Saturday 17 March 2018

The Dogs of Science Fiction and Fantasy

A couple of years ago, I took a look at The Cats of Science Fiction and Fantasy. However, dogs feel a bit overlooked in the SFF field. Mention cats and everyone immediately thinks of Greebo from Discworld, Jones from the Alien franchise or Spot from Star Trek. Dogs initially seemed a bit less prominent. Fortunately, a few social media appeals later and it turns out that there's a lot of dogs out there holding up the canine end in speculative fiction.

Note that this is a list of dogs only, not shapeshifting beings who take dog form or wolves (who could be a separate list altogether).

Huan battles Carcharoth, Hound of Sauron. Art by Ted Naismith.

The most powerful dog on this list (probably) is Huan, the Hound of the Valar in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. Formerly the companion of Orome the Huntsman, he was gifted to Celegorm of the Noldor, the greatest of the elven hunters. He was an enormous dog, the size of a small pony, and a tracker beyond compare. When the Noldor betrayed the Ban of the Valar and pursued the fleeing Morgoth to Middle-earth, Huan went with Celegorm and committed many great deeds both on hunts and in battle. However, the years of war made Celegorm cruel and heartless. When he tried to subdue the elven princess Luthien during her quest to rescue her lover Beren, Huan betrayed his master and joined Luthien's quest. Many great deeds were then done, but Huan's crowning moment of glory came in the assault on Morgoth's prison, commanded by his lieutenant Sauron (yup, the same one from The Lord of the Rings). Huan defeated Sauron in combat, proving that the Fellowship of the Ring's mission would have been a lot easier had they brought a magical demigod/dog (demidog?) with them. Later, Huan did battle with his opposite number, the dark wolf Carcharoth, and saved Beren from the beast. Carcharoth was killed, but Huan was mortally wounded in battle. Using his little-used power of speech, Huan wished Beren and Luthien well before dying.

Huan appears in The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales and The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien. He was a very good dog.

Gaspode the (self-proclaimed) Wonder Dog is a flea-bitten mongrel living on the streets of Ankh-Morpork. Due to too many years spent fishing food out of the back alleys behind the magical Unseen University, Gaspode acquired the power of intelligence and speech, which he used to great advantage, most notably his trademark greeting of saying the word "Woof!", which confused passers-by into feeding him. Gaspode harboured his secret carefully, but from time to time people discovered the truth about him and provided him with food and shelter. At one point Gaspode was offered a warm new home with a living family, but found that he enjoyed living on the streets so much he didn't want to leave them and ran away again.

Gaspode was friends and allies with Laddie, a beautiful and impeccably-groomed dog with a nose for finding people stuck down wells or hanging off cliffs and rescuing them at the last moment. Laddie was charismatic, handsome, dumber than a box of frogs that had eaten stupid pills (even by dog standards) and generally credited with whatever heroic feat Gaspode had masterminded, to the latter's profound annoyance. Gaspode tolerated Laddie's presence mainly because it radically increased the quality of food he could cream off passers-by.

Gaspod was named after "The Famous Gaspode", a dog noted for lying by his master's grave and howling in despair night after night before dying of a broken heart. Or possibly because his tail was trapped under the headstone and he starved to death. As Gaspode would say, "That just goes to show."

Gaspode appears in the Discworld novels Moving Pictures, Men at Arms, Soul Music, Feet of Clay, Hogfather, The Fifth Elephant and The Truth. Laddie appears in Moving Pictures. They are both good dogs.

Krypto, sometimes called "Superdog", is an ally and sometimes-described "pet" of Prince Kal-El, better known as Superman. He was test-fired into space by Kal-El's father, Jor-El, to test the spacecraft technology that later brought Kal-El to Earth after Krypton's destruction. Due to a malfunction, Krypto's spacecraft did not arrive on Earth until many years after Kal-El's arrival. Because of their shared Kryptonian heritage, Krypto gained powers comparable to Superman, including flight and super-strength. Krypto also gained increased intelligence to near-human-like levels and had a superior sense of smell to Superman.

Technically Krypto is an alien dog-analogue, rather than a dog himself. However, Smallville gives Krypto a new origin as a terrestrial dog who gets his powers from a different source.

