Millions of viewers will be tuning in for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, two jam-packed dog days, February 15 and 16, during which the show celebrates an unbelievable 140th year. As the second-longest continuously held sporting event in the United States (second only to the Kentucky Derby), the canine competition has certainly proven it’s got four legs – more than 3,000 hounds and handlers will descend upon New York City to strut their stuff and vie for the title of top dog.
Americans have long had a bona fide love affair with our friends of the pooch persuasion on our televisions. Here’s our list of some of the "Most Beloved Dogs in TV History" that might just give you paws!
In 1954, Lassie finally came home. . .to our television screens, that is! Created by author Eric Knight and adopted and adapted by Hollywood, everyone's favorite collie had a successful movie career starring opposites stars including Elizabeth Taylor, Roddy McDowall, Peter Lawford and June Lockhart. She debuted on the tube in the TV series Lassie – and the critically-acclaimed show not only won two Emmy Awards, but its remarkable 19-year run made it the fourth-longest running series in TV history! The audition process, however, proved it’s a dog-eat-dog world – 1,500 dogs went out for the film role that initially went to a different dog. But the overlooked “Pal” filled in on the set one day and ended up kicking some serious tail – not only snatching the role, but going on to sire many descendants to play Lassie for years to come. Hey, every dog has his day!
Charlie Brown’s faithful beagle who knows how to keep it “Joe Cool” first appeared in 1950 in Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts before starring in the classic American TV specials A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. So popular is this pooch, TV Guide placed him firmly in its top 10 of the greatest cartoon characters of all time. Snoopy even earned his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last year, becoming only the second Peanuts star to grace the esteemed sidewalk after creator Charles Schulz – even beating out his owner Charlie Brown. Sorry, Charlie!
Though most of us know the floppy-eared piano maestro from Jim Henson's The Muppet Show, Rowlf’s first taste of showbiz came long before as a pitch-dog for Purina Dog Chow in Canada. And while Kermit may seem like the biggest Muppet celeb, it was actually Rowlf who was the first of the bunch to be a regular on network TV – as the sidekick on “The Jimmy Dean Show” from 1963-1966. So huge was his popularity, host Jimmy claimed that Rowlf would receive an incredible 2,000 fan letters a week! Rowlf-mania hit fever pitch in 1976 when he was brought on to join The Muppet Show as the cast’s dry, resident pianist and classical music enthusiast – and the rest is television history!
Rin Tin Tin
With 27 films under his collar, Rin Tin Tin joins the ranks of big-screen star Old Yeller in striking box office gold – but unlike his canine compatriot, he went on to his very own long-running TV series, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, that lasted an incredible five seasons totaling 164 episodes. The lovable German Shepherd “Rinty” was actually rescued from a battlefield by an American soldier in World War I – and a descendant of Rin Tin Tin’s even helped promote the use of military dogs during World War II. By the time the TV show debuted in 1954, the original Rinty may have been long gone – but America’s passion for Rin Tin Tin certainly lived on!
Who names a dog “Scooby-Doo”? People who gain inspiration from the syllables “doo-be-doo-be-doo” in Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night,” that’s who! Seeing major pooch potential, Joe Ruby and Ken Spears originally created the character for Hanna-Barbera Productions as a bongo-playing dog named “Too Much” on a show called Mysteries Five. They later rebranded him with the whimsical name and put him front-and-center with the title Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! Scoob may have been just one of the partners-in-crime-fighting in the Mystery Machine, but there’s no doubt the cowardly Great Dane was always the star of the show. Viewers have been tuning in for decades to see how far he’d go for a Scooby Snack.
All the Presidents’ Dogs
While none had their own series, America’s presidential pooches have had plenty of TV-time alongside their commander-in-chief companions! The Obamas are often shot with their Portuguese Water Dogs Bo and Sunny (a hypoallergenic choice due to First Kid Malia’s allergies); George W. Bush’s presidency co-starred their beloved pair of Scottish Terriers Barney and Miss Beazley; Bill Clinton and family had a chocolate lab named Buddy; and George H.W. Bush was often snapped alongside English Springer Spaniel Millie and her puppy Ranger. With a multitude of mutts dating all the way back to George Washington, there’s no doubt that the White House has often gone to the dogs!