Actor, singer, and filmmaker John Schneider can attest to the stark hopelessness a pet parent feels when a beloved dog goes missing or is feared in danger.
The actor — best known for his portrayal of Bo Duke in the popular 1970s-1980s series The Dukes of Hazzard and his present-day starring role in the Tyler Perry OWN Network series The Haves and the Have Nots — had a serious scare when he feared his animals hadn’t survived recent flooding in Louisiana.
Schneider’s independent film studio, John Schneider Studios, located in Holden, Louisiana, took on water as nearby rivers reached record high-water levels and low-lying areas became inundated.
Schneider was out of town on March 13 when the water poured onto his 58-acre property and those of his neighbors. Two of his four dogs, Stormy and Gumbo, were safe and sound. But Schneider had the unenviable experience of fearing from afar for the other two, Gravy and Duke, who are allowed to roam freely on the studio grounds and went missing as water levels quickly rose.
Studio employees and friends helped search for the missing animals.
“When the dogs went missing, I panicked,” Schneider said. “My imagination had them floating on a picnic table through the rapids of the Tickfaw [River].”
Some even searched from boats that carefully plied their way through Schneider’s rustic studio grounds. Thankfully, once the flood waters began to recede, the dogs were found, safe and sound, on the dry porch of one of the buildings that escaped flood waters.
“The folks that came to the rescue and started looking for the pups made me very happy,” Schneider said. “The fact that they would stop what they were doing to try and find Gravy and Duke restored my faith in humanity.”
Gravy — who Schneider speculates is partly Shar-Pei — was saved from a local shelter when Schneider gave the dog a forever home at his studios.
“I found her at a family day at the Livingston Parish Animal Shelter,” he said. “She nuzzled up to me right away, and it was love at first nuzzle! She is the matriarch of the Schneider dog clan.”
The other dog, Duke, has a name reminiscent of Schneider’s TV family from back when he traipsed the hills and valleys of the fictional Hazzard County.
“Duke is a Pit Bull who was left here by a crew member who had no clue as to how big he would eventually get,” Schneider said. “At right around 100 pounds, it’s a good thing he sleeps most of the time … when he’s not eating!
“We say that if Duke could speak, all he’d say would be, ‘Woah!'” Schneider joked.
Having two beloved animals go missing for hours is something no pet parent would wish on another, but as any can attest, it gives opportunity to reflect upon why these special pets mean so much to us.
“Pets are always happy to see us,” Schneider said. “All they want is a pet on the head or a scratch behind the ear.
“I think they mirror the ‘us’ we really would like to be,” he said.
Schneider — who these days maintains a busy schedule that involves work on The Haves and the Have Nots and his own films — takes moments out of the day to spend quality time with his four-legged friends.
“I pet the pups all day,” he said. “I try to never walk by any of them without giving them a good scratching or a rub on the belly.”
Schneider said his dogs will also “do just about anything” to get him to play catch, often bringing him items in hopes he’ll comply.
“There’s not a round object at the studio that doesn’t have tooth marks in it,” Schneider said.
Surely, Schneider’s dogs will provide needed comfort as the difficult work of getting the studio back in working order continues.
“We will have to do more filming off-property until the cleanup is finished, but I believe we will be up and running again in May,” Schneider said of the property used for his own films and those of indie productions, commercials, and other projects.
In addition to the feel-good vibes and support provided by his dogs, Schneider said he keeps positive amidst so much recovery work by looking forward to the March 29 release on DVD and VOD of his horror satire film, Smothered. Schneider’s first film features a bevy of recognizable performers hailing from the horror genre.
“I’m very excited about the release of Smothered,” Schneider said. “It gives me a focal point. Takes my mind off of the mud, sand, and divination everywhere around the studio.”
But surely nothing helps more in making things feel right than seeing members of that four-footed Schneider dog pack, waiting for a game of catch and a scratch behind the ears.
To see more photos of John Schneider and his pack, follow him on Facebook.