In the Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West tells Dorothy, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!” For some reason, the Wicked Witch of the West had a beef not only with Dorothy, but with Toto, too. Every time she encounters Dorothy, she has to mention poor little Toto, too. She’s not exactly what you would call a dog lover.
She would’ve really hated what went down this weekend in Eureka.
On Saturday, 26 yippy dogs competed against one another in an official Toto Look-Alike contest at Fin and Feather in Henderson Center. Most of the dogs were Cairn Terriers (the breed the original Toto was). Some of them were Yorkshire Terriers. There were a couple poodles, and there were more than a few something-or-others. All of the dogs wanted to be declared the most supreme Toto in the land. The dogs’ pictures will be displayed at Fin and Feather starting on Monday, and anyone can cast their vote for the cutest and most deserving Toto look-alike. By Friday a winner will be declared. The champion gets a faux ruby collar and its portrait hung up at the premiere of Wizard of Oz, the play, on August 8 at HSU’s Van Duzer Theatre.
The Toto look-alike contest had been advertised for about a week and started at noon on Saturday. Sandy Lynn, the event organizer who also plays one of the Emerald City women, said she had no idea how many dogs or people to expect. It was all up in the air. At 11:30 a.m., at least one eager contestant -- a lady named Carol with puffy white hair -- was there, waiting, alone in the parking lot. In her arms, she held a trembling 4-month old Yorkshire terrier puppy named Tricksy who wanted to be like Toto.
Not much excitement happened at that moment. But then Dorothy, Glenda The Good Witch and Toto rolled up. The little girls who play the munchkins and the Emerald City women squealed with delight. “There they are!” It was as if Britney Spears and her entourage had just arrived or something “It’s Dorothy! It’s Toto ... Toto the Actor!”
Henry, “Toto the Actor,” had handsome blonde tousled hair like a Ken doll. He was a real diva. When the other dogs arrived later, he acted like he barely noticed. They were small beans to a big-time celebrity like him. He was over it all. He casually chewed on a rawhide, with his back turned to the other dogs as they got their pictures taken with Dorothy.
Henry is an important commodity in the local theatre scene, and recently his status has been boosted. Glenda, the Good Witch, said that there used to be two dogs that played Toto. Then something happened. The second Toto was fired. “It made this horrendous yipping noise,” said Glenda. “It got cut.” Now little Henry is the one and only Toto of the show. Sometimes Henry yips when there’s high-pitched singing, she said, but then they feed him a hot dog and he simmers down.
For a while, the competition looked weak. None of the Toto wannabes were there yet. The Emerald City women wondered aloud if anyone was going to show up. A little before noon, a couple of random people and little doggies on leashes began to drift into the parking lot, one by one. But, suddenly there was an explosion of little dogs from north, south, east and west. The doggy mayhem and ridiculousness had officially started. They were big, small, cute, ugly, purebreds, mutts. Like the dogs, the pet owners were from all walks of life. Gypsies with dreadlocks. Biker chicks and dudes. Old ladies. Middle-aged men wearing polo shirts and hiked up shorts. Terriers galore.
“It’s a terrier fest, man,” said one of the Emerald City women.
One by one, for a half an hour straight, the dogs got their pictures taken with Dorothy. After the whirlwind, most of the dogs had gotten their pictures taken and left, and most of the yipping had dwindled down. A few stragglers remained, mingled, stayed just to talk about dogs. When there was nothing else left to see, Glenda and Dorothy decided to leave together, the same way they came in. They walked off through the parking lot, side-by-side. “Toto the Actor” pulled them forward on a leash. He had places to be and people to see. Dorothy’s ruby slippers glistened in the sun. She didn’t click them together and say, “There’s no place like home.”