When I sat down with Leland, Dog and Beth Chapman to talk about their upcoming new CMT reality series DOG and told them that my own family loved watching theirs on A&E’s smash Dog the Bounty Hunter, Beth wanted to know what I liked best about the show. I told her it was her family’s bond.
Much to my surprise — and with Dog and Leland looking on — she offered candid insight into what the Twittersphere has been discussing since plans for the show were announced in the summer: the absence of Baby Lyssa and Duane Lee Chapman from the cast of the show.
Slated to being in April, DOG will focus on the three remaining Chapmans as they crisscross the nation, teaching struggling bail bond agencies how to succeed in the embattled trade by helping them hunt down some America’s most dangerous criminals. While the show will highlight the Chapman’s proven methods for capturing criminals, and Leland’s expertise in non-lethal weaponry, DOG will also address the family’s changing dynamic.
“The focal point of the show is our relationship — and our relationship with Leland,” Beth explained. “Because Leland wants to stay with his dad. Duane says this really profound thing where he says, ‘I don’t love you more, son. But you probably love me more than any of the other kids.’ Because as a parent, you don’t love any of your children differently. But theylove you. And their love for you may be stronger than what your sister’s love is. And that’s what Leland is, right? His love for his dad is stronger than the others. And so he doesn’t want to be the one to leave or go away. He wants to be the one staying right here and doing what he does. And so we were really happy about that.”
Though she did not elaborate on whether Duane Lee and Lyssa officially elected to not be part of the new show, Beth suggested that family priorities and individual interests may have factored in. “You know, people grow,” she continued, as Dog leaned into her affectionately, fiddling with the gold zippers on the shoulders of her dress, making Leland grin and shake his head. “Children grow up — and how long can you work for your mom and dad? You become 40 years old and now you’re married and you’re like, ‘Why am I still hanging around my dad?’ You know what I mean? At some point, you feel like there’s got be changes made. And we as parents have to be OK with letting our bird fly. Hopefully it’ll come back and it will know that this was always the best thing for it. But if they don’t, you loved it and you coddled it and you wished it well. You can’t force your kids to stay with you forever.”
Does that mean Lyssa and Duane Lee might join the show at a later date? The Chapmans didn’t say. But in the meantime, you can rest assured that Beth and Dog can relate to the pain and frustration fans felt as the Chapman children entered and exited Dog The Bounty Hunter throughout its eight seasons.
“We were lucky because our kids didn’t go away to college — our kids went to the college of hard knocks with us,” she says. “And so when there was some turmoil in the family, it was like our kids went to college all at the exact same time. We had that separation anxiety from them. But it really wasn’t that. It was just that they were spreading their wings and getting older. And they had their own families.
“Each person has to make their own decisions for their own lives.”