For six television seasons (1951-1957) and 100 episodes of The Roy Rogers Show, Bullet, the Wonder Dog, did everything a good dog should do. He alerted Roy when bad guys came near, he chased the “black hats” when necessary, and he stepped in to rescue the show’s stars, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, when they needed help.
Bullet was fast enough to keep up with camera shots of Roy galloping on Trigger in pursuit of something, and he was smart enough to help Roy and Dale when they were in a fix. When not performing, Bullet lived a fine life as the pet of Roy and Dale.
The Power of “Wonder”
Simply calling your dog a “wonder dog” seems to have permitted the dog’s legacy to live on; the true wonder of the show seemed to have had more to do with the smart couple who owned Bullet and understood marketing. Though Bullet was undoubtedly obedient and smart, I was unable to uncover any particular back story as to why he was termed a “wonder” dog. (I guess any dog we love is a “wonder” dog…)
Roy Rogers was born Leonard Slye (1911-1998); he and his parents moved from Ohio to California in search of work during the Depression. Leonard did everything from driving trucks to picking fruit. At night he entertained the other workers by playing his guitar and singing, as he noted that his music resonated with his audience, he decided to move to Los Angeles to become a performer. He formed “Sons of the Pioneers” and soon was appearing in westerns. At some point he became an excellent horseman.
But best of all, Rogers was smart enough to add into his contract (1940) that he had the right to all merchandising of anything created in his likeness in voice or name. Toys, games, and comic books followed in vast numbers.
Dale Evans was born Francs Octavia Smith (1912-2001) and had a successful singing career long before she appeared with Roy Rogers. “Happy Trails,” the song that closed out their television program was written by Dale.
The two married in 1947, she for the fourth time and he for the third; both brought children to the marriage.
The TV Show with Trigger and Bullet
The television show was geared for young people, and it starred Roy Rogers as a ranch owner who lived in fictional Mineral City, and Dale Evans as the proprietor of the town’s Eureka Café. Pat Brady was Roy’s humorous sidekick and Dale’s cook, and Brady’s jeep, Nellybelle, was enough of a presence to be considered a character on the show.
Trigger, a gorgeous Palomino, was said to be only the third mount auditioned for the role of Trigger. Roy chose the horse when he saw the horse’s abilities and his response to voice command or soft touch. Spurs were never used to encourage Trigger along.
For many years a museum dedicated to memorabilia from Roy and Dale was located in Victorville, California. In 2003 it was moved to Branson, Missouri where it was thought that it would be more popular. Unfortunately, the museum closed in early 2010, and its contents were sold at auction. A preserved version of Bullet was sold for $35,000 and a stuffed Trigger was sold to the same buyer for an astounding $266,000. Reruns of the show can still be found on TV and many of them are also on Youtube.
Your Wonder Dog?
We all have dogs we consider “wonder dogs.” I invite any of you to post or write me with stories of your dog’s accomplishments! (My own dog has me scratching my head. She’s wearing a cone to keep her from licking at some new stitches she had to have. Somehow she managed to scoop up a plum from our yard and figure out how to get into her mouth—I know because her cone is covered in plum juice!)