I always wanted to be Snoopy. I envied his doghouse rooftop adventures. His mastery of any and every skill ever needed by man or dog boggled my mind. Snoopy embodied football captain, homecoming king, movie star, spy, master chef and beach bum all in one neat package of smooth and debonair. He acquired the nickname Joe Cool for good reason.
But Joe Cool eluded my abilities and station in life. I identified best, unfortunately, with Charlie Brown. I still do. – Sigh – But, I still dream of one day morphing into Snoopy. Suave, sophisticated, and multi-talented with a great laugh.
Something about animated dogs defines the words Loyal, Optimistic and Resourceful. The cartoon world occasionally personifies some of the most admirable qualities anyone could hope to attain. When that happens, it’s usually a canine that takes on those traits.
Look at Max from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Such a happy dog in spite of spending his life with someone whose heart ran “three sizes too small.” His tail wags throughout most of the story even while suffering abuse and meanness. And when he gets worried or scared, he bounces back with excitement for each new adventure. What a good doggie!
If you really think about it, many cartoon dogs play the same role as joker or jester in kingly tales. While appearing silly and nonsensical, and providing comic relief, a fool often plays the most honest and insightful character. And a fool’s common sense out runs nearly all others around him.
In the claymation style of animation, Grommit plays this role particularly well. As his witless owner Wallace carries out a bizarre series of plans, Grommit provides the brains as well as the braun in this duo. If not for Grommit, Wallace would hardly survive a typical day without serious injury.
While admittedly not animated, I count Wishbone among cartoon dogs because he “talked” and “acted.” He usually played a key character in each tale he told and made otherwise out-of-reach stories and classic novels come alive for my kids (and for me, as well.) Don’t take my word for it. You can watch watch Wishbone in action in this video I’ve uploaded for you. (It’s only fourteen minutes, you know you want to.)
Cartoon Dogs also play the fool in the everyday sense of the word. Witness Odie of “Garfield” fame. Apparently as airheaded as they come, Odie endures the onslaught of Garfield’s teasing and harassment with never a complaint. Oh sure, there’s the occasional mischievous twinkle in his eye when Garfield catches karma, but otherwise, Odie simply accepts his fate as the fall guy. You can’t help but take his side and hope he gets a jab in occasionally.
I never cared much for Scooby Doo. His brainless bumbling irritated me for some reason.I’ve never been of fan of airheaded anything. I’ve wondered lately if Scooby’s and Shaggy’s constant munchies meant more than your average innocent school age kid knew. His weird “ruh roh” language also drove me nuts. Give me a witty Velma any day over “blonde” big dogs.
Dug, from the movie “UP!” wins the most loyal award. His line, “I hid under the porch because I love you!” gets me every time. I suppose he reminds me of family, where we all mess up, allow ourselves be at our worst and still find that we’re loved and accepted regardless. Dug does what comes naturally to a dog, obedience, excitement, wonder and a protective nature. That he gets so easily sidetracked by [Squirrel!] little things only endears him more in my mind. I’m an easily sidetracked person but my heart’s ready to love and give whatever’s asked. At least, I try to do that.
How could I talk of cartoon dogs without mentioning “Underdog”? Watch the opening credits and tell me that doesn’t prompt some superhero envy. (Probably only works if you watched it as a kid.)
What a mild-mannered, kind creature with super powers beyond compare. I would have given almost anything as a kid to wisk on a cape and fly through the air righting wrongs and giving crooks and bullies what they deserved. I had my private list of bad guys in elementary school I’d have swooped up and dropped into a prison yard given the chance.
Man’s best friend. Or so they say.
Maybe, in a few cases, cartoon dogs serve as man’s best example of what a good person can aspire to.
Did I miss any of your favorites?
“The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants.” ~ Johnny Depp