Friday, August 28, 2015

DON'T KILL THE DOG! by Meg Mims



What's with western movies where the dog ends up a victim? At an early age, I cried buckets when a Civil War family rescued Old Yeller (in the movie by the same name) but had to put him down after the dog fought a rabid wolf and contracted the disease. AUUUGH! At least Old Yeller is a hero, having saved the family. Yes, it's part of the "rite of passage" for the young kid - learning to face life and death. But... it still stinks like old dog breath.

By the way, Spike - the dog who played Old Yeller in the movie - was purchased as a pup from the Van Nuys Animal Shelter in California by trainers Frank and Ruddy Weatherwax of Lassie fame. And he starred in other movies as well. Good old Spike! Good dog.


I didn't even like when Jack the brindle in the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House books died - but that was a natural death from old age. When it comes to violence toward animals, though - we've seen the "no horses were harmed in the making of the film" - but what about the dogs? Isn't it bad enough that westerns have so many gunfights? Native Americans and Chinese are mistreated, women are ordered around, expected to rustle up the grub, are slapped, spanked, beaten up, you name it.

Yes, I suppose that reflects what Hollywood believes "the way things were" back then - but why kill the DOG? I mean, LOOK AT THOSE PRECIOUS FACES!!


So in that vein, as a treat (pun intended), here are a few western films where the dogs are victims - some heroic, others tragic. I have never seen a good reason for the plot to include pooch target practice. I rescue dogs and cats in my books and they always have a Happily Ever After. No apologies, either. In the way the Duke might say, "You can call me a PETA lover, you can call me a big baby, you can call me a wimp - but you don't EVER call me a dog killer!"


BIG JAKE - Jacob McCandle's heroic friend (and secret weapon) Dog, who is a hero throughout the movie for keeping the bad guys at bay, is shot and then killed (with a machete!! AUUGH) in the final gunfight. I didn't cry, but I kept yelling, "Don't kill Dog! Don't you kill Dog!" Man, that villain didn't listen. I'm glad he got it in the end. He deserves to rot in hell. By the way, two collies named Silver and Laddie (Lassie, Jr.) played Dog (trained by Bob and Ruddy Weatherwax, in fact) and their coats were darkened by an aerosol product. And Laddie won a 1971 PATSY award for his performance. So there. Good dog!


DANCES WITH WOLVES - While "Two Socks" is actually a wolf, Dunbar played by Kevin Costner has a strong bond with him like man/dog. I loathed the way soldiers kill poor Two Socks. Tragic and senseless! Yes, I suppose it furthered the story, but it was like killing Harry Potter's owl. NO! I was so mad. Good thing it came at the end of the movie, or I would have hated Kevin Costner and his movie - Oscar winner or not.


OPEN RANGE - I have this DVD. I have not watched it, mostly because Boss and Charlie's dog Tig is shot and killed by the villain (okay, yes, so is Mose the cook, and the poor boy is nearly dead) when their campsite is raided. Do I want to subject myself to seeing this senseless act? NO! Look at that ADORABLE dog! Waaaah! One day I'll have to watch it. But I'll be gritting my teeth.


HONDO - Hondo's dog Sam dies after being speared. Another one I've never watched, because WHY? Why does the DOG have to die?? I just don't get it.

Pal, the dog that played Sam, was the son of Lassie. In the movie, he is supposed to be vicious and ill-tempered, but the temperatures during filming were so hot, Pal simply panted instead of snarling when on camera. In order to overcome this, the dog was kept in a special air-conditioned crate while on set and was only brought out for his shots. Good dog! Fight against being a bad dog, and what a shame you had to be sacrificed. Boo hisss!



PALE RIDER - I have seen this one. I was so mad when Megan's dog got shot. That poor thing was used as a device to get her to pray for a miracle - and then Preacher (Clint Eastwood) shows up. Nothing else can be found about this poor dog. Perhaps Clint didn't want to share the limelight? Double boo hiss.


THE ARTIST - Since the story about the transition from silent films to "talkies" takes place in Hollywood, I'm considering it a "western." And the sweet Jack Russell terrier is also a hero, saving the life of George Valentin from a disastrous fire. Also, the dog LIVES!! Hooray! So there, Hollywood. It can be done.

