Category Archives: famous dogs

An Interview with Hallie, the Blind Dog that Paints

Hallie 3By Langley Cornwell

I am a big fan of Hallie, the blind dog that paints, and so delighted she agreed to an interview. I am certain you’ll enjoy getting to know this very special (and talented!) little dog.

How did you meet your mom?

One night when I was about 10 months old, my people took me and my sister and brother to an animal shelter and locked us in the night drop-off kennel. We were scared in there. One of the shelter employees called my soon-to-be Mom because she had lost her other longhaired dachshund girl four years earlier and was still so broken hearted she didn’t have another dog-child. They asked her if she would foster the three of us so we wouldn’t have to stay in the shelter while we waited for new homes. So she did and she found homes for us (because she was still vowing to not get a dog again herself) but after she took my brother and sister to their new homes, she just couldn’t let me go, so she kept me.  And the funny thing is, I knew from the second we laid eyes on each other that I would be staying with her. And on some level, I think she knew it too. I promised her I’d take good care of her, and I have ever since.

What got you interested in painting?

My Mom and I always did fun things and we trained all the time. To me it was a big game and I loved it. I won obedience titles and learned a lot of tricks. When I was 10 years old, I had earned most of my titles so we didn’t go to shows as often. Mom taught me more tricks so I would still have something fun to learn. She is an artist also (I think she gets it from me) so one winter day when it was cold out and I was bored, she got the idea to see if I wanted to learn how to paint too. I surprised her by learning very fast and doing my first painting within a few weeks. I really got into it! And the better the treat involved…the faster I painted!

Do you have a favorite painting?

I am most proud of my first painting. My Mom has it framed on the wall. She has a video of me painting it. My style was different then, when I could still see. You can watch the video here.
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Carl Spitz and the Hollywood Dog Training School

By Langley Cornwell

The Hollywood Dog Training School, currently owned and operated by Richard Karl, was once a hotel and training ground for the Hollywood elite. The fancy four pawed “actors and actresses” were brought in to learn to hit their acting cues. The Hollywood superstars also brought their canines to set up house in their own little personal hotel of sorts. The rich and famous regularly lavished their canines with a visit to the hottest spot in the doggie world at that time. Carl Spitz, the owner and trainer at this Hollywood hotspot, knew how to make dogs feel like a million dollars.

Carl Spitz, Sr. was the original owner and brains behind the initial Hollywood Dog Training School. Originally from Germany, Spitz got his start working with dogs for movie roles. He learned about dog training from the man that many consider the greatest dog trainer of all time…Colonel Konrad Most. Clearly he learned his lessons well, because he went on to be among the greatest in his own right.

Most everyone knows the dog Toto from the movie The Wizard of Oz. Toto was actually Carl’s family dog and was trained under his watchful eye. Toto’s real name was Terry, and the dog became one of Spitz’s most famous clients. Starring alongside Judy Garland, that cute little canine actor was so much fun to watch. Although he was one of Spitz’s most popular clients, he was far from the only one.

Back when Spitz first started the school in 1927, the Hollywood elite would bring him their dogs to be pampered and trained. The accommodations were right out of a Hollywood fantasy, with extravagant playgrounds and beautiful views. The dogs would also have private baths and dryers, and custom menu items made by special cooks. How many dogs do you know that are bathed in porcelain bathtubs? Spitz made sure they had the best of everything for his visitors.

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5 Dogs That Received an Honorary College Degree

By Linda Cole

Colleges and universities often bestow honorary degrees to individuals for outstanding contributions or distinction. Sometimes it’s a four legged individual that impresses committee members. Ellis, Samson, Zeeke and Elvis are dogs who received honorary degrees for their contributions to their humans, and Dylan received a posthumous award for his owner.

Ellis

Amanda Davis is legally blind, but having a disability didn’t stop her from realizing her dream of getting a law degree. While she was getting her undergraduate degree at the University of Tampa, she was paired with a black Lab named Ellis after she applied for a guide dog from the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ. Davis was accepted into the New York Law School to continue her education, and Ellis was by her side the entire time. The school made room in the classrooms and gave Ellis time for breaks when they were needed. When Davis and Ellis crossed the stage on graduation day in 2012, she received her law degree and Ellis was given an honorary degree for his outstanding work as a service dog.

