Such a tragedy Roberta. Poor Lassie must have lived in misery. I hope he didn't take to drugs because of his troubled ego.
Did you hear the rumor that the MGM lion was in fact, an Australian drop bear in a lion costume. It's true! For most of the studio's use of their iconic marquee or at least since 1933, the studio has been using drop bears from a particular Australian mob family (whose story has been depicted recently in the film, Animal Kingdom (2010))
They first used a lion in 1924 but according to Charlie Chaplin's contract with the studio, he could pick one thing a year to deep fry and eat. And that year? He picked Leo.
So to replace that one particular lion, the studio decided to go on the cheap. From 1925 to 1932, the studio went with a cute and spunky up-and-coming actress.... If you guessed Minnie Mouse? You're right! She worked for chunks of cheese and cheap wine at the time before she made it big.