Monday, June 3, 2013

Historical Hounds-Pal, The Dog Who Played Lassie

This is a reprint from last year, but we thought we would share this story again:

The phrase dogs in film brings to mind a few important names...Rin Tin Tin, Toto, Old Yeller and most definitely Lassie. In fact the name Lassie has become  synonymous with canine companionship.

But who was the canine actor playing Lassie?

In reality of course there where quite a few Lassies, all males.  The first, however, was Pal a rough collie born on June 4, 1940.   He was born into show biz at a Hollywood Kennel with famous parents and a lineage that traced back to England's greatest show collies.  

Despite his impressive background Pal was not an immediate success.  He was passed around among several Hollywood dog trainers who struggled to control his barking and chasing behaviors, with limited success.  Eventually a trainer, Rudd Weatherwax, saw the dog's potential and agreed to take him on.  Weatherwax new a film version of the popular novel Lassie Come Home was being made and he felt Pal was perfect for the part.  The makers of the film did not agree, however, to them Pal had the wrong look and they wanted a female dog for the role.  An appropriate show dog was selected and Pal was hired as a stunt dog.  

Fate intervened, while shooting a particularly dramatic stunt sequence in which Lassie swims in a raging river.  Pal's performance so impressed the film's Fred M. Wilcox that the decision was made to have him take over the starring role.    In fact Pal's work in that sequence caused the producers of the film  to invest more money in it, changing it from a low budget feature to a star status film.

Their investment paid off and Lassie Come Home became a huge box office success, as well one of the first films starring Elizabeth Taylor.  Six more Lassie films, all starring Pa,l followed and Collies quickly became one of the most popular breeds in the US with millions of children begging their parents for their own Lassie. 

 In 1954 Weatherwax and producer Robert Maxwell created a TV series for Lassie, changing the setting of the story from Scotland to America.  Pal had a key role in selecting the child actor who would take the role of the young boy, Jeff.  Pal at the advanced age of 14 appeared in the first two episodes of the series before retiring and being replaced by his son Lassie Jr.  

Pal lived an astonishing 18 years, all of them with Rudd Weatherwax who cherished him above all of the other animals he trained.  When Pal died in 1958 Weatherwax was heartbroken.  His son said: "It hit him very hard when Pal died. He buried him in a special place on the ranch and would often visit the grave. Dad would never again watch an MGM Lassie movie. He just couldn't bear to see Pal. He didn't want to have to be reminded of just how much he loved that dog."
Pal and Rudd Weatherwax his trainer and owner

A Special Request for Some Juju and Good Vibes-We get the results of Tubby and Ping's senior blood work today or tommorow and it always makes mom so nervous as we get older.  Also Bob appears to have injured his eyed making a vet trip today necessary, this is our second eye injury as Tubby just went to the vet yesterday we a scratched cornea.  If you could send some good thoughts that all will be well we would appreciate it.


  1. That is a wonderful story! Pal sure lived a long life.

    Hope all the medical tests go well!

  2. We loved Lassie. We send POTP and our paws are crossed real tight. We pray all will be well. Have a marvellous Monday.
    Best wishes Molly

  3. Crossed paws for Tubby, Ping & Bob. I never tire of hearing about Lassie. I know Lassie mainly through re-runs of the TV show. To this day, when I see the ending credits and Lassie picks up her (his) paw, it makes me misty. Such a sweet gesture. I think we can all understand Mr. Weatherwax's broken heart.

  4. I enjoy all of your historical posts but this is one of the most interesting and sweet. I had no idea Weatherwax had developed such a loving relationship with Pal. How wonderful it was that Pal lived to be 18 years old.
    We will be thinking of Tubby, Ping, and Bob, and especially you today. At least the pups don't experience the fear and worry that we human owners do on their behalf. I hope your results are good news and the eyes heal quickly (those sound like painful injuries).

  5. We are sending good juju and prayers your way...yes we do worry alot about our fourlegged babies. My mom said she would always cry when she was a little girl each time the Lassie show ended when she would hear the music, to the point her mom told her she couldn't watch the show anymore if she didn't stop doing can't listen to Greensleeves to this day without thinking of Lassie!
    stella rose

  6. I used to love Lassie when I was a little girl. All the films would end in floods of tears, LOL, but I enjoyed them!
    Sending all our healing chi vibes over to you.
    Dip Bridge Elliot and Lynne x

  7. Sending good vuju your way!

  8. We are sending purrs and positive thoughts to you. I hope everything will be okay.

  9. Our Callie had a scratched cornea once, and it was very painful :(
    Hope all goes well with the bloodwork, and the eye! Paws crossed!

  10. We are sending Golden Vibes your way!

    We still love Lassie in our house - she has a rather prominent display in our library!


  11. Paws crossed for vet visits and blood work! I love the Lassie short version. Reading Rin Tin Tin's Story this winter was amazing.

  12. Sending good juju and vibes for Tubby, Ping and Bob. We hope for good news on the bloodwork and fast healing for the eyes.
    Bailey, Hazel & Greta
    Oh yes, we love the lassie story, thanks for the repeat

  13. Sending extra special Max crossed paws and Ma's positive thoughts and prayers to ya!! I get anxious just over Max's heartworm blood tests even thought I'm a total freak about being almost to the minute each month but since he had that false/weak positive it freaks me out! Hugs and no more eye issues either! :) BIG hugs!

  14. Lots of good vibes coming your way for good bloodwork results. I know how stressful it is to wait for the results ...

    I love the story of Pal. I loved the Lassie movies when I was a kid.

  15. Lovely story. Wow - 18 years!

    Paws crossed for good results!

  16. I recently read the Rin Tin Tin story (I recommend it highly!) and part of Lassie's story, as well as that of a number of other canine actors, was included...They're fascinating...I was inspired to borrow some of the old Lassie films from the library

  17. I am sending lots of love and magic bubbles to the furrys, that the eye gets better and good lab results.

  18. I use to watch Lassie all thi time as a child, it wasn't till years later that I found out the dog was a girl..BOL..Paws crossed all goes well xxxx00xxxx

    Mollie and Alfie