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Famous Dogs

Over the years we have been entertained, amused and educated by famous dogs in real life and fiction. These dogs became part of our lives through television shows, films, books or through belonging to a famous owner. Below we look at some of our favourite canine friends.

Film dogs

Lassie

Originally appearing in the book Lassie Come Home, written by Eric Knight, Lassie sprang to worldwide fame when the book was made into a film in 1943. Since then the 'Lassie dog' has become known to all successive generations. The original Lassie dog, whose real name was Pal, went on to star in six Lassie films made by film company MGM.

His owner was Rudd Weatherwax, a Hollywood animal trainer who took the Lassie trademark and travelled around with his famous pet to American fairs and rodeos in the 1950s. Then, in 1954, a Lassie TV series was aired and ran for 19 years winning an Emmy award. Pal starred in the first two pilots of the show and then retired. He died at the age of 18 in 1958. Pal has been described as having the most incredible canine career in film history. Since Pal’s death there have been a number of Rough Collie dogs who have taken on the famous role.

Pal was originally given to Weatherwax to train because of his habit of chasing motorbikes. Weatherwax then gave Pal away to a friend but later heard about the making of the film Lassie and thought Pal would be ideal and bought the dog back for $10. About 1,500 dogs auditioned for the part of Lassie and the part was originally given to an award-winning female collie, with Weatherwax as the trainer and Pal as the stunt double. However this all changed when Pal stood in to film a scene involving a flooded river. After his performance, Pal was hired as Lassie. Weatherwax was to say later that the director of the film had been so impressed and moved by Pal’s performance that he had tears in his eyes. The Lassie film then got upgraded to an A film with advertising support, top publicity and it was filmed in colour instead of black and white as originally planned.

After Pal's death in 1958 Weatherwax was said to have gone in and out of depression due to missing his canine friend but he later released a book about Pal’s life before and after the spotlight.

Toto

Toto is the famous fictional dog owned by Dorothy Gale in the film The Wizard of Oz and the series of books that inspired itIn the original book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Toto’s breed was never actually mentioned by author L. Frank Baum, although he did describe Toto as "a little black dog, with long, silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose".  In later books in the Oz series Toto appears in illustrations as a Boston Terrier.

In the 1939 film starring Judy Garland, a female Cairn Terrier called Terry took on the role of Toto.

Terry was five years old when she played the famous role of Toto. During filming Terry's foot was broken in an accident and a dog double had to step in until her paw healed. During her time as Toto, she spent two weeks living with co-star Judy Garland and it was reported that Judy offered to adopt Terry from her owner Carl Spitz because she had grown that fond of her, however the offer was turned down.

Terry was allegedly paid $125 a week for her film role and went along to the Hollywood premiere of The Wizard of Oz. Spitz changed Terry’s name to Toto in 1942. Terry she appeared in 12 films between 1936 and 1942. Her other famous co-stars included Shirley Temple in the film Bright Eyes

TV dogs

Blue Peter's most popular dogs

Since Blue Peter hit our TV screens in 1958 they have had a number of dogs that have become stars in their own rights. The first dog, and in fact the first Blue Peter pet, was a mixed breed dog called Petra. She first appeared on our screens in 1962 and had her last appearance on the show in 1977. Petra was known for being a very nervous dog and so when presenter Peter Purves joined the show it was suggested that he became Petra’s full time keeper to help her relax, and so she went on to live with him. Petra lost her teeth at a young age and Peter was quoted as saying that it was actually a good thing as she had a temper and would often ‘gum you to death’ if she got the chance. Petra had a number of pups. One of them, Patch, became another Blue Peter dog.

Shep is probably the most famous Blue Peter dog. He was a Border Collie and was brought in to replace Patch when he suddenly died in 1971. Shep was known for being inseparable from presenter John Noakes who became his owner. Noakes' catchphrase ‘Get down, Shep!’ was immortalised in a comedy song by the band The Barron Knights. When Noakes left the show in 1978 so did Shep. Although Shep did previously belong to the BBC he was given to Noakes as a parting gift and they then went on to appear in the show Go with Noakes. Shep died in 1987.

Goldie, a Golden Retriever, was cared for by presenter Simon Groom and was named by Blue Peter viewers. Throughout Goldie’s time on the show she appeared alongside eight Blue Peter presenters, and was the first Golden Retriever to appear on the show. Goldie died at the age of 14 in April 2001.

Blue Peter's ninth dog - and its first rescue dog - was an Irish Setter/Dachshund cross called Barney. He joined in September 2009 after he was given to presenter Helen Skelton by The Dogs' Trust charity.

Buster

Buster belonged to comedian and presenter Paul O’Grady. He was a Shih Tzu/Bichon Frise cross. Buster become extremely well known through his appearances on his owner's chat show The Paul O’Grady Show.

When the show moved over to Channel 4, Buster was joined by Paul's other dog Olga, a Cairn Terrier. The show’s production company was named ‘Olga TV’ in her honour. In November 2009 it was announced that Olga would now become the full-time replacement for Buster who had retired. Sadly, a few weeks later Buster passed away. Dog lover Paul was said to be devastated by the loss of his friend.

In more recent times, Paul has introduced an award-winning television series about Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and has gone on to open his own home to more dogs and companion animals.