Samson

Samson

In 2011, a 2 year old yellow Lab named Samson graduated from and received an honorary degree from Oklahoma University. He entered the hallowed halls of higher education as an eight week old pup. Occupational therapist and faculty member in the Rehabilitative Services Department, Dr. Mary Isaacson, would spend the next two years training Samson as a service dog. Part of his training included learning how to hold open doors, retrieve objects on the floor, and turn lights on and off. Samson completed his education, donned his cap and gown, and graduated as a certified service dog ready to assist someone living with a disability in Oklahoma. When Samson received his honorary degree, he sat and shook the Dean’s hand, like any other graduate. The 300 other graduates were thrilled to share their special day with a dog they knew and loved.

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Patsy Ann, the “Official Greeter” of Juneau, Alaska

By Linda Cole

The mystery of how and why dogs do certain things has never been solved, and maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. It’s a conundrum that constantly reminds us of the amazing abilities of dogs. Such is the case with Patsy Ann, a white Bull Terrier who left her home and family behind to become the “Official Greeter” of Juneau, Alaska, welcoming ships as they docked. What impressed the townspeople was that even though Patsy Ann was born deaf, she was able to “hear” the whistles of ships preparing to dock before they were even in sight. She was the most famous dog west of the Mississippi during the 1930s.

Patsy Ann was born on October 12, 1929 in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Keyser, a Juneau dentist, purchased the pup for his twin daughters, and Patsy Ann traveled by ship to her new home in Alaska. Once there, however, things didn’t go well in her new home and she was given to another family in Juneau. But Patsy Ann had a mind of her own and wasn’t the “settling down with one family” type of dog. She regularly escaped to make her rounds around town and visit human friends. A friendly soul adored by everyone, Patsy Ann had become Juneau’s dog.

How Patsy Ann knew a ship was coming has remained a mystery. Maybe she felt vibrations from the whistle in the air or smelled the smoke coming from the smokestacks on the steamships. As soon as the first whistles were heard, no matter where Patsy Ann was in town, she eagerly trotted to the pier before the ship was even in sight. She even knew which of the seven docks the ship was making its way to!

A story the locals loved to tell was the time the newspaper misprinted the dock for an incoming ship, which sent everyone to the wrong dock to wait. As Patsy Ann made her way to the wharf, she saw the crowd gathering at the published dock. She stared at them for a moment before moving on to the correct dock and sat down to wait. Every now and then, she’d glance at the people and then turn her head back towards the channel. When the crowd realized the ship was heading for the dock Patsy Ann was at, they began to wander over to join her.

For twelve years, Patsy Ann endured bitter winds cutting across Gastineau Channel as she waited for ships to come into view. She waited through pounding rainstorms, wicked sleet, the harshness of winter, and docks groaning and rolling in heavy waves. Through it all, Patsy Ann stared into the gloom – waiting and watching. When a ship broke through the mist, Patsy Ann wiggled with excitement. The positive attention she received from the passengers and ship’s crew was her reward.

Patsy Ann was given the title of Official Greeter of Juneau by Mayor Goldstein in 1934, and when the town issued new dog license laws, he granted her immunity, which was good since she didn’t like wearing collars and somehow lost each one put on her.

When she wasn’t waiting for ships at the dock, Patsy Ann spent time with her friends in town. The local newspaper reported regularly on her activities, like leaving her footprints in freshly laid cement. She was well cared for by local businesses and probably had more friends than anyone in town. Everyone looked out for the dog and made sure she had shelter and plenty to eat. Her favorite place to sleep was in the Longshoremen’s hall.

News of Juneau’s famous Bull Terrier spread around the world by word of mouth, photographs and postcards with her image on them. Everyone wanted a picture of her. For people visiting Juneau, Patsy Ann was the highlight of their trip.

