Another Kind of Alpha Hero

victoria_bylin_bannerAlmost two years ago my husband and I adopted a dog from an organization that rescues abandoned animals. His name is Hartley and he’s a Jack Russell / Beagle mix. He’s a tad bit . . . odd. He licks furniture (gross), and he’s terrified of little girls. Little boys don’t bother him at all. The poor dog doesn’t know how to chase a ball or play “Fetch,”  but he plays  catch by pushing the ball with his nose for a distance of about a foot. We roll it back anHartley&Misc029smalld he’s happy.

More than once, my husband has looked at our beloved mutt and said, “Hartley, you’re no Rin Tin Tin.”

That got me thinking about the famed German Shepherd who starred in the 1950’s TV show, “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.” In the show, Rin Tin Tin belongs to a boy named Rusty who’s been orphaned in an Indian raid. The boy and dog are adopted by the soldiers at Fort Apache and the adventure begins.

Rin Tin Tin TV ShowThe series was only one of Rin Tin Tin’s Hollywood credits. His fame goes back to films from the 1920s when he stared in several movies, many of them with western settings.  His continued to star in movies up through the 1940s, then moved to television.

The first Rin Tin Tin has quite a story. He was born in Lorraine, France in September 1918 in the thick of World War I.  He was just five days old when Lee Duncan, an American serviceman, rescued him from a bombed out war dog kennel along with the pup’s sister.  Duncan named the dogs Rin Tin Tin and Nenette after French puppets given to WWI soldiers for luck.

Duncan was fascinated with the abilities of the new breed known as a German Shepherd, and he became acquainted with the man who’d trained the dogs. He worked regularly with the dogs to teach them to perform on command.  When the war ended, Duncan took the two dogs to Los Angeles. Sadly, Nenette didn’t make iRin Tin Tin Moviet. She died en route from distemper.

Duncan returned to his job as a clerk in a hardware store, but his interest in dogs continued and he took Rin Tin Tin to dog shows. In February 1922, Rin Tin Tin amazed the audience at the  Shepherd Dog Club by jumping a phenomenal 11 feet 9 inches. Quite by chance, a man named Charlie Jones asked if he could try out his new camera that made moving pictures by filming Rin Tin Tin. Duncan said yes, and a film company later offered Duncan $350 to film the dog in action. 

It took a while for Rin Tin Tin’s career to take off. Duncan tried to a sell movie script starring his dog, but he found no takers.  It wasn’t until he happened on a film company struggling to shoot a scene about a wolf that Rin Tin Tin got his big break.  Duncan said his dog could do the scene in a single take, and that’s what Rin Tin Tin did.  The producer hired him for the rest of “The Man From Hell’s River.”  The success of that film saved the studio making it from financial ruin.  The name of that littlle studio on the brink?  Warner Brothers Pictures.

Rin_Tin_Tin_005-01The first Rin Tin Tin made 26 movies before he died in 1932. Warner Brothers didn’t want to lose their star, so the mantle was passed to the Rin Tin Tin’s son, known as Junior. The two dogs weren’t identical in appearance, so a publicity campaign began. Junior was the first dog to fly in a commerical airplane.  Duncan and Rin Tin Tin No. 3 later particiated WWII by training 5,000 soldiers and dogs for the war effort.

Thanks to protected breeding, the legacy of Rin Tin Tin continues today.  Every dog that has ever played Rin Tin Tin is related to the original one.  The most recent is Rin Tin Tin #11, born July 8, 2009.  May the legacy of Man’s Best Friend continue!

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Victoria Bylin is under contract with Bethany House Publishers for two inspirational contemporary romances.Prior to jumping to the present day, she wrote westerns for Harlequin Historical and Love Inspired Historical. Her books have finaled in the ACFW Carol Awards, the Rita Awards and RT Magazine’s Reviewers’ Choice Awards. She and her husband live in Lexington, Kentucky and have two grown sons. You can learn more about Vicki at www.victoriabylin.com

35 thoughts on “Another Kind of Alpha Hero”

  1. Poor old Hartley sounds like he had a run in with a mean little girl when he was a pup! Jack Russells are quirky like that. 11 feet 9 inches – that’s a heck of a jump. Similar thing happened with the Frasier dog, actually – was played by a father and son pair. Same dogs from the Wishbone movie.

  2. Hello Jack Russell! Thank you for visiting us today at Petticoats & Pistols! My husband and I are constantly amazed at the way Hartley puts things together. Last night he went crazy barking. Something in the backyard put him on high alert . . . It turned out to be the polka-dot boots I wear when the yard’s muddy 🙂 I’d left them by the window in the back door. You’ve got to wonder what he was thinking! We sure love him 🙂

  3. I douldn’t understand if you rescued Hartley or are planning to train him as a rescue dog.??
    Though from Hartley’s actions, it sounds like you rescued him from a little girl with polka dot boots!

  4. Hi Lyn, Looks like I could have used an editor! I’ll go back and fix it… we rescued Hartley. He was at a pet adoption. We think that’s why he’s scared of little girls 🙂

  5. Loved the dog stories. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Old Yeller. I bawled. Same thing when I read Sounder. Nothing can grab the heart faster than a story about a boy and his dog. Course I prefer the ones with happier endings. Must be why I ended up as a romance writer.

    I love that all the Rin Tin Tins are actually related. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Oh wow, Karen! “Old Yeller” had me crying my eyes out. I remember the moment I finished it vividly. I came out of my bedroom (I was about 12) and my mom said, “Oh no! What’s wrong?” I totally lost it. That’s the most gut wrenching dog story ever. I’m with you about happier endings, but that story is powerful.

  7. Vicki,

    My daughter laughed at how your dog is afraid of little girls. She said she bet that he would not be afraid of her. She loves any animal.

