Without question, Terry is the most known dog in movie history. Born in Alta Dena, California, Terry was a female Cairn Terrier performer who appeared in many different movies, most famously as Toto in The Wizard of Oz (1939). In this film, however, she was credited as Toto, not as Terry. She was owned and trained by Carl Spitz. She was also the mother of Rommy, another movie Cairn terrier, who appeared in other films including Reap the Wild Wind (1942) and Air Force (1943).
Terry was adopted as a puppy by a family but they had a difficult time with her housebreaking process. In response, they contacted Spitz, who was running a dog obedience school in the area. Thought Spitz took Terry in and housebroke her, Terry’s family refused to pay the obedience. As a result, Spitz kept Terry and started to train her for the movies.
Her first film appearance was in Ready for Love (1934) which was released on November 30, 1934, roughly one month before her first major film appearance, with Shirley Temple, in Bright Eyes (1934) as Rags.
She did her own stunts, and almost lost her life during the filming of The Wizard of Oz (1939), when one of the film’s Winkie guards accidentally stepped on her foot, breaking it. She spent two weeks recuperating at Judy Garland’s residence, and Garland developed a close attachment to her. Garland wanted to adopt her, but Spitz refused.
Her salary, $125 per week, was more than that of many human actors in the film, and also more than most working Americans at the time. She attended the premiere of The Wizard of Oz at Grauman’s Chinese Theater; because of the popularity of the film, her name was changed to Toto in 1942.
Terry had 16 total film appearances, three of which were playing in theaters at the same time in the fall of 1939: The Wizard of Oz, The Women (1939), and Bad Little Angel (1939).
Among the last ones was Tortilla Flat (1942), in which she was reunited with Oz director Victor Fleming and Frank Morgan, who played the Wizard. Terry’s final film role was in Easy to Look At (1945), released three weeks before her death. Her penultimate film, Adventures of Rusty (1945), was released posthumously just five days after her death. She was uncredited in both films.
Terry died at age 11 in Hollywood on September 1, 1945, and was buried at Spitz’s ranch in Studio City, Los Angeles. The grave was destroyed during the construction of the Ventura Freeway in 1958.
On June 18, 2011, a permanent memorial for Terry was dedicated at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.
For further reading about Terry, I recommend I, Toto: The Autobiography of Terrry, the Dog who was Toto by Willard Carroll.