February 2014

Dogs in Pop Culture

Author: Courtney Hampson

Indeed. To know the love of a dog is to know true, unconditional love. As I sit to write this, in addition to a laptop, my lap is also draped with a blanket of a black and a yellow Labrador—a black and white cookie of puppy, if you will. As man’s best friend, it is no surprise that dogs have played an ever-present role in history and pop culture.

He’s been in the funny pages. The comic strip Little Orphan Annie made its debut in 1924 in the NY Daily News, and alongside Annie was Sandy, the orphan dog whom Sandy befriended on the streets. Then came Daisy (Dagwood & Blondie’s fur-baby) in the 1930s, Snoopy and Marmaduke in the ’50s, and Odie in the ’70s.

He’s been in the movies. Having been born half a century post-comic, my first exposure to Sandy and Annie was when the film Annie hit the big screen in 1982, and Annie bumped into Sandy whilst attempting to escape Miss Hannigan, who was a tad pre-occupied taking a tumble with Mr. Bundles.

But before Sandy, Toto was all a flutter with flying monkeys in the 1939 film Wizard of Oz. The famous romance of Lady and Tramp is a 1955 tear-jerker for those endeared to a good love story between the classes (mutt and pure bred, of course). Bruiser Woods went to Harvard Law School in Legally Blonde. And lest we forget Hooch, Beethoven, and more than 100 Dalmatians.

He’s been on the billboard charts. The 1956 “Hound Dog” recording by Elvis Presley is ranked no. 19 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. “Who Let the Dogs Out?” Well, that was the Baha Men, and we kind of wish they hadn’t. Cat Stevens sang, “I love my dog as much as I love you. But you may fade; my dog will always come through.” And Johnny Cash sang about a “Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog” raiding his hen house and his threat to send him to the big ol’ chicken house in the sky (which makes me like Johnny just a little less, but I assume he needed to rhyme so I will cut him some slack).

He’s been on television. The fourth longest running primetime series was Lassie, which ran from 1954 to 1973 and chronicled the unmistakable bond between a boy and his dog. The Bradys had Tiger, and for one tense episode we wondered if they would have to give him away; luckily Jan’s allergy was to Tiger’s flea powder, not the pup himself. Scooby Doo flew (high on whatever was cooking in that magic bus) onto the scene in 1969 and remained on the tube, on and off, through 2008. Frasier Crane’s father’s best buddy Eddie occupied a prominent spot in that ugly chair betwixt two psycho-analysts for the run of the series. Fans of Family Guy’s dog (i.e. dog-like human who talks) Brian, raged when Brian was killed on the show. Luckily, through the magic of television, Stewie was able to travel back in time to save him. Whewie.

He’s been at the White House. President Warren G. Harding gave his Airedale Terrier, Laddie Boy, a hand-carved chair to sit in on high-level cabinet meetings. FDR’s terrier Fala starred in a movie, was named an honorary Army private and had his own press secretary (which seems like a waste of tax payer dollars, but who am I to judge). JFK was the first U.S. president to request that his dogs Shannon, Clipper, Charlie, and Wolf come out to meet the presidential helicopter when he arrived at the White House.

He’s been on the NY Times Bestseller List. Writer John Grogan introduced the world to his Labrador Marley in Marley & Me. What started as his weekly newspaper column about the adventures of his dog blossomed into a wonderful story of his love for a rambunctious dog. (If you’ve seen the movie, do yourself a favor and go back and read the book. The book is always better.) In Thunder Dog, Michael Hingson and his guide dog, Roselle, saved dozens of lives by guiding him and his co-workers down 78 floors and out of Tower One just before it collapsed on 9/11. The moment-by-moment account of their descent in the tower will take your breath away. And, in Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him, Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan, a U.S. Army Veteran and recipient of two Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal for Valor, and the Combat Action Badge, shares the perils of post-traumatic stress disorder, his struggles, and how Tuesday changed his life. All are worthy of your reading list.

I could go on and on, but the reality is in Beaufort Country alone, thousands of dogs are abused, abandoned, and sadly euthanized each year. So, this is where I do my shameless plug. Adopt a dog. Fall in love. I promise you, you haven’t been loved until you’ve been loved by a dog.

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