Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,481

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,481


This is the grave (OK, memorial) to Toto the dog. And I don’t care that this isn’t really a grave. Could I really pass up on this? No!

Born in 1933 in Chicago (I am so glad to know what city the dog came from. But was it into deep dish dog food with a shot of Malort to wash it down?), Terry the Cairn Terrier (also, what kind of person names their terrier “Terry,” do the name their kid “Kid”???) was owned by a man named Carl Spitz, who was an expert dog trainer if not good at naming dogs. Since everyone likes cute dogs in movies, Spitz was able to place Terry in the pictures once he moved with his little dog to LA, where Terry had dreams of making it big and sitting on the beach looking at the ocean while gnawing on a bone with her special fella. She was in a small movie called Ready for Love in 1934 and then shortly after made it big (for a dog) in Bright Eyes, with Shirley Temple. The extent to which this dog was charismatic compared to other terriers is up to the viewer I guess, but in any case, she took direction well. It’s pre-Method, but maybe she really imbibed her roles of being cute and also a dog. Over her life, she appeared in 23 films. Hope she got higher end dog food for all her work.

Naturally, the reason we know this dog is for The Wizard of Oz. The dog was named Toto in the film and since that is honestly a better name for a dog than Terry, she was credited as Toto in the film and that is what everyone knew her as. She probably wasn’t the most famous dog in film history to this point–I think we’d have to give Rin Tin Tin the title here, but in terms of sheer numbers of viewers, there’s probably no question that Toto wins out. In 1942, Spitz formally changed Terry’s name to Toto. I don’t really know what that means, except maybe in a pure blood registry kind of thing. One of Toto’s last films was Tortilla Flat, the Steinbeck adaptation with Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr, among others. Toto was a supporting actor, along with John Garfield, but no doubt the audiences fell in love with that hot sexy dog more than Garfield. And if you thought Garfield was a tortured performer, you should learn about the hardships Toto went through, including once having to wait an extra for a walk and also not getting her preferred bones a couple of times. No comparison, Garfield had no idea what suffering meant in comparison.

Terry had babies too. One of her pups was named Rommy, who appeared in Reap the Wild Wind, from 1942, and Air Force, in 1943. Good to see a patriotic dog acting family.

Toto died in 1945. She was 11 years old.

Toto was originally buried at Spitz’s ranch in Los Angeles. But that ranch became part of the Ventura Freeway and in 1958, the grave was destroyed. That is a super LA story right there. I don’t think Toto was exhumed, so I don’t think this is an actual grave. That said, damn it, it’s a dog memorial and I am covering a dog memorial when I find one.

The Toto memorial is in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, California.

If you would like this series to visit other famous dogs, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Rin Tin Tin is actually buried in Paris (next time I am totally going to this). But in the U.S., Lassie, who actually lived to be 18, which is incredibly old for a medium-sized dog, is in North Hollywood and Nixon’s dog Checkers, who unfortunately saved that cynical asshole’s political career in 1952, is in Wantagh, New York. And c’mon, you know you want this grave post. Previous posts in this series are archived here and here.

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