Why I loved Lassie.
“ The dog has been esteemed and loved by all the people on earth and he has deserved this affection for he renders services that have made him man's best friend.” BY Alfred Barbou
“The world would be a much lonelier place if was not for dogs.” BY Edmond Humm
I first saw Lassie in 1940 at the Garfield Theater in East Los Angeles. I was six years old. The movie was called, Lassie Come Home and my parents took me to see it. There were other Lassie movies, probably more than the Rocky series, even a TV series in the 1950s and one series in 1997. People like to pull for the underdog, no pun intended.
While Lassie used courage and guile to overcome many obstacles, Rocky used courage and his fist. Occasionally Lassie used her teeth, but the comparison between the two is compelling.
The world needs Lassies and Rockies, the hero that rises up to overcome adversity. The Lassies who will stand by you whenever this old world throws a low blow your way.
I’ve owned many wonderful dogs in my day but never a Lassie, never a collie. I used to pretend along with my sister that our mutt, a mix of wire hair terrier and another mutt, was Lassie. Our mutt was called Fluffy, because when she was little she was fluffy, but she soon grew out of her soft pelt and for the rest of her life, wore her hair short. Nevertheless, she was Lassie to us.
Later in life I owned a German Sheppard and named him Rebel. His pedigree name was long and hard to pronounce, so we named him Rebel because we had moved to a small town in the heart of the Old South. I sure wasn’t going to call him, Yankee. There were two Rebels, the first developed severe hip dysplasia and I had to have him put down. I’ve done a lot of hard things in my life, putting Rebel down ranks right up there with the top few.
Rebel grew up with my two oldest children. He played with them and even as a puppy protected my three year-old son, Mike. Mike wanted to explore the swamp behind our house and decided to dig under the wire fence I had hastily erected before reporting for duty at the Marine Corps Base, near New Bern North Carolina. Rebel thought that digging was great fun and participated in digging the escape route with Mike, but when Mike wiggled through under the fence; Rebel raised the alarm by barking as loud as his puppy’s throat would permit.
My wife, Dee, came running out of the small rental house and saw, Rebel tugging on Mike trousers, trying to pull him back into the yard.
Rebel also raised the alarm whenever a snake would venture into the yard. In one instance, Dee killed a deadly cottonmouth with a shovel as it struck at our five-year-old daughter, Nikki. Soon after, I moved our little family to base housing at MCAS Cherry Point, NC.
Rebel grew strong and big, very big for his breed. By a year he was accompanying me on my daily five mile runs through the forest. As he grew even stronger, he carried short logs in his jaws; I stuck to carrying a small compass.
Year passed, Rebel grew older as did we. During my first tour in Vietnam, Dee wrote me that she had to put Rebel down. His hips were giving out on him and he had developed a few more ailments. I read the letter with tears in my eyes. I imagined how hard it must have been for her.
I never had another Rebel nor a Lassie, but I often think of them both with respect and love.
I must confess that when I was writing the novel MAGIC, thoughts of those brave dogs influenced the development of Magic, the dog with human intelligence.
Lassie embodied the qualities I most admire in people: loyalty, bravery, forgiveness, loving and loyalty. Did I say loyalty again?
I hope you enjoy your Lassies as I have mine. Write and tell me your Lassie story.