Category Archives: famous dogs

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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Why Was a Dog Honored as Cat of the Year?

By Linda Cole

Mozart, one of my cats, loves Dozer, a foster dog we’ve been caring for. Mozart follows Dozer around, giving him love bites, rubbing against him and standing on his hind legs to give him hugs. It’s not uncommon for animals to form close bonds with different species. In 1998, a dog named Ginny was honored as “Cat of the Year” by the Westchester Feline Club, sponsor of the annual Westchester Cat Show, because of an extraordinary desire she had to rescue stray cats in desperate need of help.

Ginny and her three pups were discovered locked inside the closet of an abandoned apartment. She and her pups were taken to a shelter, but when vets saw her, they were afraid she was too far gone to be saved. They concluded it would be kinder to put her down. But something made them change their mind, and they decided she should be given a chance to recover, and did what they could to help her. Ginny did recover, and she and her pups were put up for adoption.

Philip Gonzalez had been wrestling with depression after he was injured on the job while working as a steamfitter in Manhattan. His right arm had been severely injured in the accident and he could barely use it. A determined neighbor told Gonzalez he should adopt a dog from the local shelter. He finally gave in and agreed. As they looked over the dogs at the shelter, a purebred Doberman caught Gonzalez’s eye. But instead of pulling the Doberman out for Gonzalez to take out for a walk, a shelter employee handed him a leash attached to Ginny, a two year old Siberian Husky/Schnauzer mix, and invited him to walk her first.

Gonzalez wasn’t happy; he wanted the Doberman, not some scruffy looking mixed breed, but he did what the worker asked. He tried to hurry Ginny along so he could get back to the Doberman. Now, you can call it fate or something else, but Ginny wasn’t going to be rushed. She sat down in front of Gonzalez and refused to move. Sometimes it’s the dog that picks us. As he stood looking down into her eyes, something tugged at his heart and he forgot about the Doberman. He walked out of the shelter with Ginny. Gonzalez didn’t know at the time how that little dog would change his life, and the lives of countless homeless cats.

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Top Five Grossing Dog Movies

By Langley Cornwell

Like most animal lovers, I enjoy reading books about pets and watching movies about them, especially if the movie involves real animals. When looking at the top five grossing dog movies, it’s interesting to note that there are a mix of cartoon dogs and real dogs in the films. Here is a list of the highest grossing dog movies as published by Box Office Mojo:

1. Scooby-Doo (released on 6/14/02), has a Lifetime Gross (Theaters) of $153,294,164.
2. Marley & Me (12/25/08), has a Lifetime Gross of $143,153,751.
3. 101 Dalmatians (11/27/96), has a Lifetime Gross of $136,189,294.
4. Beverly Hills Chihuahua (10/3/08), has a Lifetime Gross of $94,514,402.
5. Cats & Dogs (7/4/01), has a Lifetime Gross of $93,385,515.

Scooby-Doo topping the list makes sense; when kids love a movie they beg to go back to see it multiple times and this is definitely a kid’s movie. The characters were first seen in 1969 on the long-running Hanna-Barbera cartoon called Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? The movie is a live-action comedy/adventure. Scooby-Doo himself is computer-generated. The movie was so popular, a sequel called Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed was released two years later and ranks as number 6, grossing $84,216,833. Scooby-Doo received 2.5 stars from the Internet Movie Database.

I loved the Marley & Me book so much that I was hesitant about seeing the movie. I’m glad I did. The film stars Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson and twenty-two different yellow Labradors playing Marley at various stages in his life. The thing that I liked the most about this story is that it’s autobiographical and it illustrates the power of the canine-human bond. This is a must-see for dog lovers. The Marley & Me movie received 3.5 stars from the Internet Movie Database.

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12 Unforgettable Pets of 2012

Grumpy Cat

By Linda Cole

If you spend time on Facebook or like to search the web for cute pets, you’ve likely seen Grumpy Cat with the sour puss frown and Boo, the super cute Pomeranian. It seems we can’t get enough of these adorable pets. Below are some of my favorite pets that were “all the rage” in 2012. If you have a favorite that I didn’t mention, please let me know!

Grumpy Cat, aka Tardar Sauce (Tard for short), has an adorable scowl that makes it hard not to smile when you see her. Bryan Bundesen was visiting his sister Tabatha in Arizona last fall when he snapped the now famous frown of her 8 month old cat. Tardar Sauce was given her name by Tabatha’s daughter, who noticed the kitten had speckles in her fur that reminded her of tartar sauce. She misspelled it but the name stuck. Grumpy Cat really isn’t grumpy at all! She’s a sweetheart, and loves to play. Tard isn’t going away anytime soon. There’s a children’s book series, and a line of stuffed animals being discussed for 2013. Tard’s official Grumpy Cat Facebook page has almost 315,000 fans.