Krypto appears, of course, in numerous Superman comics, animated series and spin-offs. His first appearance was in March 1955 in Adventure Comics #210 and he continues to appear in the comics to this day, sometimes in his own title. He is a very good alien dog.

Dogmeat is the name given to a number of canines in post-apocalyptic Earth. The first Dogmeat was encountered by the Vault Dweller in a junkyard in 2161 and became his constant companion in his mission to save Vault 13 from running out of water. In 2241 the Chosen One met another dog called Dogmeat, ostensibly the same one despite the passage of eighty years.

A third Dogmeat was found by the Lone Wanderer in 2277 in the Capital Wasteland near Washington, DC, living in a scrapyard near the entrance to Vault 108. A fourth Dogmeat was found by the Sole Survivor in the Commonwealth surrounding the ruins of Boston. This last Dogmeat could be customised with armour and accessories to be more effective in battle.

All of the Dogmeats were loyal, fierce companions who aided their masters in battle, could sniff out supplies and identify threats.

Dogmeat, of course, appears in Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout 3 and Fallout 4. They were all very good dogs.

Rex is a Mk. III Cyberhound, Leo Support Model, a fusion of canine and robot, living in the city of New Vegas, Nevada, as the pet/bodyguard of the King. During the war between Caesar's Legion and the New California Republic, the King allowed Rex to join the Courier during her battle to save the Mojave Wasteland. Rex was initially old and decrepit, but over the course of her adventures the Courier could upgrade and repair Rex's systems and restore him to full health.

During the Courier's visit to the Big MT she also encountered a similar Cyberdog named Roxie. Roxie and Rex later met, joined forces and constructed a litter of Cyberpuppies, a collection of Boston terrifiers that brought woe to their enemies.

Rex appears in Fallout: New Vegas as that game's stand-in for Dogmeat. Roxie appears in the New Vegas expansion Old World Blues. Both are, naturally, very good (cyber)dogs.

Dug is a golden retriever owned by Charles Muntz, capable of speech thanks to a special invention. He lives to find The Bird and is a Great Tracker. He is not keen on The Hole and dislikes being made to wear The Cone of Shame. He hides under The Porch because he loves you, even though he's only just met you.


Dug appears in the Pixar movie Up (after a cameo appearance in the preceding movie, Ratatouille). He is a very good dog.

Gromit is a beagle who is the best friend and pet of the cheese-obsessed eccentric inventor Wallace. Despite their master/pet relationship, Gromit is highly intelligent and a very capable engineer. He is also far better at thinking on his feet than Wallace and usually is the one to come up with a solution to the problems unleashed by Wallace's latest and most insane invention. Gromit shares Wallace's obsession with cheese, to the point of helping him construct a spacecraft to travel to the Moon to investigate claims of it being made of cheese (it was).

Gromit is also an accomplished pilot and driver, and has a taste for classical literature, philosophy and art. He is something of a Renaissance dog. He also has a NASA prototype rover named after him. He is also a good dog, despite his curious aversion to penguins.

Delirium, her sister Death and Barnabas. Art by Colleen Doran,

Barnabas is a dog adopted by Destruction, one of the godlike beings known as the Endless. Due to his lengthy exposure to Destruction, he gained the ability to speak and was known to have a taste for fine art that led him to being critical of Destruction's dabbling. When Dream and Delirium finally found Destruction after a long search, Destruction gave Barnabas to Delirium as a pet. Despite early misgivings, Barnabas came to love his eccentric new mistress, whilst he gave Delirium a focus and helped soothe her more troubled episodes.

Barnabas appears in Neil Gaiman's Sandman graphic novel series, first appearing in Brief Lives. He is a very good dog.

The Hounds of Darkness, Shadow and Light are canine-like beings native to the Warrens. They are incredibly powerful, savage and unreasoning in battle, but they are also focused on their objective and will generally not deviate from that to target innocents. The Hounds answer to the masters of their respective Warrens.

The Hounds of Shadow were servants of Shadowthrone (before he took control of the Throne of Shadow, they were agents in the service of the warren itself, and apparently allied to the mysterious being known as Edgewalker) and Cotillion. They numbered eight, two of whom were killed in battle with Anomander Rake. It was later revealed that they once answered to the Tiste Edur and refused to face them in battle, even when ordered to do so by Cotillion.

