Our favourite fictional dogs

We all love a dog, so here we’ve rounded up some of favourites from fiction TV and film.

  Dog Show: 1961-1978 by Shirley Baker. Cover photograph: Shirley Baker

Dog Show: 1961-1978 by Shirley Baker. Cover photograph: Shirley Baker

To honour the publication of Dog Show, showcasing the work of photographer Shirley Baker, which is featured in November’s The Simple Things, we’ve made a list of our top five fictional dogs. Now, SIT! (And read and enjoy our best in show).

Snoopy (beagle*)

A real case of the side-act stealing the show, Snoopy was the pet of Charlie Brown, anti-hero of the Peanuts comic strip. But there’s no denying he was the real star. Known for sleeping on the uncomfy-looking roof of his kennel rather than the inside, having several alter-egos including college student, Joe Cool and a First World War Flying Ace, as well as his unlikely friendship with a yellow bird, Snoopy is world-famous and has appealed to generations of children (and beagle-loving adults). An icon in his own right, the first drawings of Snoopy were based on Charles M Schulz’s dog, Spike. *He’s always referred to as ‘a beagle’ but Schulz once said he wasn’t, he just thought ‘beagle’ was a funny-sounding word.


Snowy (wire fox terrier)

Tintin’s faithful friend Snowy is the only other character to appear in all the comic albums, he even occasionally addresses his internal monologue to the reader. Very postmodern. His original name in the French was Milou, the name of Herge’s first girlfriend, and short for Marie-Louise. He was called Snowy in the English translation for his white colour (and the fact that Snowy was short enough to fit easily into the speech balloons.


Lassie (rough collie)

Lassie first featured in a short story by Eric Knight, which later (in 1940) became a full novel, Lassie Come Home, and was made into a film by MGM in 1943, with a dog named ‘Pal’ acting in the title role. The story may well have been based on a fictional dog called Lassie depicted by Elizabeth Gaskell. Pal’s descendants continued to play Lassie in TV series over the next 20-odd years, scampering off to rescue many a child from a mine shaft or well. GOOD GIRL, Lassie.


Scooby-Doo (great dane)

Comrade and crime-busting partner of Shaggy Rogers, Scooby-Doo is the true hero of the Hanna-Barbera series that began in 1969. Famously named for a line in the Frank Sinatra song, Strangers in the Night, Scoobs has been foxing fairground thieves and eating multi-layered club sandwiches for years and continues to delight children to this day.



Argos from The Odyssey (breed unknown)

Hankies at the ready. Argos was Odysseus’s dog before he left home to fight in the Trojan war for ten years, and then spent a further decade returning home. When he finally returns, disguised as a beggar to fool his wife’s suitors, he sees Argos, his faithful, strong and speedy hound, sitting in pile of cow muck. As he walks by, Argos drops his ears and wags his tail but is physically unable to greet his master. Odysseus cries as he passes him, unable to go to his faithful friend. And Argos dies, having fulfilled his destiny of welcoming his master home to his own hall.


Jumble from The William stories (mongrel)

Jumble originally belonged to an artist and his daughter and the daughter gave Jumble to William in exchange for a kiss. Knowing William’s liquorice-water-encrusted chops as we do, we think William got the better end of the deal there and Jumble went on to be (almost) the fifth member of The Outlaws.


Toto from The Wizard of Oz (some sort of Terrier)

Toto belongs to Dorothy Gale of ‘there’s no place like home’ fame. He’s been variously thought to be either a Cairn, Yorkshire or Boston Terrier and he accompanies Dorothy on her trips to the Land of Oz. Toto does not let on in the early books - not until TikTok of Oz - that he can speak! Really, you might have mentioned this before. Toto!


Gnasher from The Beano (Abyssinian Wire-haired Tripe Hound)

Dennis the Menace’s faithful and (very) furry friend Gnasher first appeared in The Beano in 1968. He was based on the idea that dogs look like their owners and it was suggested to the illustrator that he simply drew Dennis’s hair and added arms, legs and eyes. And that is (more or less) how Gnasher remains to this day, with just a little more of his own character.


