Rin Tin Tin
Posted on 03/29/2021 Valerie Winans
Dog’s Best Friend
Author Masterminds Member
A blanket of gray covered the earth. It was cold and rainy. Dave looked out the big window—the one I like to look out from the comfort of the top of the sofa—and said, “It’s raining cats and dogs.” What?
How do people expect us to learn their language when it is so nonsensical. The rain is coming down hard; I can hear it hitting the roof, and I can see it hitting the pavement so hard it bounces back up. I don’t like to be outside in a storm. I especially hate thunder and lightning. It’s frightening because you never know where or when it will hit. However, I do like to be out occasionally in a light rain. A sprinkle rain sometimes feels good, and then when I come back in the house, Val gets a towel and gives me a good rub down. Those rubs feel so good I often try to get back out for a subsequent wetting and rub down. Val won’t fall for it and will insist that I go to my bed, but this day I’m already in my bed, having done my daily duties earlier before the rain started, and to top it off —I’m bored.
Val is no fun—she’s reading a book. Dave is in his puffy chair pushing buttons and complaining about nothing on the box to entertain him.
I don’t usually pay any attention to the box that pulses color and sound, but as Dave was what humans call channel surfing, he came to moving pictures without color. This was what probably caused me to look. I also heard the bark of a dog, and I was trying to discern what the dog was saying. He was saying, “Look! Look at me.” When I concentrated my sight on him, something extraordinary happened. Light from the box got very bright and reached out toward me. When the light hit me, I began to tingle all over. Every particle of my body was diffused into the light, and I was drawn right into the box!
The first thing I felt was warm; my gosh, it’s hot here. I looked around and saw that I was in a desert. There were rolling hills and lots of dirt. The sky was clear, and the sun was high. I saw a man that I somehow recognized right away. It was Lee, my friend, and trainer. Lee gave me an order, and I complied with his request. We did this many times that afternoon, and each time I did the trick, Lee would give me praise. As I was performing tricks for Lee, other men were taking pictures of me. I learned that I had to do each trick to their satisfaction as well as Lee’s. Some tricks I did more than once—not because I didn’t do it right, but because the men with the cameras didn’t get it right. That was alright with me because I had so much fun doing the many tricks Lee taught me, and all the work was worth it when he praised me. I could keep playing these games forever, but soon the fun was over, and we got in Lee’s car and went home.
My earliest memories are of Lee and my sister Nannette. We lived with soldiers in a camp. Lee was with us, caring for us much of the time. He occasionally would be gone for what seemed to Nannette and me a very long time. When this happened, other soldiers would come to feed us and play with us, but no one like Lee.
We were always so happy to see Lee when he returned from his work. I think he was pleased to see us as well. He would hug us and cuddle us, and play games with us even when we were small. When Lee wasn’t working, he was with us all of the time. For a time, we lived in a barn, and he even slept with us. I don’t know if Lee was becoming more dog-like or if we were becoming more human.
It was Lee who gave us our names. When we were born, there was a kind of quirky cultural thing going on in France. They made little primitive dolls with painted dots for eyes and mouth. The women would give these dolls to soldiers who pinned them on their gun straps or their uniforms for luck. The male doll was called RinTinTin, and the female doll was Nannette. Thus, I became RinTinTin, and my sister was Nannette.
There was a big celebration in camp one day, and the soldiers were happy because the war was over. Nannette and I didn’t know what war meant, but the soldiers were ecstatic that it was over.
Then there came a time when Lee, Nannette, and I got on a massive ship, and although we went up on to the top called a deck several times a day, most of our time was in a small space. Nannette got sick and never really got better. When the ship landed and we got off, Nannette went with some other people, and I never saw her again. At the same time, Lee got another dog, and he named her Nannette as well. This was confusing because even though I liked the new Nannette, I never forgot my sister.
The three of us traveled together to a place Lee called California. As far as Nannette and I were concerned, our life did not change much. Lee would go away to his work, but he always provided for us, and when we were together he was continually playing with us and teaching us new things.