The Hounds of Darkness - the Deragoth - are believed to have originated as the D'ivers form of Dessimbelackis, the powerful human sorcerer and king whose downfall heralded the end of the First Empire. However, early reports of the Hounds suggest they were extant half a million years ago, long before Dessimbelackis was allegedly born. This paradox has not been addressed.

The Hounds of Light were servants of the arrogant and haughty Tiste Liosan, and may have been created by them in response to the creation of the Hounds of Shadow, due to the Tiste Liosan being terrible rip-off merchants. The Liosan managed to get most of the Hounds of Light killed in a foolish attempt to kill Anomander Rake in Darujhistan; the sole survivor turned on his former masters and allied with the Malazan wanderer Kiska for a time.

The Hounds appear in Steven Erikson and Ian Esslemont's Malazan novels. They are sometimes good dogs, but are powerful and unpredictable beings who should be best treated with caution.

Vincent is one of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 when it crashes on the mysterious Island on 22 September 2004. The pet of Walt Lloyd, Vincent proved his value to his fellow survivors on many occasions, usually by sniffing out trouble or supplies.

After Walt's kidnapping by the Others (after which he never saw Vincent again), Vincent was looked after by several of the other survivors: Shannon and then (after Shannon's death) Claire and Hurley. After the Island was moved backwards and forwards in time, Vincent found his forever home with Rose and Bernard, who chose to remain on the Island (due to Rose's cancer, which the Island's powers halted from spreading).

Vincent, of course, is a regular character on the TV series Lost. Most notably, he appears in both the opening and closing scenes of the entire series, bookending the whole story. Vincent is the only character on Lost to appear in so many episodes but not get a flashback; a webisode named So It Begins is presented from Vincent's POV but is meant to be a prequel to the whole series, not a traditional flashback.

Vincent was definitely a good dog.

Porthos is a beagle belonging to Captain Jonathan Archer and a crewmember of the original NX-01 Enterprise. Noted for his love of cheese, Porthos was a surprisingly effective crewman, frequently spotting alien infiltrators and lifeforms before the human crewmembers did and facing down a Ferengi boarding party (who showed him respect due to his impressive ear size).

According to some reports, 22nd Century science allowed Porthos to live to be over a hundred years old and was present with his master when the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 was launched, although this historical fact is disputed, with some claiming that the dog in question was a descendant of Porthos's.

Porthos was a regular character on Star Trek: Enterprise and can be categorised as a very good dog. The universal translator was not effective on him.

Ein is a crewdog about the starship Bebop. He was recruited into the crew by Spike. Despite his traditional dog-like demeanour, such as his enjoyment of being petted and called a good boy, Ein possesses extraordinary intelligence. He is shown driving a car, using the Internet and plays shogi to an impressive level. He is also shown to be skilled in cyber-espionage, hacking into a complex computer system.

It's unclear how Ein become so hyper-intelligent, but he keeps his intelligence a secret from the rest of the crew. Only Ed and, later (in the manga only), Spike, become aware of his true capabilities.

Ein appears in Cowboy Bebop, both the anime and manga series, and is a very good dog.

Kemlo Caesar appears to be a humanoid dog or genetically-altered human, but in fact is an ordinary doberman who poses as a humanoid thanks to an elaborate exoskeleton (usually hidden by clothing). However, he does possess human-level intelligence and the ability to speak. A police sergeant in Precinct 10, he is noted for his kindness and trustworthiness, and often gets people to open up to him, possibly a result of the unconscious bond between humanity and dogs.

Kemlo is a recurring character in Alan Moore's comic series Top Ten. He is a very good, and surprisingly empathetic, hyperdog.

Kezef the Chaos Hound is one of the most feared canines in the Dungeons and Dragons multiverse. His precise origins are obscure, but he appears to particularly despise the Faithful, those people who venerate or extol one god above the others. Although the entire multiverse is his stomping ground, various events drew his attention to the world of Toril and the region known as the Forgotten Realms. Kezef caused tremendous damage in the Realms, including maiming the god Tyr, before he discovered his true nemesis: the god of thieves, Mask. Mask only defeated Kezef with the help of a tremendously powerful artefact, Houndsbane. Kezef is also the enemy of Gond Wonderbringer, who once imprisoned him for centuries through a ruse. Kezef also has a complex and unreliable history of alliances with the dark god Cyric the Mad.

