After learning that Rin Tin Tin was not a fictional character but a real dog, Susan Orlean took ten years to write his biography. The dog whose figurine sat on her grandfather's desk was actually a German shepherd, who was born on the battlefields of World War I, joined thousands of dog volunteers against Hitler, immigrated to America, conquered Hollywood and emerged as a family friendly icon of the cold war.
Rin Tin Tin's owner, American soldier Lee Duncan, stumbled on a dog kennel that had been abandoned by retreating German forces. A dog lover with a history of abandonment as a child, Lee decided to rescue the dogs and kept two of them for himself: Rin Tin Tin and Nanette.
After the armistice, he managed to get the dogs back to America, and began to train them for dog shows. His became one of the most extraordinary tales of a boy and a dog.
Orlean's access to Duncan's personal archive and unfinished memoir makes her book a closer-to-reality account than Glen David Gold's fictionalized Sunnyside.
This is a fun story for a wide range of readers. Having heard about Rin Tin Tin from my mother, I had wanted to know whether he was a real dog or just a fictional character. So when I came across this book, I was immediately drawn to it. This story reinforced my appreciation of the enduring bond between humans and animals.