Lee took me to a competition where dogs were jumping over a barrier. I had so much fun meeting other dogs, and jumping is great sport. I jumped higher than any of the other dogs, and that made Lee very happy.
Lee was always bragging to people about what Nannette and I could do, but I think I was his favorite because he praised me the most. He was so happy when he learned I was chosen to perform in a movie called Lighthouse by the Sea.
In this story, there was an old man and his daughter tending a lighthouse. The old man had gone blind, and his daughter did most of the work keeping the fire in the light going at night. If the authorities found out that the lighthouse keeper was blind, he would lose his job. The daughter was trying to find a helper when a man and his dog came to shore from a sunk ship. His name was Albert, and they hired him. (I played Albert’s dog in the movie.) Some nasty people in the town wanted the light in the lighthouse put out so they could sneak contraband from sea to shore without being seen. It was the age-old story of good versus evil.
They don’t make movies by filming the scenes in any order. I jumped from a dingy in one scene and swam for shore, and in another, I dug up a stake I was tied to and ran to help the old man—the lighthouse keeper.
I hated the part where they wrapped me in a net and carried me onto a boat. In the movie, they also beat up on Albert and locked us in a room on the boat. I chewed my way out of the net and then chewed through the ropes tying up Albert.
Albert climbed through a small window about 7 feet off of the floor to escape. I could hear him in a battle outside the room, and that window at the top of the wall looked to be the only way out.
It wasn’t the only way out. We were on a movie set, and men with cameras pointed at us the whole time. I had to make a couple of runs at the little window to make it look difficult, but some toe holds on the wall made it easier for me to do than it looked.
The hardest trick of the whole movie was running up the lighthouse stairs trailing a long hunk of rags that had fire on the end. In the movie, the bad guys had extinguished the light and tied up Albert. Amazingly, while tied up, Albert was able to light fire to a strip of rags—with my help.
I took hold of the burning rags and ran up the stairs to the top of the lighthouse. Then I had to drop the flaming rags into the top of the light to rekindle the fire and illuminate the coastline and the sea. That was some trick. Good thing it was one take because I burned some of my hair on that one.
The most fun was the scene where I fought with another dog. There was no fight to it—we played around for a while, and then I chased him. He made it through a hole in a fence that was too small for me and got away. I really liked that little bulldog. They tried to make him out to be ferocious, but he didn’t have a mean bone in his body. What a good guy he was. The “killer” bulldog and I communicated quickly, and we had no intention of hurting each other. We had both done this type of play as puppies. That scene was some of the most effortless acting I ever did.
Fighting scenes with humans was more difficult than the play fighting with another dog. Lee and I worked almost every day on that trick. I could bite the clothes, but not the man, while trying to make it look like I was biting the man. I could really get into the fight sometimes, but when Lee saw that I was getting too rough, he would give me a command to stop. These scenes often took several tries before we could get the picture they wanted.
After we did several movies, Lee and I also traveled from town to town doing personal appearances. I liked this time because Lee and I were together all the time. We were either practicing tricks or performing them on stage. I loved Lee and lived to serve him and receive his praise. Opportunities for both were ever-present while we were on the road.
Lee seemed to live for the adoring fans. He never got enough of being famous. Fans of our movies often called me a hero dog. I’m not sure what that means. I do know that people like to put human attributes on animals. If I was a hero, it was because in the movies, I demonstrated for the human race those attributes they most admire. I was loyal, brave, courageous, and bold. I demonstrated those behaviors people call heroic in my support for the good. I have often pondered the question of good. What is good?
As I was considering human standards for behavior, I thought I heard a voice that I recognized. I stopped, cocked my head to one side, and pricked up my ears. Where is that voice coming from? Is it calling Rinty? No, it’s calling something like Remi. I began to tingle all over, and a very bright light surrounded me. The next thing I knew, I was no longer Rinty. I was Remi once again, looking out the big window from the back of the sofa, and it is good.
Rin Tin Tin was first published with Readers and Writers Book Club: https://readersandwritersbookclub.com.