British soap operas have a long tradition of featuring dogs that become national Treasures, and the star of the biggest soap ever is set to step down.
Great Dane Schmeichal, who has a shiny wet nose pretty much like his Manchester United namesake, is set to bid farewell to the cobbles of ongoing pie-and-mushy-peas saga Coronation Street.
The character has been the best friend of Chesney, as played by Sam Aston, since 2003, and has actually been portrayed by four separate dogs, all kept by dog breeders Clive and Anne Lunt. With 40 years’ experience in stud dogs and show dogs, at one point they owned a dozen of the massive pets. Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Mrs Lunt recounted how she became involved with the nation’s best loved show:
“We have always shown dogs. I got my first Great Dane about 43 years ago and I’ve probably had about 15 to 20 over the years.”
“The agent for Granada was a friend of mine and he asked me if he could use one of my dogs.”
“When we first went in they said it would only be for three weeks but then we had storyline after storyline, it just took off.”
“Because Chesney was a small child who had had no love in his life and he loved this animal, I think everybody took them to their hearts.”
When Schmeichel number one was forced to retire due to failing health, he was replaced by Magnam, who in turn was replaced by Spike. Although the three pooches have sadly passed on, Spike’s grandson, or grand-dog, who is also named Schmeichel, has portrayed the character from March 2011.
It is understood that his final heart wrenching scene has been filmed, where he passes away in the arms of Chesney. However, it’s onwards and upwards for Schmeichal mk II, as he already has his paws on a new role in a period drama.
“He is a natural. He is a lovely character and Sam (Aston) has built up quite a bond with him. He said it’s the finish of an era and I agree.”