Lassie’s Bodyguard

Prior to the mudslide.

Please usher children and the faint of heart from the room, because I am about to divulge a dreadful secret.  Lassie, the collie dog of fame, died 37 times.  Of these deaths, we were only able to resuscitate the critter 18 times.  That’s right– when we couldn’t bring her back, we’d have to skin her, strap her pelt to a sheep (or once, a gaffer boy) and hope for the best until a new Lassie could be incubated, hatched, and flown in from the Shetland Isles.  This is why the television series was the most expensive to date– Lassies aren’t cheap.

I can tell that you are thinking to yourselves, “St. Rid, if you were the dog’s bodyguard, how come the damn girl died so many times?”  And shame on you.  Shame on you for even thinking that I had fallen asleep at the wheel.  Because I’m about to tell you something else, something they don’t want you to know.  That dog was deceitful, and treacherously cunning.  Add that to her penchant for risk-taking, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.  It was only lucky that I was the one looking after her.  I remember one time in particular– I had been called in to chase down and try to shoot Timmy with a tranquilizer after he’d snorted a week’s worth of Ritalin.  “How had Timmy gotten ahold of all that Ritalin?” everyone was asking.  By this time, they ought to have known, but somehow the dog was the last one suspected.  It’s little wonder she won 19 Emmys.  Despite her track record of creating havoc, she managed to maintain the illusion that she saved the kid from himself.  But I knew better, having spent more time with the dog than anyone besides Rudd Weatherwax and his dastardly mustachios.  And earlier in the day, I’d seen her loitering around Timmy’s dressing room.  Normally she had nothing to do with the kid, preferring to let his handlers muzzle him between takes rather than engage with the towhead.  But I was so busy chasing the little guy as he swung from branch to branch and scrambled madly up crumbling gravel inclines… I was so distracted by this situation that I forgot all about Lassie.  Which is as she wanted it.  She’d taken full advantage of the chaos, and had called in studio execs to witness the scene.  While we were busily prying a howling Timmy from the branch of a mid-sized oak, Lassie was busily renegotiating her contract, and stipulating that all of us, the cast and crew, be replaced with animatronic U.S. Presidents.  True, it is difficult to tell when the switcheroo took place when you are watching the original series, but I will give you this clue:  Did Cloris Leachman or June Lockhart bear a striking resemblance to Andrew Jackson?

I didn’t much mind losing my job to an animatronic Martin Van Buren.  I was sick of the hijinks, sick of risking my life day in and day out for a reckless and thankless dog.  The studio offered me a role guarding a chimp whose claim to fame seemed to be that he smoked Virginia Slims, but I was ready for a career move.  Nevertheless, for anyone who can put up with an animal diva, bodyguarding can be exceptionally well-paying work.  With my Lassie money, I built a hovercraft tugboat.

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