Pop culture is as American as apple pie. Enjoy the stories behind favorite hobbies, sports, and collectibles.
But Skippy had a head start. He was born into show biz.
While some canine stars are discovered when they are older, this funny, good-tempered little Wire-Haired Fox Terrier, was born into a dog training family. Actress Gale Henry and her husband, Henry East, had started a side business training dogs in the 1920s.
Gale was a comedic actress in silent films, and Henry East ran special effects and props for MGM Studios. At that time, if a dog was in a scene, he was generally in the background and considered a prop. Henry East began learning the art of selecting good screen dogs. During this time, Gale was in a silent film that called for a dog to lie motionless for a long period of time. Most dogs couldn’t remain still for long enough, so the film was set aside.
Gale and Henry were determined there was a way to train a dog to do the scene. After they adopted a mixed breed named Buddy and had a chance to get to know him, they judged they had their dog. Buddy was able to do the scene…the film was completed… and the Easts became well-known and highly sought-after for their animal training skills.
With East’s growing reputation, young people wanted to work for him and learn. Frank and Rudd Weatherwax assisted at East Kennels before going on to open their own school; they were best known for Lassie, but the Weatherwax family continues in the business even today. Frank Inn was another young man Henry East hired. Inn went on to be owner and trainer of Benji.
Birth of Skippy
In 1931 Skippy was born at the East Kennels, so Henry East was able to begin training when the puppy was a just a few months old. He appeared in several films while still very young, but he was a background player in those early days.