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Celebrate National Dog Day on August 26 with Disney Dogs!

Lilian Disney and Sunnee – Courtesy of WaltDisney.org

–Karen Burns, WDW Radio Team

“Everybody knows a dog’s best friend is his human” said Trusty in Lady and the Tramp and I would wholeheartedly agree with this statement!  

I have owned dogs all my life and when the world shutdown in 2020, walks with my dog, Buster, kept me sane when everything else around me seemed so crazy.

Walt had many passions in his life. His devotion to his family, his incredible work ethic, his love of people and as evidenced in so many of his movies and in the Parks themselves, his love of animals.

When Walt and Lilian were first married and bought a home of their own, Walt was keen for them to get a dog. Although reluctant at first, Lilian expressed an interest in the Chow Chow breed when looking through a book that Walt had bought to research the perfect pooch to share their home.

Ever the hopeless and playful romantic, Walt didn’t just go out and buy a dog. Instead, he hatched a plan to surprise Lilian one Christmas. This plan became the inspiration for the scene in the 1955 classic, Lady and the Tramp, when Jim places a hat box under the tree for his wife, Darling.  

Lilian, not surprisingly, assumed (as did Jim’s wife) that her gift was a new hat and just as it was portrayed in the movie, she was thrilled and delighted when the box began to move and a Chow Chow puppy suddenly popped his head out!  

The new puppy was given the name Sunnee and he and Lilian immediately became inseparable. Walt remarked that he “never saw anyone so crazy about an animal.” (Source: Walt’s Valentine | The Walt Disney Family Museum)

The first Disney dog I remember from childhood is Mickey’s inquisitive, rather clumsy but fiercely loyal companion, Pluto. He has the rare quality of being able to connect and endear himself with the audience simply through his facial expressions and physical comedy because unlike many Disney animal characters, Pluto doesn’t speak. He behaves and reacts like a real dog which I think just makes him even more adorable.  

The genius of the flypaper scene in the 1934 short, Playful Pluto, is remarkable in its ability to remain timeless and is an absolute joy to watch over and over again.

In fact, Doug from Up seems to me to be the contemporary reimagining of Pluto, hilariously stealing every scene he is in by just loving life and wanting to make new friends and protecting his family. He is Pluto with a voice box!

Perhaps the strong bond between human and canine is due to a dog’s unquestionable devotion to those he/she loves, no matter what. Old Yeller’s fearless defense of Arliss from a bear attack; Chance’s determination to find his family when he thinks they may not be coming back; Bolt’s quest to save Penny from the Green-Eyed man no matter the risk or distance between them; and even Copper’s inability to harm his childhood friend, Tod, despite being trained as a hunting dog.  

Or maybe it is their high intelligence. Who would have thought that two Dalmatians and 99 puppies would be able to outwit two hardcore criminals and the evil mastermind that is Cruella De Vil?!

My first dog was a stray and we named her Lady. Today our rescue dog is called Buster and I love the fact that he shares his name with Andy’s miniature dachshund in Toy Story.  As a family, we watched the excitable puppy running around the house in the first movie, uncontrollably crashing into Andy’s toys as he skated across the bedroom floor.  

Buster Burns – Courtesy of Karen Burns

It was wonderful to see the animators continue to include Buster in three of the movies, ageing him appropriately as the years passed. Over the years, his running turned to more of a gentle plod, culminating in a dramatic slump on the floor, his energy completely spent!  

If I were to put together a Top-5 Disney dogs, my choices would be:

Five:  Technically more than one dog but all part of the same family, the 101 Dalmatians.

Four:  Doug from Up. So sweet natured and innocent. Doug just loves EVERYBODY!

Three:  Lady from Lady and the Tramp. The namesake for my first dog and the hatbox scene is just so memorable and sweet.

Two:  Pluto. Mickey’s best friend and for a non-speaking character, so expressive and funny!

One:  Buster from Toy Story. He inhabits both the world of the humans and the toys. Loyal and trustworthy and a great transport system for Woody (no offence Bullseye…).

Best of all, if you can’t bear to leave your furry family member at home whilst you enjoy a vacation at Walt Disney World, you can take advantage of the WDW Resort Pet Boarding facility. Although only service animals are permitted in the Parks, there are currently four Disney Resort Hotels that offer dog-friendly accommodations. They are:

  • Disney’s Art of Animation
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
  • Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
  • The Cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort

On arrival, resort guests and their dog are greeted with a complimentary Pluto Welcome Kit. Your dog will enjoy playtime, walks, treats and even a bedtime story whilst you have fun in the Parks. They can even have a bit of luxury in the grooming parlour. Disney love dogs as much as you do!

It’s just another reason the Disney Parks are the number one vacation destination in the world!

My name is Karen Burns and although I am based in the UK, I have been a lifelong Disney fan. For a little girl growing up in London, this magical place was a distant wonderland I could only ever dream of visiting. But it finally happened in 1990 when I was 16 years old.I have since been back to Walt Disney World with my husband and then again with our two daughters, and I have also visited Disneyland Paris which has my favourite Cinderella castle. Fast forward to the present day when I found Lou’s podcasts and then my excitement when he asked for contributors to the WDW Radio website. To write about my happy place is truly a dream come true.