Walking the Dog on the Yellow Brick Road: Who Played "Toto," Dorothy’s Pet on the "Wizard of Oz?"
A two-year-old female Cairn terrier named Terry played the iconic animal in the Wizard of Oz film, which was based on Frank L. Baum’s classic book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The book never mentioned a dog breed, but called him (yes, it was a male in the book) “a little black dog, with long silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose.” W.W. Denslow, the original illustrator of the book, drew Toto as a terrier. MGM thus cast a terrier to match the drawing.
Terry was born on November 17, 1933, and was trained by her owner Carl Spitz. Though she appeared in 15 films, including the 1934 Bright Eyes with Shirley Temple, and the 1942 Tortilla Flat with Spencer Tracy. Coincidentally, Victor Fleming directed her in both Oz and Flat. However, she only ever received credit for Oz.
For her work with Judy, Terry received $125, which was more than the wages of many actors in the film, and many workers during the Great Depression. (The Munchkins, for example, received $100 a week. In contrast, Judy Garland received $500 a week.) A Winkle guard stepped on her foot and broke it during filming. The production company used a second dog for filming while she healed. Terry attended the 1939 premiere of the film at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.
She died on September 1, 1945 at the age of 12, and was buried in a small pet burial area behind owner Spitz’s house and kennel. (Carl Spitz died in 1976.) Unfortunately, CalTrans took over the property and razed the site in 1958 to widen the 101 (Ventura) Freeway.
In 2010, JP Myers expressed his outrage at this star’s treatment by creating a Facebook page designed to remember Toto. Supporters donated thousands only to have L.A. Pet Memorial Park in Calabasas, California, turn down the memorial marker. Fortunately, Tyler Cassity, owner of Hollywood Forever Cemetery, donated a $100,000 VIP plot at this final resting place of Rudolph Valentino, Fay Ray, Peter Lorre and Jayne Mansfield. The memorial was dedicated on June 18, 2011 and includes a life-sized bronze Toto statue sculpted by Roman Gal on top of a marble base designed by Arsen Oganesyan. Part of the dedication reads There’s No Place Like Home. Rest in Peace, Dear Friend.
Filmography: Role (from IMDB)
1942 George Washington Slept Here: Dog (uncredited)
1942 Tortilla Flat: Little Paelito (uncredited)
1942 Twin Beds: Dog (uncredited)
1940 Cinderella's Feller (short): Rex the Dog (uncredited)
1940 Calling Philo Vance: Philo's Dog - McTavish (uncredited)
1939 Bad Little Angel: Dog (uncredited)
1939 The Women: Fighting Dog at Beauty Shop (uncredited)
1939 The Wizard of Oz: Toto (as Toto)
1938 Stablemates: Pet Dog (uncredited)
1938 The Buccaneer: Landlubber - Gretchen's Dog (uncredited)
1936 Fury: Rainbow - Joe's Dog (uncredited)
1935 The Dark Angel: Dog (uncredited)
1934 Bright Eyes: Rags - Loop's Dog (uncredited)
1934 Ready for Love: Dog (uncredited)