post High Chaparral Goes to the Dogs

August 25th, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 4:22 pm

by W. St. Germain

(Okay, it never actually did this but I wanted a catchy title that included the word dogs).

I was recently browsing through the memorable quotes from High Chaparral* and noted that in the, To Stand for Something More episode Mano advises Pedro that,
“A dog with a cow’s head would not get a friend in as much trouble.”

Really? What a strange thing to say. I suggest a dog that didn’t exist at all would cause even less trouble. Naturally, that quote got me wondering (oh dear, she’s been wondering again). We see horses and steers galore in High Chaparral, which makes sense given that it’s a western+. The same holds true for the other popular westerns of the time; Bonanza, The Virginian, Gunsmoke, Maverick… horses and steers all over the place but we seldom see dogs. The only story that comes to mind where a dog featured in any western for me is the Mad Dog episode of Gunsmoke, where Festus is bitten by a dog he mistakes as being rabid (the dog was simply foaming at the mouth after spitting out a toad).

I was pondering this quote and the fact that we rarely see dogs on westerns when my own dog reminded me that it was time for his walk. I looked at his intelligent black and tan face and wondered why anyone would suggest that a dog’s head might get a friend into trouble. Well, I suppose it might if it bit someone or ate something – I’m remembering a dog that once ate my string of pearls here… As for it having a cow’s head, speaking as a zoologist I can assure you that transplanting a cow’s head onto a dog’s body could never be possible so there’s no danger of Mano’s suggestion ever coming to pass.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love cows and think they’ve got beautiful eyes. But a cow’s head belongs on a cow and I would not wish one on my dog. He’s clumsy enough without giving him an ever bigger head to crash around the place with. Anyway, as we walked through our suburban neighborhood, it occurred to me that dogs would’ve loved all the open space of the Old West. Why is it that here in the cities, we see people with two or even three, often large, dogs kept on properties much smaller than ranches yet we don’t see them on the TV ranches? In a strange twist, people with large dogs often live in tiny houses and vice versa. Maybe the Chaparral did have dogs but it’s so huge that we don’t see them because they’re off having fun. I must remember to take a closer look next time it’s on.

I expect the real reason dogs didn’t feature much in the westerns is because the studios and actors would’ve had enough to deal with keeping their eyes on the big animals we do see. To throw dogs into the mix might’ve been just too much. One hundred plus filming temperatures wouldn’t have endeared the management to including them either. But let’s imagine that each star could have had a dog. It is said that dogs often reflect the personalities of their owners. Some even argue that dogs and their keepers grow to look alike and while I’ve seen some interesting photographic comparisons, I hope I don’t look like my dog. He’s got a rather long nose and huge ears, you see.

But what if we could have dogs on the show? I started to think about which breed I thought would best represent each of the six main stars. This thought led to another, more offbeat one. Let’s imagine that HC takes place in a completely canine world where the human stars we love are dogs. Which dog would you choose to portray each one? John Cannon came easily. I could well imagine him as an enormous Great Dane, or even an Irish Wolfhound. Their deep and commanding bark, lanky but strong physique and looks that could wither with a glare would suit John perfectly, I think.

Victoria is another easy one. My first thought was an Afghan Hound because they always seem to be gliding and have a sort of windswept, other-worldliness about them. However, and I don’t mean to be critical of the breed, I’ve met a few and they seem to be a bit… well, distracted. ‘Airheads’ was what the owner of three described hers as. Like beautiful catwalk models; slimly proportioned, elegant and tossing their heads back with pride, they almost fit the bill. But not quite. I needed the grace and appeal of the Afghan with a bit more of the down to earth qualities. My late Irish Setter, Lundy, sprang to mind. I admit she could be a bit of an airhead too (who among us doesn’t have their moments?) but overall, she was full of love, humor and often demonstrated a unique brand of intelligence. So for me, the Red Setter would be the one that would replace Victoria. Were I to choose another breed, it would be the large, standard poodle. These highly intelligent and beautiful dogs also possess the sort of grace and dignity Victoria portrays.

This leaves us with Buck, Blue, Mano and of course Don Sebastian Montoya.

Like John, I’m torn between two breeds for Buck. My first thought is the lumbering St. Bernard – complete with keg. But the Golden Retriever would suit him too, I think. It certainly springs to mind for Mano. That or the Black Labrador.  I have yet to meet a retriever or a Lab that didn’t have a touch of the wit and good natured humor these two have. Intelligent, loveable but strong and protective, it’s the Retriever or Lab for Mano. If you disagree with the St Bernard for Buck, I’d make him a Retriever, too. Though he does have that loveable St Bernard look about him, doesn’t he?

I think Blue would suit being a Shetland Sheepdog. These attractive animals are active, intelligent and have a strong desire to please those they love. They are great with children and will ‘ham around’ with them while showing courage if they feel those they love are in danger. This sounds very much like Blue to me.

Having shared my life with many a German Shepherd, I’d say their temperament and behavior best suited Don Sebastian. Brave and intelligent, loyal yet fun loving. But I was torn here too; the Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog is equally suitable. Also loyal, intelligent and calm, often to the point of being downright serious, the breed does bring Don Sebastian to mind. They can also display the kind of stubbornness one would need when being the father of Manolito!

I completely understand that readers will have different views about my choices. All the breeds described (and those not mentioned) will be the best of the lot to someone who owns one. That’s fine. We are all agreed that our own dogs are the best. Indeed, there were other alternatives I could have chosen but the list would have gone on too long. I tried to limit myself to a maximum of two per person. But that’s the fun of this article. We, at the HCN, want to find new ways to keep the show alive in our hearts and minds. This article is simply looking at it from a different angle – a fun angle. You might want to make up a list of what you think would be the best breeds for the stars mentioned. What about someone else in the show; Bob Hoy for example? I wonder what you’d pick for him, and why? I think I’d go for a boxer. Being strong, active and excellent for both a day’s hard work and an evening of quiet companionship among friends, the boxer would be my choice.

Of course, I’m an equal opportunity pet lover and I adore cats every bit as much as I love dogs. As you would expect this led me to question why cats were seldom featured. But I decided not to press on. Can you imagine the High Chaparral complete with each star paired with the breeds I’ve allotted them then giving them all a cat breed too? Victoria would definitely be a Persian or Angora, don’t you think? But I expect the poor felines would spend most of their time atop the tallest cactus they could find, dodging the barking dogs below and the spines atop the plant. No, I think we might just stick with cattle and horses, don’t you?

+ For those of you who have become die hard cacti fans after they starred in the April newsletter, I realize we see lots of cactus too but they don’t tend to need wranglers to keep them from roaming. ‘Quick! The cacti are running off then fainting from heat stress…’ Nor do they need regular breaks in shade to have a drink.

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