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Bring Back the Hero Dog

From The Chain:

She had rescued him as a puppy when he couldn’t have been more than four or five weeks old. That winter in Vermont was cold and the puppy mill owner, a French Canadian, had been keeping at least two dozen females in wire cages outside in unheated sheds. Many were sick and malnourished, the worst of them the mixed breeds whose pups wouldn’t be worth much. Boiling with fury, Jude roared down the country roads to track down the local sheriff and drag him back out to arrest the owner while she made arrangements with a local shelter to take the dogs. During the heated argument between the owner and the sheriff, Jude found the pup behind the sheds in a rusty, metal cage with a broken sign on it that read “Fin” – the French word for finished. Her dog wasn’t finished, however. His hind leg was mangled, but he was still struggling to escape the cage from under the weight of a pile of dead puppies. She picked him up, warmed him underneath her coat, and called him Finn. He would do anything for her.

Finn is certainly not the first fictional canine hero. I grew up mesmerized by Jon_Provost_Lassie_1957Lassie, who for years came to the rescue of her owner and helpless animals in film and TV. And even earlier, the character of Lassie is found in an 1859 short story called “The Half-brothers” by British writer Elizabeth Gaskell. In the story, Lassie is described as a female collie with “intelligent, apprehensive eyes” who rescues two half-brothers who are lost and dying in the snow.

Another dog starred in American children’s television from 1954 to 1959. Rin Tin Tin, who was responsible for the rising popularity of German Shepherds as family pets, played the stalwart companion of Rusty, an orphan being raised by soldiers at a US Calvary post known as Fort Apache. Unlike Lassie, the original Rin Tin Tin was a real dog. He was rescued from a World War I battlefield by an American soldier who trained his rescue pup and put him in silent pictures. rin_tin_tin_BOne of the famed German Shepherd’s descendants served as a stunt dog for fight scenes in The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. (Fun fact: The show was filmed on such a low budget that the troupe of 12 actors were often required to play multiple parts in the same episode, sometimes to the point of one actor fighting himself, wearing a cavalry uniform in one shot and an Apache outfit in another). Kind of reminds me of my Godspell days.

At present, I’m working on novel #2, in which Finn plays a more pivotal role. It’s time to bring back the hero canine!


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