It was a love fest last night at the American Kennel Club in celebration of writer Susan Orlean and her book Rin Tin Tin: The Life and The Legend. As many readers will recall, the eponymous dog was a real life (and later fictionalized) ass-kicking German Shepherd. Rinty (as he’s affectionately known) was an American icon and hero—or at least, he played one on TV, wrangling bad guys with his buddy Rusty in the 1950s series The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. With his natural ability for keeping order and a bounding leap of 12 feet, he made Lassie look like Odie.
More than just a famous actor and a beloved canine role model, Rin Tin Tin actually helped shape the face of early movie making. In fact, as Bud Baccone, an editor for AKC publications—and self- proclaimed pop culture maven and city bachelor—reminds us, “The one thing you know about Warner Brothers is that it was made by Rin Tin Tin. Warner Brothers exists because Rin Tin Tin put them over the top when they didn’t have any other stars.” Indeed, with the original Rinty touting a filmography longer than Megan Fox’s, it’s no question he’s got a place in Hollywood history. When asked what he thought about the book, Mr. Baccone replied, “It’s huge. It’s the biggest dog book since Marley & Me.” He was also enthused that the story redeems a breed he believes is largely misunderstood: “People see a German Shepherd and they think big, vicious, snarling dog. You know, these are the dogs that they use in junk yards and in used car lots to guard, and they’re barking; but the German Shepherd dog is one of the best dogs ever.”
For others, the story is more than just a biography of a wonder dog and his entrepreneurial owner. As Ms. Orlean’s cousin Annette Osher said, “In a way, it is a symbol of America, of loyalty, and its something everybody will be able to relate to.” Though she quickly added, “I haven’t read it yet.” For friend and artist Brendan O’Connell, the book signified “how much hope we put into the life of an animal.” Others echoed similar sentiments, hitting on the species’ capacity for unconditional love—and how they’re far better companions than cats. (Ball’s in your court, whoever is writing the biography of Morris…)
As evidence of the breed’s magnetism, a thoroughbred German Shepard named Saber attended the party, and rivaled Ms. Orlean for the room’s attention. Though Saber is not a direct descendent of Rin Tin Tin, “he’s the one that’s called in when the AKC needs a German Shepherd,” his breeder boasted. Ms. Orlean was excited to have him, saying, “This is the wonderful thing about writing a book about dogs… there’s a lot of cool collateral associated with dogs—like having dogs at your book party. It’s all good!” Ms. Orlean had actually used the club’s library to research her book. And The Transom could see how the atmosphere would help when penning the biography of the canine sort. Of all the dog paraphernalia, our personal favorite was an oil painting of a team of hounds taking down what looked like a drunken bull. From the display case of upwards of 80 K-9 themed walking canes, it was too difficult to choose. Others were just as impressed, as we overheard one guest recounting to a friend, “I said, I am going to go the only party at the American Kennel Club that I’ll ever be invited to! Where’s the alcohol?”