September 11, 2015 | Posted in Famous TV & Movie Dogs

Toto-and-Dorthy-450PXCarl Spitz had a thriving kennel where he trained dogs for films and other ventures. He was the innovator of using hand signals to teach dogs particular tricks or behaviors.

One day, an owner dropped off a black Cairn terrier…and never came back to claim the pet.  This abandoned animal became, arguably, the most famous dog in movie history, appearing in 13 films.

She was named Terry at the time and co-starred opposite Spencer Tracy and Shirley Temple, among other stars.  But the role she’ll be immortal for was playing a boy – Toto – in the classic film “The Wizard of Oz.”

Author L. Frank Baum had written several Oz-based novels and included the character of Toto, describing him as a small, black, silky-haired dog.  When casting began for the role in the film, Terry won the part, and no one seemed to care that she was playing a he.

Who doesn’t remember the little dog being carried in a basket in Dorothy’s arms, sitting with her while she sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, or following Dorothy, the Tin Man, The Scarecrow and The Cowardly Lion as they set off to find the wizard?

She was such a central character in the film that she was paid $125 a week during filming, more than the Munchkins were paid.

She was sidelined from filming for two weeks when one of the actors playing the Wicked Witch’s guards stepped on one of her feet and broke it.  A second dog was brought in to film minor scenes while the little Cairn recovered – at Judy Garland’s home, no less.

In fact, Garland became so fond of the dog, whose name was permanently changed to Toto following the film, that she asked to keep her after the movie was completed, but Spitz refused.

They did attend the premiere of “The Wizard of Oz” together at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, though.

Toto’s last film was in 1942’s “Tortilla Flat”, where she was reunited with “Oz” director Victor Fleming and Frank Morgan, who’d played the Wizard.  She retired afterwards and appeared at fairs and animal shows before passing away in 1945, at not quite 12 years old.

In June, 2011, a permanent memorial was dedicated to the little dog at one of the film industry’s main cemeteries, Hollywood Forever.  The memorial features a lifelike statue of Toto on top of a marble pillar.  Donated by the Toto Memorial Committee, consisting of JP Myers, FixNation and Steve Goldstein, the marble is etched with a phrase synonymous with the film: “We give you this new home, 53 years later, as ‘There’s No Place Like Home’. Rest in Peace, Dear Friend.”