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10 Pop Culture Pups

People love pets, and with a multi-million dollar industry to prove that fact, Hollywood has led the pack in audience satisfaction. Many of the most popular, and memorable movies and TV shows featured canine scene-stealers. Here’s a look at 10 of our favourite four-legged stars in show business

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It’s a rare breed of actress who can boast that she shared screen time with Judy Garland, Shirley Temple, and Joan Crawford. Terry, the Cairn Terrier who portrayed Toto, did just that. An accomplished pup with over 10 movies on her resume, Terry was most famous for her role as Dorothy’s beloved pet. The part earned her a weekly salary of $125 – a wage that overshadowed the meagre $50-$100 paid to the actors cast as munchkins. Her Wizard of Oz popularity resulted in a name change to Toto in 1942, and an autobiography exploring her remarkable life. 

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No other dog in entertainment history personifies the human-animal bond more than Lassie. With books, movies, TV shows, and even a star on Hollywood’s “Walk of Fame”, this elegant Collie lives up to her reputation as man’s best friend. First portrayed on-screen in the 1943 film Lassie Come Home, the role was bestowed upon Pal, a male canine. The reason? Dog trainers believed that a male’s coat photographed better on-screen. To this day, a female collie has never played Lassie. 

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A World War I flying ace, a writer, an athlete – Snoopy is a canine chameleon. With his vivid imagination, this Beagle is not your average household pet. Most dogs are content with walks, or a game of fetch, but not Snoopy! He’d rather play hockey, shoot the breeze as Joe Cool, or cause mischief for Charlie Brown and his pals. Since 1950, Charles Schulz’s beloved pup has enjoyed worldwide popularity – his iconic image has been featured everywhere from postage stamps, and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade to NASA’s coveted Silver Snoopy Award. 

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Benji is proof that heroes come in all shapes, sizes and pedigrees. In 1974, this bedraggled stray charmed movie audiences with his rescue of two kidnapped children. Brave, clever, and completely adorable, Benji was a pup we all wanted to own. In real life, the huggable hero was played by Higgins, a former shelter dog. His movie’s success unleashed a huge demand for Benji films. But for the showbiz veteran – with past TV credits for “Petticoat Junction,” and “Green Acres” – Benji was his final bow. At age 14, Higgins retired, leaving his daughter to inherit the role.

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Lady and the Tramp

Talk about a Hollywood couple with staying power! Lady and the Tramp nuzzled into our hearts back in 1955. Decades later, Walt Disney’s tale continues to capture new admirers. More than just a love story between a pampered Cocker Spaniel and her homeless beau, Lady and the Tramp celebrates the importance of family, friendship, and loyalty. And let’s not forget its most memorable moment: the plate of spaghetti shared on a romantic moonlit eve. No wonder the American Film Institute named Lady and the Tramp one of the “100 Greatest Love Stories of All Time.” 

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Kelsey Grammer may have been billed as the star of Frasier, but avid fans would disagree. Moose, the Jack Russell who portrayed Frasier’s companion Eddie, was the real top dog. Moose could outshine his fellow actors with a subtle head tilt, or intense stare. As his popularity sky-rocketed, Moose landed the cover of Entertainment Weekly, and received more fan mail than his two-legged co-stars. His deft abilities made him the perfect choice for a starring role in My Dog Skip – a job he shared with his look-a-like son Enzo.

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Scooby Doo

Troubled by ghosts, zombies, or monsters? Have no fear, Scooby Doo is here! Hanna-Barbera’s Great Dane with a nose for supernatural mysteries has been entertaining kids since 1969. Despite his huge size, scary situations would often provoke Scooby’s cowardly streak. The remedy? Scooby Snacks. A few tasty treats later, and it’s bye-bye quivering hulk, and hello crime fighter. Luckily, being a scaredy-cat didn’t harm this big dog’s reputation. In 2002, TV Guide named Scooby Doo one of the 50 greatest cartoon characters of all time. 

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This fuzzy brown mutt with a talent for twinkling the ivories is one of the most recognizable characters from Jim Henson’s Muppets. First popping up on television in 1962, Rowlf starred in Purina Dog Chow commercials. His new-found popularity propelled him into a role on “The Jimmy Dean Show” in the early ’60s making Rowlf the first Muppet – sorry Kermit – to appear regularly on network television. After a decade-long showbiz break, this floppy-eared piano prodigy returned to the spotlight in 1976 on Henson’s much-loved “Muppet Show.” 

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Following in the esteemed paw prints of Lassie and Benji is a 2008 furry hero called Bolt. A Hollywood star since puppyhood, this canine actor mistakenly ends up in Manhattan. No problem. Bolt will just exercise his superpowers and return home. But there’s one snag: he can’t differentiate between his on-screen persona and real life. Bolt must realize that it’s not movie magic, but his unwavering love for co-star Penny that will fuel his cross-country trek home. 

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The Littlest Hobo

You would be barking up the wrong tree if you thought Canada didn’t have its own celebrated pop culture pup. Remember the Littlest Hobo? The homeless German Shepherd bounded across Canadian television screens for six seasons in the ’80s. The idea actually originated in the U.S. with a 1958 movie, followed by a short-run ’60s TV series. It wasn’t until the Canadian edition of “The Littlest Hobo” hit the airwaves in 1979 that this selfless dog gained the popularity he so greatly deserved.