apparently a Norwegian term of endearment. Now, Snoopy is one of the most commonly recognized comic strip dogs in the world.

Snoopy was bought by Charlie Brown's family in the strip as a gift for him, from the Daisy Hill puppy farm. Before that, Snoopy had appeared in the town where the gang lived and seemed to be a stray that all the characters took care of. Snoopy was just sort of this “communal dog” that participated in the fun and games with the kids. He was not identified by his name until November of 1950, nearly three months after being introduced into the Peanuts comic strip.

Snoopy was part of the Peanuts comic strips starting just two days after the first strip appeared in October of 1950. His birthday would later come to light as August 10th. Snoopy began as a regular dog who had uncanny communication abilities, and did not speak until two years after the strip was first published. It was then that he first began to become more anthropomorphic, having thought bubbles where he answered the other characters or commented on the situations. The readers became even more endeared to his character as he developed human-like characteristics.

Famous Dogs: Lassie, Part 1

Everybody loves Lassie!
Lassie, a fictional collie, is certainly one of the most iconic dogs in the world. The character of Lassie has been around since 1938, when an English American writer named Eric Knight wrote a short story about a rough collie called Lassie Come Home. The story was featured in the Saturday Evening Post and was a classic Homeward Bound-type story, featuring a collie, separated from her young master. Of course, she then proceeded to travel across many miles, and experience more than her fair share of adventure and tribulations, to ultimately reunite with him. The short story was later expanded to novel length and published in 1940. It was a big success in the reading world, and three years later, in 1943, MGM purchased the rights to make it into a movie.

The Real Lassie Is Not A Girl

Lassie the collie was first played by a male dog named "Pal". Every portrayal of Lassie throughout the years of films and TV shows portrays Lassie as a female dog, but Lassie has always been played by a male "rough collie", as opposed to a "smooth collie". We're talking about fur here, not temperament! This choice was said to be largely due to the coloring in the male coat, because it has better “pop” on the silver screen. Personally, I was always under the impression that female dogs couldn't be used because they wouldn't stay on task when in heat, but why wouldn't they just spay them!

I mean, if they were all male dogs playing female roles, they must have been neutered, or we probably would have seen a lot more than we bargained for on screen! Then again, if they are all descendants of each other, I guess maybe they just had a good hairstylist?

Welcome to What About Dogs!

Celebrity dogs will be featured, too!
Celebrity dogs will be featured, too!
Welcome to What About Dogs!

I'm guessing you can already tell by the name that is about dogs. To be more specific, this site is going to feature fun articles and stories in three fur-filled categories:

Dog History - In these articles we will cover the history of dogs, from ancient to modern times, and the role our best friends in the animal kingdom have played in shaping our world. Sometimes these stories will be sad, sometimes uplifting, exciting, or even (maybe) funny! But we promise to present them all in easily digested portions, and to weed out any dull bits.

For instance, did you know that Alexander the Great is said to have been saved from an attacking elephant by his dog, Peritas. Ol' Alex later named a city Peritas, to honor the dog. You could make a strong argument that without Peritas, the conqueror may have simply been known as Alexander the Not-Bad, and might have never laid the groundwork for western civilization!

Famous Dogs - From fictional dogs like Snoopy to real-life dogs like Barry, the St Bernard, who saved many lives working as a rescue dog in Switzerland, in this section we cover dogs who achieved a great level of renown.

Why Does My Dog...? - These posts will deal with answers to those things you've always wondered about, such as why your dog spins in circles before laying down, kicks the ground after going potty, or just won't stop licking you.

We'll keep adding new sections as needed, but for now, this lays the groundwork for what we hope will be a fun and exciting site for dog lovers (and history buffs) everywhere!