Book Review: Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend

by Robert Simon

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean (who is an American journalist. She has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1992, and has contributed articles to Vogue, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Outside. Susan Orlean is the author of several books, including The Orchid Thief, a profile of Florida orchid grower, breeder, and collector John Laroche). The book follows the life of the first Rin Tin Tin and the subsequent heirs to the legacy including the individuals who nurtured the legend and the dogs.

The first Rin Tin Tin was rescued by Lee Duncan, a corporal in the trenches of World War I France, as a military German shepherd and her pups during an artillery attack. Duncan, an orphan, “immediately bonded” with a pup he named Rin Tin Tin. The dog became a favorite in Hollywood’s silent movies. He rode a steeplechase horse, dove off a thirty-foot pier, and drove an aquaplane. His successors starred in movies though the years. Rinty became the “spokesdog” for the United States Army in World War II. Seen as a symbol of bravery, intelligence and toughness, he encouraged many families to donate their pets to the military. His legacy would have died without the dedication of Lee Duncan, Herbert “Bert” Leonard, Daphne Herford and other owners of Rin Tin Tin descendants.

The book describes the efforts of these people to build and maintain the legacy. It is a good holiday story for the young reader.

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