Sunday, December 26, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Ranny Green

The Real Thing: Public Votes Fala And Scarlett As Top Dog And Cat Of Century

Times Pet Columnist

A presidential pooch and a courageous cat have been named top dog and cat of the 20th century by The Iams Co., following a vote of the public.

The canine award went to Fala, President Roosevelt's trusted Scottish terrier, and the feline counterpart was voted to Scarlet, the Brooklyn cat who saved her kittens from a fire in 1996.

"It's interesting to note that despite the well-known fictional pets represented in the list," says Bryan Brown, Iams communications director, "survey participants chose to recognize a real dog and cat in the top spots."

Fala was one of numerous pooches featured in "First Dogs: American Presidents and Their Best Friends" by Roy Rowan and Brooke Janis, plus a Discovery Channel special "First Dogs."

Fala rode in the limousine with FDR en route to the 1941 inauguration, posed with his master and Winston Churchill for a historic photo and is buried beside the president.

But the Scottie is probably the only dog to have a presidential speech named for him. "The Fala Address," given Sept. 23, 1944, in Washington, D.C., fired one shot after another at the Republican Party, but will be best remembered for the following:

"These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog Fala. Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks, but Fala does resent them.

"You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and sent a destroyer back to find him - at a cost to the taxpayers of (millions) his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehood about myself - such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as indispensable. But I think I have a right to resent, to object to libelous statements about my dog."

While Fala drew the public's sympathy, Scarlett captured the country's heart. The Brooklyn feline became the subject of a book and many newspaper accounts after pulling her five kittens from a burning building and carrying them across the street one by one to safety. In the process, she received major burns but she and four of the kittens survived.

The next two favorite pooches were Togo and Snoopy. Togo, the lead sled dog in the 1925 serum run to Nome, Alaska, took second place. The serum helped save many lives during a diphtheria epidemic. Togo's run was the longest distance in the tag-team effort by several teams running across the frozen, snow-covered ground.

Snoopy, Charlie Brown's buddy, earned third place, a timely award in lieu of Charles Schulz's announcement earlier this month that he is retiring the lovable "Peanuts" comic strip.

Rounding out the top three in cats, are Garfield and Tigger. Garfield, the orange-striped title character in the comic strip of the same name, has been around since 1978. Winnie the Pooh's chum Tigger was created by A.A. Milne and first appeared in 1928 in "The House at Pooh Corner."

A total of 6,111 votes were registered online in the Top Dog contest, with Fala receiving 2,045 or 33.5 percent. Scarlett attracted 252 of 964 Top Cat votes (26.1 percent).

Here are others in the Top Ten of each category: Dogs

2. Togo 1,355 votes; 3. Snoopy 806; 4. Rin Tin Tin 469; 5. Lassie 468; 6. Scooby Doo 197; 7. Balto (serum run to Nome) 114; 8. Eddie ("Frasier" TV series) 62; 9. Old Yeller 61; 10. Gidget (Taco Bell commercial Chihuahua) 59. Cats

2. Garfield 189; 3. Tigger 72; 4. Sylvester 66; 5. Hobbes ("Calvin & Hobbes" comic strip) 58; 6. Simba ("The Lion King") 52; 7. Mr. Bigglesworth ("Austin Powers") 44; 8. Elsa ("Born Free") 36; 9. Cat in the Hat 34; 10. (tie) Toonces ("Saturday Night Live") 30 and Felix 30.

In another listing, Pet Supplies "Plus" named its 20 most interesting pets of the century in its Christmas newsletter.

Here are several of its selections:

Belka and Strelka, the space Samoyeds. The two took off on Sputnik V Aug. 19, 1960, making 17 orbits in 24 hours.

Alex, the genius parrot. A 25-year-old African gray, Alex is no bird brain. In fact, he may be one of the smartest pets in history. He has been featured in scholarly journals for an ability to recognize and name more than 100 objects, plus distinguishing shapes and colors.

Tiki, a shy pet who became a star. The Himalayan cat in the TV series "Caroline in the City" spent most of her life in a cage until being adopted by Tammy Maples. Years of confinement left Tiki shy and suspicious, but nurturing and patience by Maples paid off and brought Tiki out of her self-imposed shell. Before appearing on "Caroline," Tiki starred in the film "Homeward Bound."

Chinook, the sled dog. One of few animals to lend its name to a breed. Explorer Arthur T. Walden was looking for a dog that combined the speed of small sled dogs with the strength of draft dogs. The result was a powerful golden offspring he named Chinook.

Peri-Nympsie, the high-intelligence cat. During her brief life (1927-32), this Siamese was regarded as the world's smartest feline with a vocabulary of 200 words and was trained to help her owner dust the house.

Morris, the most famous "spokes-cat." Rescued from an animal shelter, this orange tabby became the world's most recognizable feline as an advertising icon for 9-Lives products. Plus, he's the only cat to run for president. Yes, that's right, he really did receive write-in votes.

Pal, from wild pup to film legend. In 1940, a pet owner balked at paying dog trainer Rudd Weatherwax, instead offering Weatherwax the overly playful puppy. Weatherwax agreed, and two years later the dog earned a role in a film called "Lassie Come Home." The rest is history.

Duke, the war hero. A canine John Wayne, Duke served the Marines during World War II. The regal Doberman pinscher was credited with saving more lives than any other dog, earning him a promotion to sergeant.

Trap, the drug buster. In the history of drug-sniffing canines, no dog rivals this guy. In five years, he sniffed out more than $63 million worth of drugs.

Nipper, the RCA dog. Few realize that the dog listening to his master's voice on the old-fashioned cylinder phonograph was a real pet. Nipper belonged to artist Francis Barraud. Struck by the way his pet listened so intently to the record player, Barraud did a painting of Nipper. RCA purchased the rights, creating one of the most famous trademarks in history.

Buddy, leading the guide-dog movement. This German shepherd made history during the Depression when he was put into service as the first "seeing-eye dog." When he developed a kidney condition, his owner Morris Frank asked Dr. Mark Morris, a veterinarian, to develop a special food for his dog. Morris obliged, creating a product that would eventually lead to the development of the Hill's Science Diet line.

Mickey, the healing dog. In 1983, Percy, a Chihuahua, was hit by a car. His owner, believing the dog was dead, buried him in the back yard. Mickey, a Labrador retriever, frantically dug up Percy and began licking his face. Seeing this, the owner raced outside to discover the Chihuahua was alive and reviving, thanks to Mickey's friendly licks.

Local award winner

Diane Sorenson of Des Moines and her 10-pound Boston terrier Dolly have been selected winners of a Delta Society Special Services Award.

Dolly, which maneuvers with ease on three legs, and Sorenson were honored because of their visits to Swedish Medical Center and Valley Medical Center, where they participate in animal-assisted activities and therapy on a regular basis, as well as at retirement centers, schools and business meetings.

Animal-assisted therapy involves working with individuals with physical disabilities, enabling and inspiring them to overcome barriers and achieve greater independence.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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