Kezef appears in the Forgotten Realms novels Prince of Lies and Crucible: The Trial of Cyric the Mad by James Lowder, and is also referenced in numerous game materials. He is a bad dog.

The newest entry on this list, Midnight is a dog who gained the power of speech as the honourable ally of the superhero group known as the Flag Five. Midnight survived the destruction of the Flag Five by the villain known as the Terror and became a celebrity, both for his status as a talking dog but also for his struggles with his faith; his eventual embracing of atheism was related in a book and an accompanying book tour. He reluctantly allied with his former rival, Overkill, and the Tick to help defeat the Terror. After the Terror's downfall, Midnight warned the Tick and Arthur that certain forces would now be keeping their eye on them and to tread carefully.

Midnight is a brand new character in the Amazon Studios version of The Tick, although he was inspired by Speak, an animal rescued by the Tick in the 1990s animated series. After a mental episode exacerbated by hallucinogens in which he came to believe that Speak could talk and fly, the Tick discovered that Speak was in fact a misidentified capybara, the world's largest rodent. Midnight should not be confused with the Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs At Midnight. He is sort of a good dog, but also kind of arrogant and annoying.

Ambrosius is the canine mount of Sir Didymus, the illogically heroic knight who guards the Bog of Eternal Stench near the Goblin City for no immediately-obvious reason. Both are recruited by Sarah during her quest to enter the city, defeat the Goblin King and rescue her baby brother.

Ambrosius is cowardly and dislikes battle and danger, which makes him a suboptimal battle steed. Ambrosius has much better common sense than his master. Despite not being able to speak and is apparently subservient to Didymus despite them being the same species, Ambrosius is fairly intelligent.

Ambrosius appears in the film Labyrinth and is a very good, if slightly unreliable, dog.

Of course, there are many other dogs in speculative fiction. Honourable mentions must go to:

  • Astro from The Jetsons.
  • Seymour from Futurama.
  • Kazak the Space Hound from the novels Sirens of Titan and Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut.
  • Blood from A Boy and His Dog by Harlan Ellison (the inspiration for Fallout's Dogmeat).
  • Einstein and his 1955 counterpoint Copernicus, from the Back to the Future movies.
  • Cujo from the novel Cujo by Stephen King.
  • Rags from the Woody Allen movie Sleeper.
  • Bandit from Grant Morrison's graphic novel We3.
  • Cosmo the Spacedog from the Guardians of the Galaxy comics (with a cameo in the films).
  • Brain from Inspector Gadget.
  • Nosy, Fitz's first dog and Wit-bond in The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb.
  • Fluffy, the triple-headed guardian dog from the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling.
  • Toto from the Oz books by Frank L. Baum.
  • Ace the Bathound from the Batman comic books.
  • Toby the Ghost-Detecting Dog from Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London novels.
  • Mouse from The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.
  • Bear from Person of Interest.
  • The Dog of Tears from the novel Blindness by Jose Saramago and its film adaptation.
  • Rowf and Snitter from the Richard Adams novel The Plague Dogs.
  • D-Dog from Metal Gear Solid V
  • Snowy from the Tintin comics and graphic novels. Among other things, he was the first dog to fly to the Moon and successfully return to Earth.
  • The Littlest Hobo from the TV series The Littlest Hobo. Possibly slightly spurious as SF, but in one episode a scientist concluded that the Littlest Hobo had superior and possibly inexplicable super-intelligence compared to the ordinary dog.

The following are not dogs, but are dog-like or dog-appearing beings.

  • Muffit and his fellow Daggits from the original Battlestar Galactica. These are robotic dogs built to entertain the children of the Colonial Fleet, because this is a good use of limited resources. Muffit was, weirdly, played by a female chimp in a very uncomfortable costume.
  • K9, a robot dog built by Professor Marius in the year 5000. He is adopted by the time-travelling Gallifreyan Time Lord known as the Doctor. At least four distinct K9 robots have been built over the years, appearing intermittently in Doctor Who, a spin-off pilot called K9 and Company and The Sarah-Jane Adventures. A different version of the same character appeared in an Australian children's series, K9, in 2010.
  • Targs are the Klingon version of dogs in Star Trek, similarly serving variously as pets, hunting companions and (rarely) food. They first appeared in the movie Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and subsequently appeared or were mentioned in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. Both Worf and Martok had pet Targs when they were younger. Martok's Targ was "accidentally" lost when his wife Sirella moved into his house.
  • Lockjaw was an Inhuman transformed into a gigantic dog by exposure to the Terrigen mists in the Marvel Inhumans series. Weirdly, despite his origins as a sapient being, Lockjaw seems to prefer being a dog and in no hurry to be transformed back. He's probably the best thing in the terrible ABC television version of the franchise.
  • Sirius Black from Harry Potter likes turning into a dog for his own amusement. To each his own.
  • Ravage and Nightstalker from Transformers and Beast Wars are sometimes misidentified as dogs, but they are in fact jaguars.

