What is it about dogs and the apocalypse? Is it the benefit of having a guard with sensitive hearing? Is it the company they provide when there’s no one else left? Or is it because most people love dogs, and putting them in danger raises a story’s stakes even more?
For whatever reason, dogs are often a staple of the post-apocalyptic genre; I’m always happy to see a good pup on screen or on the page. As such, here’s my curated list of the best canine pets of the Apocalypse!
Sam from I Am Legend (2007)
A smart and loveable German Shepherd, Sam is Will Smith’s only companion in a mutant/zombie-infested New York. An impeccably-trained dog, Sam is what keeps Will’s character Neville sane after loss and loneliness. We all hate that scene, though, don’t we?
Princess from Earth Abides (George R. Stewart)
Stewart’s book from 1949 is full of dogs. Princess is one that the hero, Ish, adopts as his companion when he believes there’s no one else left. This apocalypse would be a paradise for people who love dogs, but Ish grows rather sick of only seeing mutts instead of people.
Dogmeat from the Fallout Series
Almost every Fallout game has a possible dog companion. Fallout 1, 2, and 3 have Dogmeat, a cattle dog who has no qualms about attacking mutants five times his size with just his teeth. Fallout New Vegas gave us Rex, a cyber dog, to repair and then adopt. Fallout 4 brought Dogmeat back but as a female German Shepherd. Loyal, tough, and cute, the dogs of Fallout never fail to impress. (I was only disappointed in the dogs when the “Puppies!” perk in Fallout 3 didn’t give me a smaller, puppy version of Dogmeat.)
Jess and Jip from A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World (C.A. Fletcher)
This 2019 novel features a young boy who travels into the barren post-apocalyptic United Kingdom to rescue one of his terriers who has been stolen. As much a testament to love for a pet as it is a coming-of-age story, it’s like a mix between a far less depressing (and disturbing) The Road, Where the Red Fern Grows, and a bit of Z for Zachariah.
“Dog” from Mad Max 2
I’m still not sure why it was so hard to give the dog a real name in the movie, but Dog is a very loyal Australian Cattle Dog who is a bright spot in the bleak wasteland. Of course, like most Mel Gibson action movies, Dog’s closeness to the hero makes him fodder for revenge.
Oy from The Dark Tower (Stephen King) series
Oy is not a dog, but he’s dog-like enough that I think he counts. He’s technically a “Billy-bumbler”, a creature resembling a dog-badger-fox hybrid, and he is as much a part of the team as the other main characters. He shows up in Book 3: The Waste Lands.
Kojak from The Stand (Stephen King)
Kojak is an Irish Setter in the book and a Golden Retriever in the 1994 mini-series. Kojak is a somewhat ideal version of a dog: loyal, helpful, and strong. I tried to figure out what type of dog Kojak will be in the upcoming CBS series coming out on December 17 but couldn’t find out. If anyone knows, let me know in the comments!
The Faithful Pup from “Darkness” by Lord Byron
Yes, even back in 1816, the post-apocalyptic genre existed. Byron’s poem is set in a future where dogs have turned on their masters, aside from one faithful pup.
Even dogs assail’d their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famish’d men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lur’d their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answer’d not with a caress—he died.
Deckard’s Dog from Blade Runner 2049
While not a main character, this dog steals the screen from Harrison Ford. He drinks whiskey and tags along on the adventure. He may or may not be a replicant (but do we really care?). An unknown mixed breed, the dog won a “Palm Dog” award for his performance in the film (an award that I did not know existed but now follow on Twitter).
Jake from Adventure Time (TV Series)
Not explicitly post-apocalyptic at first glance (there are hints for those paying attention), Adventure Time is decidedly post-apocalyptic once you get further in. One of the main characters is Jake, a mutant, talking dog (most would argue a mixed breed, mainly pug) who is laid-back, supportive, funny, and rather lazy. Whether you’re an adult who is into zany animation or a parent who wants to watch something new with the kids, Adventure Time is quite fun.
It’s sometimes nerve-wracking to see a dog in any movie where violence is present, but a canine companion is always a vision of hope. And as we learn from The Road, dogs are often a marker of the good guys, of the people you can trust.
Except for the dogs from Resident Evil. Those dogs can stay muzzled.