Great Dogs

I'm not really into animal movies. See my post "Animals That Talk" about why. But I have a soft spot for two TV animals: Eddie from Frasier and Diefenbaker from Due South. In both cases, the dog is used to illustrate character and actually makes sense within the context of the show.

Eddie is Martin's dog. He is also one of the most expressive animals I've ever seen on the screen. I've developed quite a partiality for Frasier. What I like the most is that both Frasier's point of view and Martin's point of view occupy the same space. Although both the intellectual, snobby son and the down-to-earth cop father are played off each other, I never feel--as I do with Everybody Loves Raymond--that they are played at the expense of each other. No one is the bad guy.

Martin, played by John Mahoney, is a great character, and he has a great dog. The dog is used as a plot device and as a joke device. Again, the dog (it is actually two dogs over the 11 seasons) is very talented. He reminds me of The Thin Man dog: Asta.

Like Asta, Eddie and Diefenbaker are constantly on the set. I suppose dogs are easier to handle than kids, but I alway roll my eyes when television mothers have kids and then the kids MAGICALLY disappear for the next, oh, six or seven years. Of course, one isn't supposed to *gasp* mention Murphy Brown, but, well, Dan Quayle was right there, wasn't he? The kid showed up something like 12 times in ten years. Easy to be a single mom under those conditions.

Eddie and Diefenbaker, on the other hand, are constantly at hand. Eddie has to be walked. Diefenbacker rides around in the back of Ray's car. With Diefenbaker especially this is impressive since, unlike Eddie, he is often filmed outside. The directors never forget to include him in shots. I watched an episode recently where the car was driving away. It was likely driven by stunt men, and I figured, "They don't need to include Diefenbaker. They could just say that he was lying down." But no, just as the car turned the corner, Diefenbaker's head popped up. That is cool.

Diefenbaker is also used to illustrate character. He is a deaf wolf who was brought to the non-wilds of Chicago by his Canadian Mountie master, Fraser (played by Paul Gross). Fraser talks to Diefenbaker all the time, responding to Diefenbaker's presumed comments. There's an ongoing joke that Diefenbaker saved Fraser's life once and now he makes Fraser "pay and pay and pay."

Diefenbaker is not as cuddly as Eddie; after all, he's a wolf. But this also serves to elucidate the varying characters of the dogs' two masters. Martin is friendly, old-fashioned, protective of his dog and his sons (no matter how exasperated). Fraser, the Mountie, is kind but also somewhat reserved and aloof. At the end of the first season, there is a heart-rending scene where Fraser believes he must shoot Diefenbaker because Diefenbaker has become a menace to society. Paul Gross doesn't have Fraser cry or even rage. He does a series of confused double takes which are more painful to watch than any great emotion. So he loves Diefenbaker, but he isn't going to smother him in kisses.

And the dog--I don't think it is really a wolf although later the show implies that he is a mixed breed (maybe dog and wolf experts complained)--trots along with Ray and Fraser with interest but without any "all over you" ebulliance. Eventually, you start to believe Fraser's assessment of his own dog!

I also have to give kudos to Newbie's stuffed dog in Scrubs. There is one episode where J.D. keeps moving the dog to scare Elliot. For some reason, it makes me laugh like crazy.

For more great animal TV, check out Creature Comforts, the British version. It is hilarious! And very off-kilter.


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