Toto, Too (Pt. 1)

A major part of coming home after being away for a number of months is paying respects to and/or visiting friends and family. No one will greet a person quite as enthusiastically as a childhood dog well into his prime of life. I’ve had a Parson Jack Russell Terrier since I was 9 years old and I think I miss him most of all when I’m away. Upon my arrival, he alternates between stages of excitement to anger and resentment, to contentedness and eventually forgetting I was gone in the first place.

Rufus ignoring me.

Since I saw The Wizard of Oz at an early age, I wanted a confidant like Toto. Due to severe allergies and asthma, I spent most of my time pretending a stuffed dog was just as animated and adventurous as the real thing. In the long run, stuffed animals were bad for allergies and asthma, too. I filled the dogless hole in my heart with dogs in films. I even had a bookmark with Toto on the front. Information on the reverse side claimed Toto’s actual name was Terry and she was a Cairn Terrier. Terriers are among the most intelligent dogs in the world, therefore… if I ever had a dog, I wanted a terrier. And I finally got one.

After having spent almost two weeks with Rufus this month, I’ve remembered all the things I love about owning a pet. So, I thought I would blog about pets in Hollywood films. The obvious choice for this post is, of course, Toto or rather Terry the Terrier.

Toto, Too

Terry was, like many famous pups in Hollywood, trained by Carl Spitz. Spitz established the Hollywood Dog Training School. He trained dogs used in films, at detective agencies, and those used in the canine corps during World War II. Terry, most famous for her role as Toto in The Wizard of Oz, starred in 15 films with many of the top actors and actresses including Shirley Temple (yes, the girl I talked about last week). Judy Garland actually loved Terry to the point of wanting to adopt, but Spitz refused her offer. Terry passed away in 1945 from natural causes

Terry with Virginia Weidler

Terry with Virginia Weidler

I think the most important aspect of Toto in the narrative of Oz is a dog’s ability to be a person’s comforter and friend in the most dire situations. Elmira Gulch knew removing Toto from Dorothy’s presence would weaken her willpower. Much like the dog in my life, Toto was there to listen and love unconditionally which is something humans oftentimes have the inability to do.

On the next post, I want to discuss another classic film dog alongside a contemporary dog in a classic film setting. Do you have a favourite film pet?

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