Monday, September 13, 2010

Chuck Eisenmann & The Littlest Hobo Tribute


Many other sources have already reported that Charles P. Eisenmann, owner and trainer of the Shepherd dogs who played London, The Littlest Hobo, in TV and movies from the fifties through the eighties, died on September 6, 2010, at the age of 91. I would like to dedicate this post to him.



The photos that you will see throughout are scans from Chuck's books or actual Littlest Hobo dogs publicity prints I own, distributed over the decades from the sixties to the eighties. I have obtained some of them via a Shiloh Shepherd Dog Club of America board member who was kind enough to put them up for sale to benefit the club; others, most especially the beautiful color print from 1984, I received when a friend of Chuck's died and some of his estate was liquidated at auction. Possibly the most precious ones I received from Chuck's secretary once upon a time, a lovely lady whose auction I managed to win--gaining a photo which included the only two female Hobo dogs, Raura and Venus. I hope she finds the time to write up her memories of Chuck, as she told me she wished to do while we corresponded.



For the Christmas of 2008 I sent Chuck a Christmas card--it may never have reached him at his Oregon nursing home, but I enclosed a photo of Kyrie and a heartfelt thanks for the books and tours he had done with his dogs over the years. Now he is gone, but he lived a great life. He was one of "the most important figures in American military baseball in Europe during World War II" according to Gary Bedingfield's "Baseball In Wartime" blog (thanks Mr. Bedingfield for digging up so much about Chuck that I never knew!). You can find that post in Mr. Bedingfield's blog (and some lovely photos of London farther down in it) at baseballinwartime.blogspot.com .



Chuck gave up professional baseball when "the dog started showing signs of greatness". London, his German Shepherd, had accompanied him everywhere--he was even included in contracts Chuck signed with the teams he played for! Born in 1951, London was five years old before he was first mentioned in the Bismark Tribute, when Chuck came out on the field and did a show with him for the entertainment of the crowd.



The newspaper notes that London ran the bases when asked to. Later, after an incident with London that cost his team a game, London got a Life magazine spread, and was asked to perform at Watertown, again to entertain fans. There, Chuck tried to prove his dog's intelligence by doing everything BUT specifically asking him to "run the bases". Biographer David Malcolmson writes about it in London: The Dog Who Made The Team:

"London," asked Chuck, "Do you know where you are?"
Here was a concept he had never put into words with his dog, but it was within London's power.
Even Chuck could never quite get used to the way his dog would respond. London looked around him, not at the stands now, but at the two dugouts, then at the diamond behind him. To London, the best of all places in the outdoor world was a baseball diamond. His tail wagged a little.
The people could not help but see something of this. Probably to many of them it would be merely another sign that the man had rehearsed his dog well. It would do no good for Chuck to have Hank broadcast: "My dog has never before been asked this question."
Chuck went on, "Suppose, London, suppose out there on this diamond a game is going on. Suppose you are on the team. London, you're playing baseball!"
The spell was on them both. Chuck told himself, go slow! go slow! They must be made to see it. If it happens too fast, it will look like just another trick. If the stands could be made to see..."



Chuck tried his best to make the stands see--and London, using only the words Chuck told him: "Home Run" "You've hit the ball out of the park" "you've hit your homer. Go ahead" DID understand what Chuck was asking. He ran the bases! Even after that, most in the stands seemed to not understand that the dog had been reasoning out what to do based on English words--not on a memorized command. But, Malcolmson writes, one person at least who saw a tape of later, similar performances did:

"One of the shows that followed was seen by a woman who wrote in to the "You Asked For It" television program. She asked for the dog who thinks like a man.
Her letter opened up, for London and for Chuck, Hollywood's golden gate."




"You Asked For It" was London's big break, and he was soon in demand for other shows, other appearances, and then a 1958 feature-length movie: The Littlest Hobo. It was a short step after that to the TV series in the 60's, acted in by London's sons and grandsons and daughters. The series was revived again with more London descendants, from the late seventies to the mid-eighties.



