“When writing “The Cold Dish” at what point did you decide to include “Dog” into the storyline. It is a big step since he would become a focal point in all the stories going forward and be by Walt’s side more than any other character. Also, was there an inspiration or memory that helped in the creation of the character “Dog”. Also, the reasoning behind not naming him, and choosing the breed ‘Leonberger’.”
Without giving too much away concerning the plot of The Cold Dish, I knew that Dog was going to be an orphan by the end of the book and I wanted him to have a home. It was a big step incorporating Dog into Walt’s life, but a calculated one. Most writers advised me against it, but I thought Dog would be a good sounding board for Walt, besides he really needed a pal. The inspiration for Dog is answered below, so I’ll not get into too much detail about that–suffice to say that he was a living and breathing entity in my life.
The lack of a proper name, just calling him Dog, is representative of where Walt is in his life at that time with a late wife, an unfinished house, and a dog with no name—he’s having a hard time getting anything going, and at this point it’s questionable if he ever will. Dog became a powerhouse of a character, and I have to admit that I have a blast writing him. I think he understands Walt better than Walt understands himself. The breed was never really identified, but I settled on a Leonberger in describing him as a way of speedy identification, a depiction that’s never used in the books. We know Dog’s probably a lot of things, but like Walt, he’s a mutt and we’ll never know…
“I love Dog in your books and missed him (but understand) in the Longmire shows. Do you have the real Dog?”
I did, at one time, have Dog. I was in the throes of building my ranch by myself out here in Ucross and decided I needed a little companionship; so, I drove into Sheridan to the pound to see if I could find one. When I got there, it was a mad house with all these dogs barking and jumping around, and then I spotted this one that was a pretty good size, leaning against the wall doing his best Sarah Bernhardt, all sad and dejected.
I turned to the kid in charge, gesturing toward the one dog. “It must be hard finding homes for the older ones.”
“Oh, he’s only six months old, but he’s been here for a while so he gets the shot tomorrow.”
I glanced back at the dog who wouldn’t make eye-contact with me. “Load him up.”
Driving him over to the vet clinic to my good friend Mike Pilch, I presented him with my papers in hand. Mike, examining his teeth, finally asked, “What kind of dog is this?”
Looking at the penciled-in portion of the form, I confidently read, “German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever…”
“Craig, this dog has a lot of Saint Bernard in him.”
I named him Max, and he got very big. All the time I was building the ranch he was by my side, and my wife claims he could read my mind. I had a dozen, magnificent years with him, and when he passed it was quietly one morning while he was napping beside the wood-burning stove. I missed him terribly, and when it came time to introduce Dog in the books, I was pretty sure that he would be based on my best friend.