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  • Writer's pictureChristopher McHale

The Top 6 Most Iconic Movie Dogs Ever

We're spinning into another drain hole of a national election where issue #1 seems to be should we trust a bloated PT Barnum even as we watch him pick our pocket with his pig fingers in plain slight without even bothering to hide.

Sort of says it all about us, yeah? So instead I'm thinking about dogs.

I've got this thing about set dogs. If acting is truth, there are no more truthful actors than set dogs. They are truly 'on the set,' not 'in a movie.' They don't pretend.

With a dog you get exactly what you see in front of you. No AI required.

The most common way to control them is with treats. Treats are a major acting motivation for dogs. You can often spot the treat in the actor's hand. Leashes are great too.

But the greatest of all need neither leash nor treat.

They bring a unique form of joy and enthusiasm, even in worlds overrun with zombies and aliens and politicians. Dog reactions and emotions are unfiltered and genuine.

So here are my Top 6, my four-legged Hall of Doggie Fame.

1. Toto

Toto, the Cairn Terrier in "The Wizard of Oz," remains one of the most iconic movie dogs. Portrayed by Terry, Toto's loyalty and bravery alongside Dorothy made him an instant favorite. His role in the 1939 classic is a testament to the timeless appeal of a well-trained dog in cinema.

Toto set the bar and proved a perfect foil for Judy. He went in to appear in several roles.

In the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, Toto was paid a $125 salary each week, which was more than some of the human actors (the Singer Midgets who played the Munchkins reportedly received $50 to $100 a week). Wikipedia

2. Lassie

No list of movie dogs is complete without Lassie, the Rough Collie who first appeared in "Lassie Come Home" (1943). Lassie became synonymous with loyalty and bravery, inspiring several films and TV shows. Her ability to perform complex tasks on screen showcased the remarkable training behind her character.

From his retirement in 1954 to his death in 1958, Pal lived with his trainer, Rudd Weatherwax. Years later, Rudd’s son commented on how devastated his father was when his best friend died: "It hit him very hard when Pal died. He buried him in a special place on the ranch and would often visit the grave. Dad would never again watch an MGM Lassie movie. He just couldn't bear to see Pal. He didn't want to have to be reminded of just how much he loved that dog. Mental floss

3. Beethoven

The St. Bernard named Beethoven, from the movie of the same name, brought humor and chaos to the big screen. His drooling face and mischievous antics made "Beethoven" (1992) a family favorite, highlighting the comedic potential of dogs in film.

Where Lassie and Toto are brave, St. Bernard's are big, with a dog in a China shop character. Maybe the John Candy of dog actors..

Beethoven was portrayed by a big, lovable Saint Bernard named Chris, who starred in the first two films, which are undoubtedly the most popular of them all.
After around 20 Saint Bernard auditions, Chris made the cut. He worked with highly respected animal trainers Teresa Miller and Kar Lewis Miller. Kar Lewis Miller worked on the film Cujo, which portrayed Saint Bernard in an entirely different light. Both trainers had nothing but wonderful things to say about Chris. Lindy Lawson

4. Hooch

Hooch, the Dogue de Bordeaux in "Turner & Hooch" (1989), showed the world just how much a dog could steal the show. His messy, slobbering, yet incredibly endearing personality, alongside Tom Hanks, created a memorable and heartwarming dynamic.

Not one but five burly, brown-nosed Dogues de Bordeaux star as “Hooch” in the series sequel/continuation of the 1980s film “Turner & Hooch”. The dogs, named Arnie, Hammer, Obi, Cyd, and Mya each play an important role in filming. American Kennel Club

5. Marley

Marley, the Labrador Retriever in "Marley & Me" (2008), brought both laughter and tears to audiences worldwide. The film, based on a true story, showcased the deep emotional bond that can develop between humans and their canine companions.

6. Uggie

Not one but five burly, brown-nosed Dogues de

Uggie, the Jack Russell Terrier in the Oscar-winning film "The Artist" (2011), proved that even in a silent film, a dog's presence could be profoundly expressive. His performance was so impactful that there was a campaign for him to receive an Oscar nomination.

Bred to the Bone

Each of these dogs left an indelible mark on the hearts of viewers. Their performances are a tribute to the skill and dedication of their trainers, and a reminder of the unspoken bond we share with our canine friends. Whether in a leading role or as a faithful companion, these dogs have proven that they are indeed some of the most honest and memorable actors in film history.

My eyes light up whenever I see a set dog. I don't like movies where they get hurt. I don't need to see any of that. But I ajways imagine their bright eyes are watching the film crew, the craft table, taking in all the scents, the noise, the fun of a film set, expanding the film world into its 360 degree reality. Sure it kicks me out of the story illusion, but it's worth it!

Better than Drone Cable News endlessly dissecting the ramblings of a mumble-duck from Queens, NY.

Excuse me, I'm going to walk my dog along the lake.

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