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The Canine in Conversation
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Lassie. Lassie is more of an icon than a metaphor. This collie appears in several fictive forms, most memorably the novel, Lassie Come Home, and a long running half-hour family oriented television series. There was also a 1943 MGM movie starring “Pal” as Lassie (with supporting characters played by the youthful Roddy McDowell and Elizabeth Taylor) and a radio show that preceded the television version.reference 1

Lassie embodies all of the traits that humans admire and desire in a dog: loyalty, selflessness, courage, and intelligence. Thus, Lassie can be—and often is—caricatured as a bit of a goody-two-shoes or something of a poindexter. Lassie's devotion provides an opportunity for satire in a Danny Shanahan New Yorker cartoon. In the first panel, an apparently drowning man calls, “Lassie! Get help!!” In the second panel, we see the dog supine on a psychotherapist's couch, one paw gesturing in the air, as the therapist takes notes.reference 2

1. Gayle, Kaye. 1999. The World's Most Famous Canine Movie Star, Lassie. Chelsea Collies. Accessed Oct 24 2001 from http:// lassie.html.

2. Shanahan, Danny. 1989. Lassie Get Help! New Yorker (May 8). Accessed Oct 24 2001 from
http:// pack/ lassie.html.

The possible distrust of such loyalty and goodness that Lassie embodies is explicit in Kyril Revels' web site, “Lassie Kills,” where he “documents” Lassie's life off the screen, including her struggle with alcohol and anger management. The co-dependence of dogs is apparently both admirable and a bit disturbing.

About the illustration: This is a modified version of a publicity photo for the television series, “Lassie.” This image is excerpted from a publicity still, and the copyright for it is most likely owned by either the publisher or the creator of the work depicted. I believe that the use of scaled-down, low-resolution images to provide critical commentary on the television show in question or of the image itself qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.
see also: man's best friend Last updated: May 26, 2008
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