Rin-Tinda (known as Rinda), the daughter of Rin-Tin-Tin IV, spent most of her life living with missionary Marguerite Lofthus at a religious retreat in Laguna Mountains, east of San Diego.
The dog was brought to Loftus in 1956 or early 1957 by her sister and brother-in-law who felt she needed a big dog for protection in the peaceful but isolated area. While staff members were there part-time and worshippers came for the weekends, Loftus’s relatives were concerned about the amount of time she was in the mountains alone.
Rinda Found in Shelter
When Marguerite Loftus’s sister was looking for a guard dog, she visited a shelter near her own home in Van Nuys, California. There, she and her husband found Rinda.
In her book, Rinda, Daughter of Rin Tin Tin, Loftus never speculates how a former show dog was left at a shelter while still a young dog. The dog’s heritage was stellar. The frontspiece of the book shows photographs of two blue ribbons she won at dog shows, and her AKC family tree is reprinted. Her mother was from the highly respected San Miguel line of German Shepherds, and her father was Rin-Tin-Tin IV, the dog that starred in the television show, The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin (1954-1959).
Rin-Tin-Tin is a dog well-known to Americans. Brought from Europe as a puppy after World War I by soldier Lee Duncan (1892-1960), Rin-Tin-Tin was handsome and athletic. He went on to be one of the most famous dogs in show business. When the original Rin-Tin-Tin died in 1932, Duncan had bred the dog carefully and continued to keep the dogs in show business with his offspring: Rin-Tin-Tin Jr., Rin-Tin-Tin III, and Rin-Tin-Tin IV, the dog who starred in the television show.
The bloodline has always been carefully guarded. When Duncan could no longer manage the kennels in the late 1950s, he is thought to have given breeding rights to the Hereford family in Texas. Even as recently as a couple of years ago, there were lawsuits over the purity and owner ship of the line. (To read more about others claiming the rights to the bloodline, click here.) The bloodline in fact is one of the oldest continuous lines in the breed’s 112-year history
Why a Shelter?
Early in Rinda’s life with Marguerite, the dog went on the attack at the arrival of a stranger. Marguerite prevented anything from happening that day and was able to re-train Rinda not to attack. However, with Rinda left in a shelter, perhaps her original owner found her too much to handle. Or perhaps the person had health issues or financial reversals. It is still puzzling that Rinda was not returned to the original breeding kennel that was actually located nearby.
Rinda: Beautiful and Smart
Rinda is described as light tan with dark markings on her face: “mascara-trimmed eyes,” dark beauty spots on each side of her face, and a black star on her forehead. She was well-built and majestic in bearing.
As Loftus’s book shows, she was also very smart.
The dog was not a trained service dog, but Marguerite used her in ways that service dogs work. Marguerite’s night vision was poor, and of course, in the mountains there were few lights. When she was moving from one retreat building to another, she took Rinda’s collar and Rinda safely guided the way.
Rinda also sometimes carried notes to staff people in a different building on the property. Marguerite would give her a slip of paper and send her off with a command like, “Find Thelma.”
If Marguerite dropped something when going from building to building, Rinda stopped and guarded the dropped item until Marguerite retrieved it.
The two of them were a “mutual support team.” One night when Rinda was having a bad dream, Marguerite reached down and comforted her by wakening her from the nightmare. Marguerite soon found that Rinda returned the favor whenever she was having a restless night or a bad dream.
But Rinda wasn’t perfect. Marguerite sometimes found that her carefully-tended vegetable gardens were disrupted because Rinda decided to bury a bone there.
Rinda Proved to be Very Welcoming
After Marguerite worked with her to greet expected visitors with warmth and love, Rinda became very popular with worshippers who arrived at the retreat.
Rinda also loved domesticated animals. When kittens were born on the property, Rinda felt they were hers and did as much kitten-licking as the kittens would permit.
A parakeet who visited occasionally was another favorite of Rinda’s. The bird’s owner permitted the bird to fly free some of the time, fascinating Rinda. The bird frequently alighted on the head of his owner, and Rinda longed to receive such attention. When the parakeet hopped along a windowsill, Rinda quietly put her nose right along the sill, hoping the parakeet would alight.
Rinda Reads the Mail
In her missionary work, Marguerite Loftus sometimes had to be away for several months at a time. She left Rinda at various homes of trusted friends. She always wrote to the person who was taking care of Rinda to tell about her own adventures and to check on her beloved dog.
One day the postman dropped the mail in the door slot when the woman of the house was away. When she returned, she found that the mail was pawed through. Rinda must have detected Marguerite’s scent on a letter and had taken that letter for herself. The woman retrieved the ripped letter and read that Marguerite enclosed a handkerchief for Rinda as a way to say she was coming home soon.
Rinda already had the handkerchief, lying proudly with the pretty cloth between her paws.
At the end of each day Rinda brought a ball to Loftus, insisting on play time.
Marguerite Lofus writes that from this behavior she interpreted an important life lesson:
“To function well, a bow cannot always be tense.”
To my great pleasure, I have received email messages from a few people who were connected with the retreat, or who knew Marguerite Loftus. While the retreat no longer exists, one reader explained that it was located near Julian, California. And a recent reader told me how important the retreat was for her family as a place of refuge. Marguerite Loftus must have been a lovely, warm person, and I so appreciate hearing these stories.
Marguerite Loftus self- published her book about life lessons learned from Rinda in 1970.Because there are no photographs of Rinda, I have photographed the art from the book to illustrate this article. Though she is no longer alive and able to give permission, I feel that she would have seen this as a fitting way to honor Rinda, a very special dog.