People fell in love with Lassie — all nine of the different dogs that played the role of the charming collie.
No actor wants to share the stage with a dog, for he will undoubtedly be upstaged. It’s all but impossible to watch a dog movie without falling head over heels into puppy love. Consider Mom, the warm-hearted Border Collie from the 1995 blockbuster “Babe.” There was nary a dry eye in the theater as she watched her pups sold. Even television commercials tug at our heart-strings. Dinky started a Chihuahua craze the world over as the spokesdog for Taco Bell, while Spuds Mackenzie ushered in a new generation of Budweiser Beer drinkers. There is no doubt about it; the media has great influence over pet popularity, particularly those of the canine persuasion. In itself, this isn’t a terrible thing, but when it comes to choosing a pet for your family, it can spell disaster.
The next time you think about bringing home Benji, Rin-Tin-Tin or Lassie, remember that these dogs are trained by experts for years to be as cute and adorable as possible. Often times several dogs share one role. Nine different dogs have played the part of Lassie since it first premiered in 1943. Special tricks and effects can give animals human-like qualities. But real pets are just that — real. Potential pet owners end up disappointed when the pet they purchased doesn’t behave like their silver screen counterpart. Disappointment quickly turns to annoyance and sometimes can even become abuse.
Besides expert training, many Hollywood dogs require extensive care. Frequently, films will feature rare and exotic breeds that are difficult to care for.
Taco Bell’s Chihuahua may have started a craze the world over — but they’re often temperamental and aggressive.
Take our little talking tacquito friend. Chihuahuas, while smart and affectionate, need careful socialization to keep them from becoming suspicious of strangers, jealous and even aggressive. Their tiny frames, while adorable, make them vulnerable to injuries. All of these traits make Chihuahuas an unsuitable companion for children. Those characteristics aren’t generally advertised on Taco Bell’s commercials, but they should definitely be taken into consideration before bringing home Taco’s twin.
At times Hollywood has actually created a breed boom with a movie. Unfortunately this instant popularity can attract the wrong crowd. There are irresponsible breeders out there who are more interested in making money than careful breeding. Their negligence can result in animals with poor health, bad temperament and inferior structure. Sadly, these breeders are everywhere. It may take a little research to buy a purebred, something impulse buyers — like those influenced by the latest Hollywood trend — are unlikely to do.
What happens to these pooches when people become bored or disillusioned with them? Too often yesterday’s fads become a burden on shelters and rescue groups struggling to place forsaken pets. Roughly 60 percent of animals in shelters are eventually euthanized.
So before you go looking for that Lassie look-alike, remember that choosing a pet is a lifestyle choice, not a fashion statement. Think through your decision, realizing that dogs require time, money and a lifetime commitment. (Most dogs live between 10 and 15 years.) There’s a reason dogs are known as man’s best friend. But as with people, choose your friends with care.
— Emma Snow is an animal lover who works in marketing for Dog Pound and Horse Stall, both leading portals for pet management.