These later dogs are the ones behind the original Shiloh Shepherd outcross: Samson, the dog that took Tina Barber away from registration with the AKC and into the territory of creating her own breed. She has stuck to her dream through fire and flood, thick and thin, endless betrayals (but she has been shored up through it all by some honest Shiloh-loving folks, some very good long-time friends, and the love of these amazing dogs). Every ISSR Shiloh Shepherd living today has the Hobo dogs behind them, but only a very few have inherited the unique facial markings. Among them is my Kyrie. Below, a Hobo pup from Chuck's book "The Better Dog; The Educated Dog":



And London, circa 1984--the star of the revamped TV show:

I hope that you have enjoyed our brief history, photos, and tribute to Chuck. I would like to thank Tina Barber for working with Chuck and integrating the Hobo lines into the Shiloh Shepherd, and Chuck himself for all that he did to push the cause of educated dogs. He was a man far ahead of his time--a man who believed that by educating instead of training dogs, by teaching with observation, faith, and empathy instead of shoving them around with brute force, you could teach them to think like you or I. And every owner of a real Shiloh Shepherd today knows that he was right.

15 comments:

Mrs. C said...

Wonderful, Anne. I'm so proud to own a descendant of these dogs and to know the man who made it possible.

matheson said...

I knew Chuck in the early 1970's, seeing him every time he came to Toronto. Up until the time CFTO began taping the new colour show "The Littlest Hobo". A truly wonderful man & the only heir to the amazing abilities of the late Larry Trimble of Strongheart fame. But Chuck took it further with his dogs understanding 3 languages & thousands of words. Both men had an ESP like communion with animals, their German shepherds especially. Thank myou for a lovely tribute to Chuck, nowe alas gone.John. L. Matthew

Paul Fritz-Németh said...

I am sorry Anne that I just only now have I heard about Chuck`s death. I had the pleasure of working with him on 65 episodes of the Littlest Hobo as First A.D.

We went to Romania to shoot a feature film with his "boys" called
"Silent Friends" starring the one and only "Toro". Several libraries in the USA carried this film and it was distributed internationally by a Canadian company called Faroun Films. To the best of my knowledge Xerox Films bought the rights in the USA. There still might be copies available at some US libraries. Ironically chuck never saw this film.

Paul Fritz-Németh Sr.
Producer/Director

Anne F. said...

Thank you all so much for posting! I put a lot of time into the tribute and I'm so glad that people who knew Chuck are finding it.

Paul, when my husband saw your post he got so excited! It's nice to "meet" you, if only virtually. I'm saddened to hear that you only just heard of Chuck's passing, but honored that you took some time to leave a comment. :)

I will have to look up that "Silent Friends" film and see if I can dredge up a copy. Thank you for telling us about that--I had no idea it existed! I am always on the lookout for more Chuck and Hobo dogs info, pictures, anything. I keep hoping that someone will write a book about Chuck and the dogs.

Paul Fritz-Németh said...

Thank you Anne for the tribute to Chuck and his "boys". I had the pleasure of working with them on 65 episodes of the Littlest Hobo and then produced in co-production with Romania a feature film starring the one and only Toro. This film was shown all over the old East European countries and distributed through a Canadian company in the rest of the world. The film had several different titles: "Silent Friends", Deux Amis Siliencieux" and "Prieteni Fara Grei". there copies of it at some of the libraries in the United States. Ironically, when I last spoke with Chuck he had not seen the film.

Paul Fritz-Németh
Producer/Director

Anne F. said...

Paul, thank you for the info about the alternate titles! I did a few quick internet searches and found no copies available. I'll check with the local library's loaner program to see if I can find a copy of the film. It is a real shame that Chuck never got to see it.

It must have been a real eye-opening experience to work on 65 episodes with those dogs! Had you heard of them before you started working on the show?

matheson said...

Dear Paul-Fitz-Nemeth: I'd very much like to get in touch with you, if you have an e-mail address? I'm hoping to do a book sometime. Want if possible to trace "Two Silent Friends" & the documentary Chuck commissioned from Jack McCallum "Love on a Leash" - 1974. Can't find any trace of him! Knew Chuck during the '70'S, but never bothered him when CFTO began the seconhd series. Maybe I ought to have asked him to let me visit the set on occasion! First time we met, London started to take off my specs! He may have heard my name talking to Chuck before his Casa Loma Christmas show, but picked me out & performed OK! Chuck & Laurence Trimble really took canine ESP to new heights! Then Cghuck went beyond with education & the Hobos distinguishing colour! Sincerely, John.

matheson said...

