What if Toto was the unsung hero of the Wizard of Oz?

He was quite an influential little Cairn terrier.

Photo by Åsmund Gimre on Unsplash

It’s likely an occupational hazard that when I see an animal in a movie or show, I pay rather close attention.

I had the opportunity over the holidays to catch The Wizard of Oz, the award-winning movie produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer based on the children’s book by L. Frank Baum.

Gotta say, the witch still scares me just like she did when I was a kid. *shivers*

But this time, Old Miss Gulch’s proclamation that Toto should be destroyed really got my dander up.

I may have said, out loud to my television screen, “Don’t you dare do that to Toto!”

Getting riled up over animal rights is another occupational hazard, I suppose.

It was then that I really started paying attention to the little guy.

You gotta love “Terry the Dog” in this movie. He’s hopping around at everyone’s feet, following the gang as they skip their way to see the great and powerful Oz.

He’s scooped up by Dorothy time and again and never once seems to complain or try to wiggle away.

We’ve had animals at the shelter who would NEVER be that cooperative.

By the end of the movie, I realized how influential little Toto actually was for Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Lion.

First of all, he was the reason Dorothy ran away from home in the beginning of the movie. She wanted so desperately to save him from Miss Gulch’s legal sheriff’s order for his euthanasia that Dorothy saw no other way than to just take him and go.

I know a lot of animal-lovers who would have had the exact same reaction.

It was because she ran away that she got caught up in the twister in the first place — she was too late to get into the storm cellar with Auntie Em, Uncle Henry and the farm hands.

That’s, ultimately, what led her to Oz — because she wanted to save her best four-legged friend.

After she had met the Scarecrow and Tin Man, little Toto was responsible for showing the group the Lion’s true colors.

It wasn’t until the Lion went after Toto that Dorothy stepped in and said, “enough,” with a smack to the King of the Forest’s nose.

Thus divulging the revelation that the Lion might be a tad more cowardly than he initially presented.

I know a lot of people who would fight tooth and nail for their animal’s well-being before they would fight for themselves. Just like Dorothy.

When Dorothy and Toto got scooped up by the flying monkeys (another trigger from my childhood — so freaky) and taken to the witch, it was Toto once again to the rescue.

The little squirt pushed his way out of the witch’s basket (he’s got quite a knack for that, doesn’t he?) and raced out of the castle — even managed to make that leap off the drawbridge and land on the edge of the cliff.

He then found the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion and led them to save Dorothy.

Makes you wonder if Lassie took her lessons from little Toto, doesn’t it?

By the end of the movie, it’s once again Toto who ends up being the catalyst for one of the biggest revelations of the adventure.

The little terrier just had to let his chase-drive get the better of him just as he and Dorothy were ready to take off for home in the balloon with the Wizard. He saw that cat and couldn’t help himself — he had to run after the feline.

He clearly hadn’t learned much from the beginning of the movie, since chasing Miss Gulch’s cat is kind of what got him into trouble in the first place, but I digress.

Because Toto chases the cat, Dorothy chases him and misses the balloon launch with the Wizard.

It’s when she’s lamenting her luck that she discovers one of the greatest lessons, not only of the movie, but of life in general, if you ask me.

It turns out she didn’t need the Wizard’s help at all. She had the power in her all along to get home. All she needed was to click her heels three times and chant, “There’s no place like home.”

All she needed was to believe in herself.

How often do we convince ourselves that in order to get what we truly want, it requires help from someone or something else?

What if everything we could ever want or need is truly inside us and all we have to do is believe?

Powerful ideas that may not have been realized without a little terrier giving into his desire to chase a cat.

I wonder how many people don’t give pets the credit they truly deserve.

My new insight from the Wizard of Oz and the true influence of Toto really opened my eyes to how very much our animals can do for us and give to us, if we’re willing to look for it and see it.

Is there a Toto in your life? What has he given you that you wouldn’t have had without him?

Animal-lover, mind wanderer, extroverted introvert. Director of Communications at Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter, Chambersburg, Pa. www.jennyvwrites.com

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