Like a star who’s found new life in the age of the Internet, Lassie’s on the comeback trail as pitchdog and charity ambassador. And I’m among the millions who are thrilled.
As with many a boomer, I grew up with the TV series (1954-73), still in syndication, and the various movies that found their way to the tube. And, not surprisingly, I had a Lassie and later on Lassie 2.0, whom we called Sassy. (Yes, I know, lame, but I loved that dog, who was a rescue, and all the animals we had and ah!, don’t get me started.)
I also had the pleasure of interviewing Bob Weatherwax – son of dog trainer Rudd Weatherwax – whose pooch, Pal, played “Lassie” in the 1943 film “Lassie Come Home.” Bob told me fascinating stuff about how trainers use physical commands to elicit seemingly emotional responses from canine actors. He also confirmed what is one of the most intriguing aspects of Lassie: “She’s really a he. Male dogs reading better on film due to their larger size and shinier coats. But he also said females are easier to train, being more focused.
Which brings me to one of my favorite pet beliefs: That the male of almost any species, including ours – at least in the arts – is better-looking than the female of the species. I mean, what woman can touch the Apollo Belvedere, for instance? I know, I know, the Venus de Milo, but she’s just not as thrilling, is she?
This always makes my female friends mad. As the so-called fairer sex, they are used to the perks that go along with the primping they have to do. But I always tell them, Let men be the sex symbols – the pretty, preening peacocks they are – and you can take pride in the notion that women are smarter, with higher IQs and a better track record in college and post-graduate schools. (This may have something to do with the idea that IQ tests are highly structured and verbal, requiring both the patience and the linguistic ability in which women excel. Men use roughly 20,000 words daily, mostly to exchange information. Whereas women use something like 70,000, not only to glean info but to develop relationships.)
Then, too, women are the majority minority group and like all minority groups, they have a stake in upward mobility. When men say all the achievements of the world are male (along with most of the destruction), that may be because they’ve had all the opportunity.
Lassies, it’s time to howl.