'Benji' trainer dies at 86

Amber Willard

Frank Inn might not have lived in Burbank, but he certainly helped

put the city on the map when he rescued a scruffy puppy from the

Burbank Animal Shelter. The mutt went on to star as Benji in several

films.

Inn died July 27 at a nursing home in Sylmar. He was 86.

Inn did not take in Higgins, who later became Benji, with the

thought of making him a star. The poodle-terrier- cocker spaniel mix

was the last of a litter dropped off at the shelter in 1960 and would

have been put to sleep if Inn had not taken him in. A few years

before, Inn started his own animal training business and a filmmaker

visiting Inn's ranch saw Higgins and knew he had found the right dog

for the job.

"Higgins was an all-Amer- ican cross between Burbank and

Hollywood," Inn said in an interview a year ago with the Leader. At

the time, Inn was searching for a new Benji for a Christmas-themed

film.

Inn was born in Canby, Ind., and made his way to California by

working odd jobs along the way, including one as a circus clown. Inn

was a lifelong member of the Burbank chapter of the Full Gospel

Business Men's Fellowship. Inn is survived by two daughters, Kathleen

Hees and Lori Grajeda; two grand- children; and two great-

grandchildren.

His viewing will be from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Noble Mortuary,

1231 First St. in San Fernando. A memorial service is scheduled for

10 a.m. Monday at Shepherd of the Hills Church, 19700 Rinaldi St. in

Northridge. Internment will follow at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills. A

reception will follow at Inn's home, 14580 Bledsoe St. in Sylmar.

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