‘One Tree Hill’: The Infamous Dog Heart Scene Started as a Joke

The creators of One Tree Hill pushed the boundaries of teen drama with their hit show. The CW’s One Tree Hill took place in the small fictional town of Tree Hill, North Carolina. The main characters were two half brothers, who shared a philandering father. Lucas and Nathan Scott start out competing for a lot on the show, but One Tree Hill would become so much more than their tenuous relationship. The show started to incorporate some crazy elements as the seasons progressed, including psycho killers and insane car crashes. But the prize for craziest One Tree Hill scene has to go to the dog heart scene, when Dan Scott’s donor heart was eaten by a dog before it could be transplanted into him.  

(L-R) Actors Bethany Joy Galeotti, Paul Johansson and Sophia Bush smiling
(L-R) Actors Bethany Joy Galeotti, Paul Johansson, and Sophia Bush | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Dan Scott was a bad man

Dan Scott was the father of the two main characters, Lucas and Nathan Scott. He wasn’t exactly painted as a great dad over the course of the show. Interestingly, he was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy early on in the show, and it was clear he would need a transplant. The show’s creators likely chose this specific illness for its symbolism. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy causes the heart to become too thick, according to Mayo Clinic, which is the perfect metaphor for a father who is unable to properly love his kids. 

Even though Dan needed a transplant, crazy stuff kept keeping him from getting one. That is, until season six. The episode “Searching for a Former Clarity” would see Dan finally getting the new heart he needed. Or at least, so it seemed. 

Yes, a dog actually ate Dan Scott’s donor heart on ‘One Tree Hill’

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One Tree Hill creators were very sure that they didn’t want Dan’s redemption to be easy. They basically threw every terrible thing they could at the character, to the point where the actor who played him started to get concerned. Would his character ever redeem himself? Yes, but first he would end up losing his new heart in the most absurd way possible. 

A man gets his dog high and somehow brings him into the very hospital that Dan is at, waiting for his heart transplant. When the person carrying the cooler with the organ trips on a dog’s leash, the heart spills on the floor. A dog grabs it and eats it before anyone can pick it up, although it wasn’t exactly fast. If anyone in the room had reacted at all, the dog wouldn’t have gotten to the heart. All of this went down right in front of Dan. The best part was the dramatic music playing over what was an absolutely absurd scene. 

The infamous dog heart scene started as a joke 

It’s important to understand that the One Tree Hill writers room saw a lot of over the top, absurd pitches. The team started out writing an average teen drama. It morphed into something else, something a little more ridiculous. And what fans saw on screen were not even the craziest pitches. Those were shot down in the room. Except for the Dog Heart joke. 

According to The Ringer, it started when the writers were joking about a dog, Gromit, who would eat anything. Gromit, an English bulldog, belonged to one of the writers, and he sometimes brought him in to work. Any food that fell on the floor would be immediately suctioned up by Gromit. One of the writers made a joke about a dog eating Dan’s heart. Everyone laughed. No one thought it was serious, until show creator Mark Schwahn decided to put it in. 

They used a pig heart to make the scene work. But the first dog they cast had no interest in it. So they had to re-cast the integral part of the heart-eating dog. Ultimately, a red golden retriever landed the role, and the original dog was cast in another scene. So there were no hard feelings. Except for Dan, who lost his donor heart in the most absurd way possible.