Dear Paul Fitz-Nemeth: Rock Demers (formerly of Faroun Films) only had "Silent Friends" for ten years, then said the copyright reverted to you! Could the Rumanian studio still have this now? Mr Demers sent me a beautiful gatefold brochure on the film giving full information & pictures in colour & b & W. Is there any way the film can be traced today? You purposely shot lengthy sequences to show how Toro & the original London (then an amazing 18!)were carrying out actions by themselves! Please do get in touch with me if possible. Sincerely, John.

Darcy said...

Anne, I love your blog and am amazed at how much your dog looks like London. Chuck Eisenmann was my Great Uncle, on my Father's side. Chuck was my Grandmother's little brother. He used to come visit at Grandma's every year and bring ALL the dogs with him. It was amazing what they could do! I'd love to talk more with you about him and his training methods.
Thanks for the post! He is missed!!

Anne F. said...

Hi Darcy--sorry I didn't see your comment sooner! Yes, I would love to talk to you about Chuck and his training methods. :)

If you're on Facebook, feel free to message me on there (Anne Foerster; Kyrie is my avatar).

Writing has been my hobby for a long time...I swear if someone doesn't do something on writing a book about Chuck and the dogs, I'm going to make a post on the blog calling for people who knew Chuck to get in touch with me and do it myself!

matheson said...

Eureka!!! I've found "2 Silent Friends/Aka "Dogs to the Rescue". Paul Fitz-Nemeth was right. Zerox films had it in a program they ran for Kid's Films. Go to http://store.ebay.com/Alice-Rare-VHS-Store?/-trksid=p4540-12563. You may not need all that. But once in Ebay please enter "Dogs to the Rescue Specially for Kids Video VHS Vol 6" ALICE is only on Ebay. The video costs $16.99 US I hope they have several copies of this. The 84 minute film is on this Volume 6 VHS cassette! With shipping about $3.99. Let's hope we can all get one! Sincerely, John L. Matthew (Matheson)

matheson said...

Hi everyone! The VHS video of Paul Fitz-Nemeth's "Dogs to the Rescue" came to my door, January 16th, my 86th birthday! Fabulous! He not only wrote the story, but produced & directed. London & especially Toro are really wonderful. Water work, stealing a baby to protect it from the bad guys. Trying to get it fed. Toro takes it's companion duck in his mouth some 6-7 times to add it to the basket with the baby. Water work, a rescue. Final upsetting the bad guys canoe. Chuck plays the police inspector who refuses to believe the constable, who knows the dogs are saving the baby. Comedy from natural sources in the story & a good chase. Not to be missed. I hope everyone can get a copy. it looks lie E-bay has several? Really worthwhile & a great tribute to Chuck & his two dogs. John L. Matthew.

Anne F. said...

Thanks so much Matheson! I only just saw this--life has been very busy--but I will for sure be on the lookout now that I know these are out there!

Laurie Lightfoot said...

Hi, I really enjoy watching the Littlest Hobo shows now. Never watched than as a child, but I love these dogs. My husband and I watch the episodes and try to figure out where they were filmed. Most of the time we have no problem. But The imaginative invalid, was filmed at a beautiful house. Does anyone know where that house is? I have been trying to figure it out on my own but so far no luck. Thanks kindly, Laurie
Laurielightfoot@sympatico.ca

Unknown said...

Chuck Eisenmann would stay at the Holiday Inn East in Euclid, Ohio when he was in Cleveland, Ohio. I worked at the Inn. When Chuck would cone into the lobby he would put on a show for the guest. Chuck came to our home to see my grandmother who was a big fan of The Littlest Hobo. Chuck gave my grandmother 4 -8 X 10 pictures of the dogs.I believe it was the biggest thrill She had . I have the pictures today.