'Benji' began in Burbank

Ryan Carter

BURBANK -- In the 1960s, Frank Inn found a lovable puppy -- a "mix of

Burbank and Hollywood" -- at the Burbank Animal Shelter, took him home

and named him Higgins.

Thirteen years later, Hollywood would call the pooch Benji and make

the "Benji" movie series based on the huggable, adorable character.

These days, Inn is on a quest to find the new Benji, a lovable mutt to

star in "Benji Returns: The Promise of Christmas," a new feature film

starring the scruffy dog that is due out next year.

Inn has returned to the Burbank Animal Shelter, hoping to find a star


"I'm lookin' for one, and I've got lots of friends lookin' for one,"

Inn said of his search.

"Has Frank come out of retirement?" asked Fred DeLange, the shelter's

superintendent, who began working at the shelter in 1961.

"If a dog comes in looking like Benji, we'd probably give Frank a

call," said DeLange. "We may have another star."

For Inn, now 85 and living in Sylmar, looking for a new Benji is


"Higgins was an all-American cross between Burbank and Hollywood," Inn

said of the scraggly, brown-haired mix of poodle, terrier and cocker


DeLange remembered Higgins, the last in a litter of pups at the

shelter, and Inn remembered that if he hadn't walked into the shelter,

Higgins might not have lived much longer.

"They were gonna have to put it to sleep to make space," Inn said.

Inn claimed the pooch and trained it for its Hollywood career, first

in "Petticoat Junction," followed by his starring vehicle, the movie

"Benji," created by Joe Camp who is also involved in the search for the

new Benji.

Higgins died at 18. His paw prints are enshrined at the animal

shelter, along with other memorabilia.

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