Who Let the Dogs Out?

"Grrr! Yap! Woof woof!" Or, to put it another way, have you noticed how man's best friend has become Hollywood's as well? Glenn Close was up to her neck in pooches in the live-action sequel "102 Dalmatians", while Jim Carrey's canine sidekick Max was the funniest thing in "The Grinch". And now Cuba Gooding Jr discovers that huskies are the sleigh to go in surprise kids' hit "Snow Dogs".

Of course, this is nothing new. Ever since the halcyon days of Lassie and Rin Tin Tin, mutts have not just worn leads - they've been them. Walt Disney built an entire industry out of tail-wagging tykes, from "Greyfriars Bobby" and "Old Yeller" to "The Shaggy DA" and "Air Bud". Jack London's estate, meanwhile, has enjoyed the royalties from the numerous film versions of his dog tales "White Fang" and "Call of the Wild".

Dorothy had her Toto, Turner had his Hooch, and Lady had her Tramp. There have been big dogs (the St Bernard in "Beethoven" - now up to "Beethoven's 4th"!), "Cujo", also a St Bernard), small dogs ("Benji", "My Dog Skip"), and more cartoon mongrels than you can shake a stick at (Pluto, Muttley, Scooby-Doo).

Ironically, though, when Scooby's big-screen break finally arrives in July, he'll be played by a 100% CGI creation - not a dog hair or flea in sight. You see, dogs don't always get the movie breaks.

Indeed, some of their breaks are of the painful variety: Michael Palin murdered three hounds in "A Fish Called Wanda", Jack Nicholson threw one down the garbage chute in "As Good As it Gets", and the mutt in "There's Something about Mary" ended up electrocuted, incinerated, and encased in plaster. That'll teach him to ask for gross points!