Uggie had been rescued from being sent to a shelter by Omar Von Muller, an animal trainer, and found fame in Water For Elephants before The Artist. Uggie did not qualify for an Oscar, however, since a precedent was set in 1929 when Rin Tin Tin actually received more votes for Best Actor - but the Oscar went to Emil Jannings that year. Hmph. Uggie recently crossed the Rainbow Bridge (this month) at 13 years old. Such a great dog!


Kudos to all the dogs in these films! They all deserve a "Pawscar" for their efforts. Good dogs! Give 'em a box of treats each.



Mystery author Meg Mims earned a Spur Award from WWA and also a Laramie award for her western historical mystery series, Double Crossing (still 99c!) and Double or Nothing. Meg -- also one-half of the writing team of D.E. Ireland for Agatha-Award nominated mystery series featuring Eliza Doolittle & Henry Higgins for Minotaur books -- lives in Southeastern Michigan with her husband and a sweet Malti-poo. She loves reading and writing novels, novellas and short stories, both contemporary and historical.

19 comments:

  1. It's simple. If you want your reader/viewer to absolutely despise the bad guy, you have him kill the dog. But like you, Meg, I prefer that the dog lives as I like ;'em too. Long live the dogs.

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  2. NOOOOOOOOOOO! the villain is just bad - let 'em kill a snake. Or a lizard. Anything but the dog!! LOL - this is a tongue in cheek post, but seriously, I do love dogs. And I'm a weepy mess if a horse gets it, too. Like in True Grit, when they had to kill Blackie. WAAAH.

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  3. I agree: It's always extra-sad when an animal that has become a major character in a book or film dies. Remember Old Yeller? The Yearling? Where the Red Fern Grows? All of those were powerful stories, and much of their power vested in the death of an animal.

    Sometimes the animal has to go. :-(

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  4. I won't kill the dog or the horse even if it would make a plot element stronger. It is not worth it to me. I have watched some of the films above where the dogs are killed and hate that part. Sometimes maybe it was needed but it was not in Hondo and I hate that they let that dog be so loyal and die for it for no purpose. I suppose I can blame that on Louis L'amour but haven't read the book in a long while; so am not sure. I don't much like manipulated emotions by writers or films and it always irks me as so often it serves no purpose. One thing with Open Range, Tig was getting old and if he had seen the one he loved the most killed, he would have been in great pain; so maybe in that case death was best. Still I didn't like it and don't even get me started on Dances with Wolves. :(

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  5. The bad guy has nothing to do with it. The writer kills the dog. If you have to wound it, that is bad enough, kill the people, but please Don't kill the dogs. It ruins the whole story. JMO

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    1. Good point, Shirl!! so kill the writer, NOT THE DOG. ;-D

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  6. Lord, you've made me feel so sad. I had the heroine love two dogs, both killed by the villains. The killers were brutally shot at the end, especially satisfying after they shot the sweet dogs. I realize it is all just fiction, but find it difficult to kill off people or animals in books. I needed to hate the villains more and that worked for me.
    Just finished that series and have two marvelous dogs, Tip and Tyler, who live and rule the hearts of the heroes.
    Please don't kill the writer.
    Author.to/jrbiery

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    1. LOL - well, I'm glad Tip and Tyler made it!!

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  7. I have watched Dances with Wolves exactly once...and same with The Man from Snowy River ( that was the mountain horse.)

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    1. I loved Dances... up until the wolf... AUUUGH! and then, I was mad. BOOO HISSS

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    1. Thanks, Charlie! I got a lot of people talking about villains and emotions. ;-D

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  9. Every panel discussion I've ever been on that had anything like "Things Every Writer Should Know" in the title or description had the same advice ... DON'T KILL THE DOG! I agree with Shirl - injure the dog maybe, but have the poor thing recover in time for the happy ending.

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    1. absolutely, JES! never never never KILL the dog!

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  10. What about cats, Meg. Or do their nine lives put them in a less protected cat-egory. (Sorry, but in Jim Griffin's absence I thought I ought to throw one in).

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    1. someone mentioned cats. I would say - DON'T KILL the cat, bunny, cow, horse, dog... LOL, you get the picture. Eat veggies instead. ;-D

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  11. As far as I'm concerned, you can kill off as many people as you want in a film, yes, even kids, but don't hurt the dog or horse. Costner's horse in Dances with Wolves was also senselessly killed by soldiers. And there's a goof in Open Range. One time Costner will refer to Tig as "he", then, in another scene, "he".

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