Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Toto-A Historical Hounds Post

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When I was a little girl I would watch the Wizard of Oz every day, sometimes more then once, and as soon as I could read I devoured all of the Oz books.   In the beginning of the book and the movie Dorothy is a lonely, isolated child.  No friends her own age and no siblings.  As an awkward only child growing up in the country without other kids nearby, I definitely felt a kinship with her.  Of course, Dorothy had one thing I did not, Toto, an utterly loyal canine friend.   I was convinced that if only I had a dog I would never be lonely again.  Unfortunately my parents are not fond of dogs so I had to make due with cats, birds, and guinea pigs and a range of reptiles and amphibians, none an acceptable substitute for Toto.   I told myself that as soon as I was an adult I would get a dog just like Dorothy's, of course when I did grow up I decided a pug would actually make a better first canine companion then a Cairn Terrier.

I still love the Oz books and the movie, I watch it every year at Christmas, and I still love Dorothy even though I can't fathom why she chooses to leave the magical land of Oz to return to dull, dry Kansas, but my favorite part of the movie continues to be Toto.   I love how Toto, unlike many cinematic dogs, basically behaves like a regular dog throughout the movie: chasing cats, snatching food that doesn't belong to him, and barking at strangers.  In my opinion its the best canine performance of all time, a Tour De Force.

Today, marks the birthday of Terry, the dog who played Toto.   Born in 1933 Terry was owned by the famous dog trainer Carl Spitz who founded one of the first American dog training schools, The Hollywood Dog Training school, in 1927.  At the time The Wizard of Oz was made Terry was already a star having appeared in six films, including Bright Eyes  with Shirley Temple.  Terry was payed a 125 dollars a week for appearing in the Oz film, more then some of the human actors, and about five times the weekly salary of the average American during the Great Depression.  Of course like everyone involved in the film Terry will be forever associated with The Wizard of Oz and her role as Toto eclipsed all of her other work.  Spitz even officially changed her name to Toto in 1942.   

Terry, or Toto, died in in 1945 having made fifteen films, the last of which was Tortilla Flat based on the novel by John Steinbeck.  Toto was originally interred in a cemetery on Spitz's ranch, but eventually when the Ventura Freeway was expanded the property and cemetery where destroyed.  On June 18, 2011 a permanent memorial to Toto was erected in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery



  1. Happy birthday Toto! I have to admit, as a child I was more dazzled by the ruby slippers, but you are 100% right, Toto barked at everything, ate food that wasn't his, and stayed by Dorothy's side!

  2. This is our favoritest movie
    Benny & Lily