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Lassie or not? There's quite a dog's tale behind this correction

August 2, 2011 |  1:38 pm


The devil is always in the details. But those details aren't always so much fun to find.

An article on Monday's Business page featured a small-business profile of Pet Haven Cemetery & Crematory in Gardena. The article was about pet owners opting for lower-cost services for deceased pets. Included in the layout was a small photo of a grave site.

The caption with the photo read: "Among those at Pet Haven are celebrities such as Skippy, who played Lassie."

Katherine Walker of Ventura knew that wasn’t right. "It's a grave site all right, but Skippy portrayed Asta in the '30s 'Thin Man' films with Myrna Loy and William Powell," she emailed. "He was a wire fox terrier. Lassie was played by generations of collies."

See? Details.

Walker is correct on two counts: A wire fox terrier named Skippy did appear in the "Thin Man" films and others. Also, the dog buried in this grave did not play Lassie. (A correction was published Tuesday.)

But as it turns out, this dog wasn’t an actor. He was a soldier.

A closer look at the headstone reveals these words: "Skippy / Our War Hero / From / Lassie"

It was the "From Lassie" that led to the confusion. That was misread by photographer Michael Robinson Chavez to mean that the dog was from the TV show "Lassie."

But a 50-year-old newspaper page, archived by the city of Torrance, explained everything.

Skippy-1957 The Torrance Herald reported on Nov. 3, 1957, that "Lassie, television's famed dog star" had presented the first Lassie Gold Award, posthumously, to a member of the World War II Army K-9 Corps in a ceremony at Pet Haven Cemetery. That canine soldier was Skippy.

A photo with the article shows Lassie's paw resting on the same headstone as in Monday's photo. The marker was given "From Lassie."

The Herald reported that Skippy was volunteered for duty by his owner in 1943 and later saved his handler on Guadalcanal. The dog later died of his battle wounds. He also received the Purple Heart.

Walker was surprised by the results of her correction request. "Your response makes me glad once again for having the L.A. Times to serve us," she wrote back.

She added: "No one names collies Skippy, by the way."

-- Deirdre Edgar

Photo: Skippy's headstone. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times.

Clip from Torrance Herald, Nov. 3, 1957.