Thank you for reading The Wertzone. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content weeks before it goes live on my blogs. SF&F Questions and The Cities of Fantasy series are debuting on my Patreon feed and you can read them there one month before being published on the Wertzone.


Anonymous said...

Great list! I'll throw in my favourite, the poignant story of Sirius (Olaf Stapledon). He was a good but misunderstood dog!

Anonymous said...

I guess he's technically a wolf, but Nighteyes from Robin Hobb's Assassin books? Unless you're doing a separate list based on wolves, in which case ignore me :)

James said...

Another good one is Oberon (the Irish Wolfhound) from the Iron Druid series. I don't think you have read those books though

Unknown said...

Bent and Roach also spring to mind from the Malazan books. I just listened to the Crippled God audiobook yesterday and damn, if it didn't bring a tear to my eye, up on the Spire...

Anonymous said...

Cavall from the Fionavar Tapestry (and Arthurian legend) is worth a mention.

JD Woodman said...

I nominate Surplus, Michael Swanwick's genetically altered anthropomorphic dog conman from a series of short stories as well as the novels Dancing with Bears and Chasing the Phoenix. He's a somewhat good dog.

Nick said...

The other, err, "sort of" dog that comes to mind is the Rat-Thing, the Semi-Autonomous Guard Units that protect Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong Franchise of city-states in Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson. They were very distructive dogs!

Roland said...

My favorite is Beelzebub in Steven Brust's book To Reign in Hell.
He is in the form of a golden retriever and speaks in an old fashioned Victorian English way.
He is a good (!) dog.

MAuro said...

Great read, thanks! I'll throw my favourite in as well, in the category of dog-appearing beings: Snuff, from Zelazny's brilliant "A night in the lonesome October".

Omer said...

Fun topic! a few others:

There's another Einstein, a super intelligent Dog from Dean Koontz's Watchers. Haplo has a dog in The Death Gate Cycle called, I believe, Dog. The hound of the Baskerville deserves a shoutout, even though it isn't REALLY supernatural. And the direwolves from ASoIaF may count - i mean one is called Shaggydog.

Andy said...

I nominate the electronic'hound' from Fahrenheit 451.

Unknown said...

Sharik from Mikhail Bulgakov's Heart of a Dog. The original speculative scifi dog?

Jens said...

Call me strange but as an animal lover I was touched by the part involving the dog in Matheson's "I Am Legend". I don't actually recall whether the dog had a name or not.

Rowf and Snitter! "The Plague Dogs" sadly doesn't seem to be very well-known. It's a good novel but it's heart-wrenching.

Kat said...

Has anyone else noticed that all of the dogs whose gender is noted are male? I am trying so hard to come up with a female dog from sf-f and I can't think of one (unless the female direwolves from ASOIAF count as dogs, and even then they are outnumbered by the males). Someone needs to write about this phenomenon.

Anonymous said...

What about Alan dean foster and the Taken Trilogy. The dog is pretty memorable

Unknown said...

Samantha "Sam" from I Am Legend

Efreet1008 said...

No Disreputable Dog from Lirael? One of my favorite characters of all time.

RevXI said...

I don't see Fido from "Snow Crash" (Neal Stephenson) on the list. Granted--a cyberpooch--but a Very Good Dog, nonetheless. [also that the vicious 'Ratthings' were mutated from dog dna.]

RevXI said...

Thinking that Fido from Snow Crash (Neil Stephenson) has a place on the list. And perhaps the scary Rat-Things due to being dog-rat hybrid mutants. Nice list!

Egdiroh said...

Naga from the legend of Korra

Egdiroh said...

Naga from the legend of Korra

Anonymous said...

Blutark, ferocious war dog from Armengar in the Riftwar saga