The Littlest Hobo – Pilot (1979)

There’s a voice, that keeps on callin’ me…

First of all, let me clarify that I love The Littlest Hobo. While this blog is usually dedicated to ridiculing cheesy television shows and movies, I want it stated off the top that even though I make fun of it, I think the show has a lot of heart. There’s just something so Canadian about it, in both good ways and bad. For those who don’t know, The Littlest Hobo is a children’s series about a wandering dog who travels from town to town and solves whatever the problem of the week is. He’s the Canadian Lassie. At the end of every episode, the hobo runs off and one of the characters, somehow understanding the creature’s mindset, states that the dog has helped them all he can and is moving on to the next person in need.

This is actually a remake of a series that first aired in the 1960s. I didn’t grow up watching that original version of the show though; this is the one I know best. The remake series ran six seasons, from 1979-1985. In the first episode, “Smoke”, the hobo appears to Forest Ranger Ray Caldwell (Monte Markham) during a forest fire, carrying two baby wildcats he has rescued. Since the dog appears out of a cloud of smoke, that’s the name Ray gives him after taking him under his wing.

I bring stray animals into my house!

The villains of the show are generally so… innocently evil, if that makes sense. In this episode our antagonist is Rooker (Gary Reineke), who sells rat poison and traps to citizens to ward off animals who have been eating the local farmers’ crops. Ray’s concern is that hurting these animals is unjust since the animals lost their homes in the fire and are just looking for a place to live.

Logic flies out the window when one of Rooker’s more idiotic customers drops by his store and decides to leave his three year old toddler on the porch instead of bringing him into the shop. The kid ends up eating poisoned meat Rooker had left out for the animals.

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Earlier though, the dog knocked over the bowl of meat, so it’s kind of Smoke’s fault the kid could reach it.

The young boy needs a doctor, but there’s none nearby in this isolated community. It’s up to Ray (who is a pilot with his own plane) and Smoke to fly into the next town to bring someone in. Why would Ray bring the dog on the plane? This is an animal he just met. Our hobo is a hero, but Ray couldn’t possibly know that. It just seems risky, since a cockpit is no place for a dog. How does Ray know the animal won’t panic in the air?

Fortunately nothing goes wrong and they manage to land safely and pick up the doctor, but on their way back a storm starts up. With visibility declining, they won’t be able to fly the antidote back in time! The solution? Put the medication on the dog! Then… push the dog out of the plane… in a parachute…

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Yes. This actually happens.

The dog skydives with the medication and lands safely, somehow getting the parachute off of his back on his own. He makes it back to the ranger station and saves the day. Once the boy is safe, Rooker learns his lesson not to mess with poison. And child services are never called on the boy’s father for leaving his child unattended outside a store.

Let that be a lesson to you, kids. If anything bad happens to something you’re responsible for, you can always get away with it by blaming someone else.

Is a skydiving dog ridiculous? Of course it is, but this show gets a pass with me. Call it nostalgia, but it’s a fun little series with a lot of heart, ambition, and a catchy theme song. If you haven’t seen it, you definitely should give it a try. Now it’s time for this hobo to move on. Happy Canada Day everyone!



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