It's National Puppy Day! A time for celebrating all our furry, canine friends, but secretly knowing that yours is the best. Just kidding. Every dog is a Good Dog!
Since at least the Bronze Age, humans have been immortalizing pooches in art. The symbiotic bond between people and canines, however, may predate civilization.
Estimates place the domestication of ancient wolves somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 years ago, though we aren't sure exactly where and why it first happened. Fossil and genetic evidence seems to suggest our two groups developed alongside one another, with multiple doggy lineages splitting off along the way. The World Canine Organisation currently recognizes 344 distinct breeds.
Today, some of the most creative depictions of canines are in science fiction works. What better way to explore our complex relationship than by porting it into an alternate reality? Can dogs remain Man's Best Friend in the apocalypse? Sometimes yes. Other times… well, better get the shotgun.
So in honor of this fake but delightful holiday, here are Motherboard's favorite hounds from scifi realms.
Alien dog: The Thing
For some sadistic reason, my mom let me see The Thing when I was in elementary school. I couldn't get through it without covering my eyes until recently, but one part I still have trouble watching is the kennel scene. You know it—the one that turns our fearless Norwegian dog into a fearsome, trembling pile of goo. I'd like to think that if my dog were ever host to a parasitic lifeform, she'd spare me, but it's only a matter of time until she discovers I am, indeed, made of meat.
"Astro": The Jetsons
"Dog": Max Max 2
"Frank the Pug": Men in Black
"Ein": Cowboy Bebop
"Spike"/dog xenomorph: Alien 3
In one version of Alien 3, a rottweiler named Spike is impregnated by a facehugger that's stowed away on the USS Sulaco. The poor pup eventually births a new breed of xenomorph that's less humanoid and more, um, dog. I've always liked this Alien installment for hinting at the biological mechanisms behind the xenomorph lifecycle. It makes sense that aliens should incorporate the general anatomy of their hosts. In Spike's case, he provided the DNA material to produce a very scary, quadrupedal biomechanoid killer.
"Dogmeat": Fallout 4
"Einstein": Back to the Future
"Krypto the Superdog"
"Kazak": The Sirens of Titan
Okay, so Seymour was a cartoon dog, but that doesn't preclude him from being the realest, most gutting depiction of canine codependency in science fiction. He starred in the the Emmy-nominated episode, "Jurassic Bark," in which post-cryostasis Fry reckons with the memory of his friend who the future left behind. The episode actually reminds me of the perennial de-extinction debate among scientists and ethicists. If we have the technology to resurrect bygone species, should we? Sometimes, it's best to let sleeping dogs lie.
"Tock": The Phantom Tollbooth
"Snuffles": Rick and Morty
"DD/D-Dog": Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
"Muffit": Battlestar Galactica
"Laika" (Honorable mention)
Motherboard's space expert, Becky Ferreira, wrote a eulogy for Laika, the intrepid Soviet canine who was launched into orbit in 1957. Although Laika was very real, her legacy is a font of inspiration for fictional explorations of animals in space.
Laika was the first animal sent to space, and also the first to die there. Though she was a real stray cosmodoggo, her afterlife has taken on a mythic dimension making her a frequent touchstone in fiction and music. She has her own graphic novel biography, with an alternate scifi ending in which she pursues revenge against her trainers, and even pops up at in the end credits in the last scene of Guardians of the Galaxy in "Cosmo the Spacedog" form.