Book Review by Puppy Raiser, R. Harvey

"RIN TIN TIN, The Life and the Legend"
by Susan Orlean, 2011

The third dog we raised for The Seeing Eye was a German Shepherd and people kept saying he looked like Rin Tin Tin. The silent films starring this notable dog were before our time, and we missed the TV series. Assuming that the Rin Tin Tin films were based on a popular novel, I decided to "buy the book."

I went to eBay and typed "Rin Tin Tin" into the search line. Immediately, 870 items popped up that included everything from toys and memorabilia to books and DVDs. You could buy a 7-inch long replica of the dog for $2.999.99, a 1931 "Lone Defender" movie poster for $1.110, Rin Tin Tin comics for $70 and Rin Tin Tin DVDs for as little as $2.50 including postage and handling! There were a couple of ads for a new book about Rin Tin Tin but the sellers were asking $30 - $40 for a copy. I switched to and found the same book - brand new - for only $10.98, and used, for as low as $5.90. I ordered a used copy that was offered by a Salvation Army "Goodwill" store. When the book arrived, I discovered that it was in perfect condition and had even been autographed by the author!

Now to the book.

I am a speed reader when searching for basic information, but I soon discovered that this book was a well-written and fascinating read, so I decided to take my time to digest it properly. I read in small segments, taking notes along the way.

I gained a wealth of information about Rin Tin Tin, but was pleasantly surprised to learn much that I never knew about dogs in general. Orleans writes about the domestication of dogs from wolves to working dogs, war dogs, outdoor pets, indoor pets, show dogs and finally, as Hollywood stars. The author delves into the development of the German Shepherd and other dog breeds. As if that were not enough, Orleans presents a vividly painted picture of the birth and development of the film industry and television. It is not difficult to believe that Orleans spent ten years traveling around America and Europe, researching her subject.

I encourage every dog owner or animal lover to read this book. For this reason, I won't reveal many details of its contents, but here are just two interesting facts that I learned.

During the silent film era, 115 million Americans bought 100 million movie tickets a week! Many watched the same film several times.

In 1884, Germany had 30,000 trained war dogs, and during WW II, the number climbed to over 200,000. Hitler was infatuated with German Shepherds and considered them to be the super race of the dog world. Hitler's mistress, Eva Braun, was not permitted to sleep in the same room, but his German Shepherd shared his bed -- perhaps he felt safer?