I’m thrilled to announce that I am a dog grandmother again! My step-daughter and her boyfriend just adopted Poppy.
Poppy is an 8 week old, female, Rottweiler/Shepherd mix that they found at their local animal shelter. Poppy is joining a family full of dog lovers and dog advocates. She will live her life enriched with everything she needs to succeed, but mostly she will be loved unconditionally. Poppy will be home for the holidays, sharing space with my two collies, one of whom is a direct descendant of the original Lassie. This got me to thinking about all of the famous dogs who came from shelters. So, here’s a short list of the top five shelter dogs who made it big:
Spike: Frank Weatherwax (who went on to train Lassie!) rescued Spike from a Southern California shelter, ultimately training him for the Disney movie, “Old Yeller.” Fun fact: Spike was such a sweet, good-natured dog that Frank had to teach him to growl and bare his teeth on command for the movie role!
Higgins: Frank Inn rescued many dogs from local shelters, training several of them for acting careers, and none was more famous than Higgins, the dog who portrayed “Benji.” Even before playing Benji, Higgins started out on the small screen as the unnamed dog on “Petticoat Junction.” Fun fact: Thanks to the appeal of Higgins as Benji, the Humane Society of the United States claimed that over a million adoptions were credited to his popularity alone.
Rin Tin Tin: Rescued with his mother and littermates from a bombed out kennel in France, Rin Tin Tin moved to California where he became the star of more than two dozen silent movies. Fun fact: You can visit Rin Tin Tin’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; he is one of only three dogs celebrated there. Extra credit if you know who the other two dogs are!
Charlie Gray: Charlie was just days from being euthanized when he was rescued by Hollywood animal trainer, Bob Blair. Bob thought Charlie had character and ended up training Charlie for the late 70’s TV series, “Hart to Hart” where Charlie played Freeway, the lovable mutt who helped Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers solve mysteries every week. Fun fact: Charlie was smitten with Stefanie Powers and spent most of his “off time” keeping her company on the set.
Dog: Director George Miller had almost given up on finding just the right dog to portray Max Rockatansky’s (aka Mad Max) companion in “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.” He auditioned more than 100 dogs, but none seemed right for the role. Then Miller met an Australian Cattle Dog at the local shelter who was slated for euthanasia. He tossed a rock, which the dog dutifully brought back to him, leading him to decide that this was the dog he’d been struggling to find. Fun fact: three months into shooting the movie, they discovered that Dog was terrified of loud engine noises which were a big part of the movie! They solved the problem by putting cotton in Dog’s ears leading him to look quite stoic and chill during noisy scenes in the film.
Even if you aren’t looking for the next canine star of the silver screen, and you don’t have room in your home for another canine companion, you can still celebrate “Adopt a Shelter Dog Month” by sharing photos of your shelter or rescue dogs on social media using the tag #AdoptAShelterDogMonth. It’s also a good time to make your tax deductible donation to your favorite shelter. If you plan to drop off supplies at your local shelter, be sure to call ahead first and find out how to do so safely; many shelters have new guidelines in place for accepting donations of food, bedding, etc.