    I loved Rin Tin Tin. I watched it when I was a young girl. Interesting post Thanks for sharing

    Walk in harmony,
    Melinda

  8. Hi Melinda, I bet he’d like your daughter, too. He’s so funny . . . we never know what he’s going to do, but he’s much better with people than he used to be. No more hiding under the couch when someone comes over!

  9. Oh, Vicki, Hartley looks adorable! I guess dogs have their phobias too. And no wonder what happened to him before you got him. Just like my heroes, I love animals who have to face their fears. My heart really goes out to them.

    I remember watching Rin Tin Tin back in the early days (never mind how many years ago that was.) I didn’t know that the character is still going. Amazing!

  10. Hi Linda! We’d love to know what Hartley experienced as a puppy. Adopting a dog that had been rescued turned into a real adventure. Not only does have some odd reactions, he’s part terrier and we knew nothing about that type of dog. He’s defnitely cute! And he definitely loves us . . . just don’t ask him to be a watchdog!

  11. Victoria–what a WONDERFUL post…so close to my heart 🙂
    We do foster care for abandoned and death row dogs and I have to say thank you and send big hugs to you for adopting Hartley 🙂

    What a cool background behing Rin Tin Tin…dogs are really amazing animals!!

  12. Hi Vicki – oh I loved Rin Tin Tin as a child. Thanks for the good memory. I remember hounding my parents for a dog every time I saw that show! We finally got a collie/german shepherd mix and called him Charger. He was such a loving dog.

    Hartley is adorable, even if he’s afraid of girls!

  13. Oh Vicki, God bless you for rescuing your pup. And Tabitha, for being a foster mom. Our two black Labs crossed the Rainbow Bridge within 8 months of each other last year and I miss them like crazy. We’re getting another pup but just not ready yet.

    And this post got my eyelashes wet. I just love dog stories. I remember Rin Tin Tin…had no idea of his amazing history.

    Dogs are so man’s best friend. Look at all the services they perform besides being adorable pals and pets.

    Great post! oxoxoxoxoxoxo

  14. Hi Tabitha, Rescue dogs are very special. They know they’ve got it good, and we’ve never had a more loyal friend that Hartley. I just realized . . . Rin Tin Tin was a rescue dog. Look how he turned out!

    Howdy, Charlene! Charger’s a great name for dog. I bet he was a go-getter!

  15. Hi Tanya, You’ll know when it’s time for a new puppy. We had no intention of adopting Hartley when we did. We happened to go past a PetSmart where Lost Dog Rescue was hosting an adoption. Next thing I knew, we had this little puppy in the car along with a pile of toys and a bag of dog food 🙂 He’s been such a joy. You can’t look at that dog’s goofy expression and not feel good.

  16. He’s adorable. Our first dog was a beagle and I can see that in Hartley. Our second was a rescue dog that we had for 17 years and was the best dog ever with the sweetest temperment – Our daughter learned to walk by grabbing fistfuls of her hair to stand and she never complained lol. Our daughter has a mixed rescue and she’s afraid of anything new – something as simple as a shoe box lol.

  17. Great post! I was too young for most of the Rin Tin Tin movies, but loved the TV show when I was a kid. In the book I am reading now, the writer has me more worried that she will kill off the dogs than the people! LOL I’m so glad you adopted Hartley. Dogs can be such a blessing!

  18. Hi Jeanne! Hartley’s got the beagle bark. It’s goes on like trumpet blast. Rescue dogs are so special. It takes them awhile to get over some things, and sometimes they don’t, but there’s a generosity of spirit that can’t be beat.

    I watched Lassie, too! That was my favorite dog show.

    Howdy, Judy! I have a hunch the dogs in the book will be just fine 🙂 Writers can be gruesome when it comes to doing in bad guys, but dogs are untouchable 🙂

  19. Dogs have always been part of our household… so many personalities through the years! 😀 I remember bits and pieces of seeing Rin Tin Tin & Lassie as a kid…

  20. I loved Rin Tin Tin and Lassie. For a while, every dog we had we named Lassie. They were all collies, fortunately.

    Thanks for the memories and a wonderful post, Vicki.

  21. Hi Colleen, Dogs definitely have unique personalities. We learned a lot about JRTs (Jack Russell Terriers) when we got Hartley. A lot of what he does is breeding, like digging holes under the A/C unit in the backyard. He’s on a hunt, and nothing will stop him!

  22. This was so fasinating.. Thanks for the info. I love this show and as a child never missed it when it was on..
    You are a hero in my book for rescuing Hartley…

  23. Hartley is a cute dog. Ours are all a little nuts in their own way. Our newest one is shredding our area rugs. Don’t know why. She has also destroyed 4 dog beds. We went on vacation and our son had to deal with a family room that looked like it had rained fiber fill and foam.
    Have always had rescue dogs. Most are quirky in some way. At the moment we have 3 (and had to have our other one put down a few weeks ago). We have fostered some in the past. Had one toy poodle whose owner went into a nursing home. She had been so spoiled (her owner would take her to KFC for lunch). She wouldn’t let my husband get anywhere near her. Oddly enough she bonded with a male friend of ours and lived with him for many years.

    I can remember when Rin Tin Tin was on TV. Our local TV station sponsored a visit. We got to see Rusty, Lt. Rip Masters, and Rin Tin Tin himself. It was a very big deal for our little town.

  24. Hi Patricia, Yikes to having those rugs shredded! It’s amazing how much havoc a dog can create, and they do so joyfully, like it’s the best thing in the world to eat a rug 🙂 Sorry about the dog you had to have put down. That’s always sad.

    I had to smile at the poodle going to KFC for lunch! We thought we were spoiling Hartley with Might Dog!

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