As she grew older, years of diving into the cold channel waters to meet many of the ships, weather and obesity had taken its toll on the old gal. On the night of March 30, 1942, she settled down for the last time in the Longshoremen’s hall. Patsy Ann died peacefully in her sleep at the age of twelve. A crowd of mourners gathered at the pier the next day and watched as a small coffin was lowered into the icy waters of the channel – Patsy Ann was gone.

On July 3, 1992, to honor this remarkable canine, a life-size bronze sculpture was unveiled at Patsy Ann Square which sits on the waterfront. In a heartwarming tribute, when the sculpture was sent to Alaska, part of the journey was by ship. Encased in the bronze are clippings of dog hairs from around the world to symbolically unite the spirit of all dogs. The statue sits on the main dock so Patsy Ann can continue her duty as Juneau’s Official Greeter, her head turned, watching the channel for ships making their way to dock. Visitors are encouraged to “Greet her and touch her and in leaving, carry with you the blessings of friendship through your life’s journey.”

Top photo by gillfoto
Middle photo by by woofiegrrl
Bottom photo by Eric V. Blanchard

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

The Highest Paid Animal Actors

Rin Tin Tin in the 1929 film Frozen River

By Langley Cornwell

Animals don’t really care about money, but nevertheless, when it comes to animal actors, they do indeed get paid. Some animal actors receive a hefty fee for their performances, and that pay would make any human drool. Who are the highest paid animal actors? Check these out.

Rin Tin Tin the Dog 

This beloved pooch starred in 26 films for Warner Brothers and commanded a cool $6,000 each week. In today’s money, that would equal $78,000 per week! With that income, he could feed himself and thousands of his friends a healthy diet of CANIDAE dog food. Rin Tin Tin earned Warner Brothers so much money, in fact, that he was responsible for bringing the studio back from the brink of bankruptcy in 1930. Rin Tin Tin was a German shepherd dog that was rescued from a battlefield during World War I by an American soldier named Lee Duncan. Duncan trained “Rinty,” his pet name for his dog. Rin Tin Tin became a beloved movie icon and was rumored to have received the most votes for the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1929, but the Academy would only give the award to a human. The original Rin Tin Tin died in 1932. (Read more about this famous animal actor in The True Story of Rin Tin Tin).

Keiko the Whale

This killer whale made a killing financially, thanks to his depiction of Willy in the Free Willy films. He earned a grand total of over $36 million for his role! Eventually, Keiko gained his own freedom in 2002, as he was returned to the open ocean. Sadly, Keiko died in 2003 in Norway from a bout with pneumonia, but his work lives on after his passing.

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Animal Actor Higgins, of Petticoat Junction and Benji Fame

By Langley Cornwell

One of the most beloved and well known animal actors during the 1960s and 1970s was a scruffy little shelter dog named Higgins. This pup played all sorts of roles, but is probably best known as the dog on the Petticoat Junction TV show and as the title role in the movie Benji. As a kid, I was crazy about every show and movie that had a prominent animal actor, but the movie Benji was a particular favorite. I’m certain this movie was a contributing factor in establishing my lifelong passion for animals.

Higgins was discovered by Frank Inn, a Hollywood animal trainer and true animal lover. Inn was known to visit animal shelters and take home all the healthy pets because he couldn’t stand for them to be euthanized. He kept and trained the ones that he thought had potential as an animal actor and he found loving homes for the rest. There was a time when Inn and his assistants had over 1,000 animals in their care.  

It was during one of Inn’s shelter sweeps at the Burbank Animal Shelter when he found a special little tan-and-black mixed breed puppy. Inn believed this little pup was a combination of Border Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, Miniature Poodle and Schnauzer. With Frank Inn’s incredible talent as a dog trainer and this puppy’s natural abilities, the dog went on to become what some people consider the best animal actor of our times.

Higgins first major national role was of the dog (creatively called Dog or sometimes called Boy, as in “Here, Boy”) in Petticoat Junction. Higgins appeared in 163 episodes from 1964 to 1970, and even though he was un-credited in this role, it introduced him to millions of fans. During that time, he also made guest appearances on Green Acres and Beverly Hillbillies. Even though he was from Burbank, California, Higgins must have had a southern accent.

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