Chopper the Biker Dog

Chopper the Biker Dog is one cool dude that rides around on his custom made motorcycle. He has his very own handmade biker leather jacket and sunglasses, but this Boston Terrier is about as mellow as a dog can be, and thoroughly enjoys his job as a therapy dog. His goal in life is to make a difference in people’s lives. Chopper lives in San Diego, CA with his owner Mark Shaffer. His Facebook page currently has almost 20,000 fans.

Hank the Cat is a Maine Coon cat that decided it was time for a feline to toss a hairball…um… his hat in the political ring, running for the open US Senate seat in Virginia. A true grassroots campaign pushing a simple message, “It’s OK to vote the humans out.” Hank netted over 7,000 write-in votes and also raised $60,000 for animal rescue organizations. Will Hank run again in 2014 or 2016? According to his campaign manager, Hank retired from politics, but Hank is staying mum on any future plans, sidestepping reporters’ questions.


Venus

Venus the Amazing Chimera Cat is a beautiful tortoiseshell kitty with the most striking physical appearance. Her face is two colors perfectly split down the middle, the right side is black, and the left side is orange. Plus, one eye is green and the other is blue! Some people say this unusual looking feline is just a photoshop trick, but Venus is definitely a real kitty, and she even went on TV to prove it! Venus was a stray cat found wandering around on a dairy farm in North Carolina. She has 92,000 Facebook fans.

Henri, Le Chat Noir (Henri the Existential Cat) wants the world to feel his tortured soul living with humans and other pets, as told to us in a black & white YouTube video that went viral in 2012 with almost 6,700,000 views to date. Henri 2: Paw de Deux netted Henri’s owner, William Braden, top spot at the Internet Cat Video Film Festival. Not bad for a shelter cat turned actor. (There are five videos to date, and all are exceptional!). Henri’s real name is Henry, and in real life he’s an easygoing, laidback kitty that loves to purr. And his online contempt is, well, just good acting, as he tells it.

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Biography of Eddie, the Dog from Frasier

By Langley Cornwell

Being an animal lover, my favorite character in quite a few television shows and movies is often of the four-legged variety. This was certainly the case with the long running TV show Frasier, which aired from September 16, 1993 to May 13, 2004. In my opinion Eddie, a feisty Jack Russell terrier, stole the show. Niles, Frasier’s brother, ran a close second.

Eddie’s real name was Moose and he was born in Florida on Christmas Eve, 1990. He was the youngest and the biggest puppy in the litter and, once he went to his forever home, his antics proved to be too much for his original owners to handle.

Moose was surrendered by his owners because he was so mischievous. He had a habit of getting into trouble; he chased cats and climbed trees. He dug and barked and destroyed things. He was always escaping, running away and ruining property. One time he got out and chased a neighbor’s horses, which caused quite a stir. Another time, he got out and killed a neighbor’s cat. That was the last straw.

Luckily for this overly energetic Jack Russell terrier, he ended up with Mathilde Halberg, a Los Angeles dog trainer who worked for a show-business animal company. She rescued him in the early 1990s, saving him from the pound or worse. That’s when Moose’s luck changed.

With training and a focused outlet for his energetic natural drives, Moose started to calm down. After only six months of training, he was cast on Frasier as retired policeman Marty Crane’s dog.

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Four Furry Beneficiaries Worth Millions

By Langley Cornwell

There have been more pets with large bank accounts than you might imagine, and they didn’t all start out as pampered, pedigreed pups. Of course some of them did, but around this time last year a rescued alley cat named Tommaso became one of the wealthiest animals in the world, adding to the growing list of animal millionaires.

Stray Cat Strut

A lonely heiress, Maria Assunta, rescued a stray cat from the streets of Rome and cared for the cat as if he was her own son. When the wealthy lady died at the age of 94, having no children to leave her estate to, Tommaso the cat inherited her fortune: $13 million dollars in cash along with property in Milan, Rome and Calabria.      

Assunta, the widow of an Italian property tycoon, had a trusted nurse caring for her in her final years. When her health began to decline, the heiress began to put her affairs in order with a particular interest in securing a comfortable future for her precious cat. Her original plan was to bequeath her fortune to a suitable animal welfare organization that would commit to caring for Tommaso. When none of the animal associations met her standards, she left everything she owned to the cat, with the agreement that her nurse would agree to care for him.

German Financier

A German shepherd named Gunther IV is supposed to be the wealthiest dog in the world, but some say his story is a giant publicity stunt. Whatever the case, the dog is mega rich. His father, Gunther III, was the beloved companion of Karlotta Liebenstain, an eccentric German countess. Karlotta died in 1992 and left her dog, (Gunther III), an inheritance of $124 million dollars. Apparently that German shepherd was quite a good money manager. During the elder Gunther’s lifetime, he grew his fortune to $372 million dollars which was passed on to his son, Gunther IV at his death. It’s safe to say this family of German shepherds has plenty of nutritious CANIDAE dog food to go around.  

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