Fallout 4 companion Dogmeat's real-life inspiration & model has passed away

Former Bethesda & Fallout 4 developer Joel Burgess shared that the dog who inspired Dogmeat has unfortunately passed on.


Many players have their own particular favorite friends and companions in the Fallout games. That said, there’s often nothing like a good doggo to keep you company and lend aid in putting damage down on your foes in the nuclear wasteland. Many Fallout games have had recruitable dog companions, including the recent Fallout 4. However, it would appear that the model and inspiration of that particular dog has passed away, as recently revealed by the trusty canine’s owner.

Current studio director at CAPY and former Fallout 4 developer Joel Burgess shared the sad news on his personal Twitter on June 27, 2021. His dog, River, was a German Shepherd and the apparent basis for the companion Dogmeat in Fallout 4.

“What we wanted was a companion first, and a combat ally second,” Burgess explained. “I remember the catalyst; an eager new member had joined the Dogmeat team. I visited their desk a day or so later. Research covered the walls; countless images of German Shepherds snarling, all teeth and attack postures. Within a day or two, River started visiting the studio.”

Burgess explained how his bringing River around the studio worked to help soften the look and mood of a would-be companion. Dogmeat wouldn’t just be an extended weapon. It would also be a caring pal dedicated to your wellbeing wherever possible.

“River attended countless meetings,” Burgess continued. “But not just to be poked, prodded, recorded and filmed as reference - her biggest job was just to BE with the team. The more they bonded with her, the more they saw Dogmeat as a character - a friend.”

Indeed, Dogmeat didn’t come off as just a mindless pawn in Fallout 4 to use to your whim (unless you were kind of an evil dude). Dogmeat was one part of the overall puzzle that made Fallout 4’s friends and companions fun to explore. The dog was with you from the get-go, watching your back and even showing concern at danger.

In an already personal story, it seems as though River had a big paw in making Dogmeat as close to your believable canine friend as you’d let him be, and he served as a piece of an overall enjoyable package. Joel Burgess decided to make the thread into an opportunity to share the best parts of River’s story in becoming the basis for Dogmeat, we here at Shacknews appreciate both Burgess and River and wish them the best.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at tj.denzer@shacknews.com and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

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