‘The Waltons’ Writers Had Trouble Deciding If Their Dog Should Be Male or Female

by Lauren Boisvert

Ever have that problem where you don’t know what gender to make your dog? No? Just The Waltons writers?

Early in the series, Reckless, the family’s yellow lab, was referred to as a boy; the dog is introduced in the first episode, “The Foundling,” and stuck by the family until the eighth season. Reckless was loyal and daring, even getting attacked by a bear at one point in the series.

He fell ill in the eighth season episode “The Journal,” his final appearance, where the Waltons had to decide whether or not to put the dog down. Writer Earl Hamner Jr. did what he did best, and crafted a heartbreaking, poetic experience of a family grieving the loss of their beloved dog.

Before all that, though, in the sixth season episode titled “The Grandchild,” Reckless actually has a puppy. Now, how could that happen, you’re thinking, wasn’t that dog a boy just a second ago?

Well, The Waltons writers decided the show would work better if the dog was a girl and had a puppy. Familial imagery, and all that. Fans took to a Waltons forum to discuss the change; one user speculated, “Is it possible there were more than one “Reckless”? Maybe they had a dog of one gender and then replaced him/her with a dog of a different gender?”

It’s possible, though it seems like it would be easier to call the new dog Reckless 2. It also seems like, if the Waltons got a new dog halfway through the series, the show would’ve made a bigger deal out of it. It seems more likely that the writers just decided to change the dog’s storyline.

Heartwarming Moments on ‘The Waltons’

The Waltons writer Earl Hamner Jr. wrote a lot of himself into John-Boy; he also drew on his own experiences when it came to writing the show, and specifically that character. One stand-out moment came in season two of The Waltons, in an episode titled “The Graduation.”

John-Boy is graduating high school, and he’s ready to walk the stage in his everyday clothes. But, the family all pitches in to buy him a suit. John-Boy can’t justify it, and the family ends up selling the suit when the family cow dies and they need money.

In a heartwarming scene, Grandpa gives John-Boy his best suit to wear to his graduation. I’m talking, the suit Grandpa planned to be buried in.

Earl Hamner Jr. had the same thing happen in his life, except it was his dad who lent him his best suit for college, according to James E. Person’s biography of Hamner. According to the biography, Earl Sr. wondered “how he could be properly ‘laid out’ if he should die while his son was away at college” with his best, and only, suit.