|The Real Lassie|
|Ever wonder what inspired Eric Knight, the man who created the fictional Lassie, to come up with the idea of a "wonder dog?"
According to the Sunday Telegraph, new research has found that the British-born Knight was a young serviceman when the real Lassie made headlines by saving the life of a Royal Navy sailor after his battleship was torpedoed during the First World War.
The Telegraph reports Nigel Clarke carried out the new research for a book on shipwrecks in Lyme Bay - Dorset, England. But the story begins 85 years ago.
If the research is correct, the sailor whose life was saved by Lassie was a victim of a torpedo from a German submarine. The attack lead to the sinking of the battleship Formidable off Start Point in south Devon.
The sailor, John Cowan, was believed to be dead when his body washed up in a life raft in Dorset. He was taken to a temporary mortuary in the cellar of the Pilot Boat, a pub in the town of Lyme Regis. There, the landlord's dog, a mixed-bred collie, Lassie, apparently knew this man was in fact alive, and the story goes that for more than half an hour, Lassie nuzzled the man and licked his face until he stirred - and was taken to the hospital where he recovered.
The story made headlines around the world. It is believed Knight, whose novel inspired the original Lassie movie, would have known about this because he was then an American serviceman (having settled in the US) and was about to join the allied war effort when the story broke.
Paramount, which made the most recent Lassie film in 1994, told the Telegraph that although there is no proof this is the inspiration for Knight's Lassie, the theory is as good as any, and "we would love to think it could be the original."