Gromit from Wallace and Gromit (Beagle)

The bright, sensitive, brainier half of Wallace and Gromit, this is a mutt with a hardcore fanbase. His birthday is 12th February (and it is marked every year in The Telegraph’s classified section), he’s known to be left-handed (a sign of his creativity and intelligence) and a NASA robot sent to probe Mars was named after him in 2005. He also loves cheese (who doesn’t?).

Pilot from Jane Eyre (Newfoundland)

Mistaken on first meeting, by Jane, as some sort of ghost-dog or dog-goblin (a doblin, perhaps?) Pilot foreshadows Mr Rochester’s entrances throughout the novel and is the first to call Jane to Mr Rochester’s aid as his horse slips on icy ground. Rewarded with so little as a cursory ‘DOWN, PILOT’ the dog is peeved as always, while Victorian women swooned, as one.

Our fictional dogs were inspired by a gallery in our November issue, taken from the book Dog Show: 1961-1978 by Shirley Baker, published this month by Hoxton Mini Press.

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More from November issue…

More about dogs…




Meet a lesser known Guy Fawkes

An homage to a forgotten bonfire night (anti)hero

fireworks.jpg

Photography: Jonathan Cherry Styling: Gemma Cherry


Every dog has his day, and every dastardly plot has its poster boy. But we do think Guy Fawkes unfairly got all the glory where the - let’s not forget, murderous but poorly organised - Gunpowder Plot of 1605 is concerned.

For starters, it was Robert Catesby, rather than Fawkes himself, that orchestrated the plan. Fawkes may have been in charge of the explosives, but really he is Robin to Catesby’s Batman. It seems odd Fawkes should be the one to emerge with a national celebration named for him.

But most schoolchildren could name Catesby and Fawkes with little strain. What of the other Gunpowder Plotters*?

We at The Simple Things love an underdog, so here are a few words in celebration of Francis Tresham. Tresham was a key part of the plot and possibly was himself the undoing of the entire thing. So, if you think about it, he changed the course of British history (there might have been no English Civil War for starters).

Tresham had been imprisoned for his part in the failed rebellion against the Government in 1601. He got in on the Gunpowder Plot quite late - in October 1605. He was asked to provide a large sum of cash and use of property to the plotters, but refused, instead coughing up a rather more menial amount. Clearly he had concerns about the whole shebang from the off.

It is thought that Tresham was the author of ‘the Monteagle letter’, a note penned to Lord Monteagle (Tresham’s brother-in-law) which was passed to the Secretary of State, warning Monteagle not to attend parliament on the day of the plot, and thus tipping off the Government. It’s historically been accepted that Tresham wrote the letter, though he denied it to his co-conspirators, and never mentioned it, even at the moment of his death (of natural causes) in the Tower of London.

So, did Tresham single-handedly alter the course of history with his alleged anonymous note? Well, not entirely. Yes, it was the catalyst that blew the plot apart (pun intended) but in fact, by November 5th, the gunpowder the plotters had stored away had gone the way of all gunpowder and split into its component parts, rendering it completely harmless. Had Fawkes managed to get a light to it under Parliament, it’s safe to say it would have gone off not with a bang but a whimper. It had been stored too long to do any damage.

So on Guy Fawkes’ night, let’s hear it for slightly reticent, fearful tell-tales who may not have changed history but played their part. And didn’t get caught with their hand in the gunpowder and a guilty look on their face.

Happy Francis Tresham Night! And if you’re celebrating this weekend, in the November issue of The Simple Things we have Bonfire Night recipes that will garner oohs and aahs galore, from pumpkin scones, through popcorn, to pesto for your hotdog. Sure to create more of a spark than Guy Fawkes’s November 5th efforts did, at any rate.

*The other plotters, in case you are interested, or are attending a pub quiz tonight, were: John Wright, Thomas Wintour, Thomas Percy, Robert Keyes, Thomas Bates, Robert Wintour, Christopher Wright, John Grant, Ambrose Rookwood and Sir Everard Digby.

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More on Bonfire Night…

More from the November issue…