Well, the whole world is falling apart and it's starting to look like the end of the line for mankind
, so man's best friend will naturally be along for the ride. Dogs are everywhere in apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, but you have to be careful: they can turn out to be your new best friend or your new worst enemy. Sure, even when the going gets tough and food is scarce, the Post-Apocalyptic Dog often stays on as a faithful Canine Companion
, but who knows how long that will last when we're worried about other people eating us
Now, some dogs will rise to the challenge and, say, singlehandedly defend their owners from a marauding gang
, but sometimes the family pet will remember that, deep down, it's always been a wolf, and then turn feral. We know that Everything's Worse with Wolves
, and, after the end of the world, our heroes will sometimes have to fight off a whole pack of Post-Apocalyptic Dogs that used to be friendly neighborhood mutts.
Whatever the situation, the Post-Apocalyptic Dog is often a major touchstone of morality after the apocalypse, for the dogs and for ourselves. For example, let's just hope that their straitened circumstances never force our heroes to contemplate eating their trusty hound...
Not to be confused with Apocalyptic Log
. See also A Boy and His Dog
; Heroes Love Dogs
- A Boy and His Dog: Based on Harlan Ellison's novella, A Boy and His Dog is far from the earliest example of this trope, but could be considered the Trope Codifier. It's the classic tale of a disaffected teenager living in a post-apocalyptic world, his only friend a telepathic bloodhound who sniffs out women for him to have sex with. In the story's infamous ending, Vic, the teen, chooses the dog over his most recent fling, because, of course, "A boy loves his dog." (The dog eats her.)
- Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior: After the events of the first Mad Max movie, Max has nothing left in the post-apocalyptic wasteland but his Australian cattle dog. When a gang of marauders kills it, well, things really start to get serious.
- I Am Legend: Although the Will Smith version of the original Richard Matheson novel is very different from the book, dogs play huge roles in both. In the movie, Neville's dog Sam is his only friend and companion until she becomes infected herself with the apocalyptic disease while defending her master from a pack of contagious vampire dogs.
- The Last Man on Earth: This Vincent Price movie adapts Richard Matheson's post-apocalyptic vampire novel I Am Legend fairly faithfully, and includes the subplot with the dog that Neville befriends for a short time.
- In the French indie film Le temps du loup / The Time of the Wolf, the dogs we never see on screen are the scariest of all. At one point a young girl discovers mangled corpses of sheep, and asks in wonder what could have done such a thing. The more streetwise urchin her family has befriended scornfully replies that it was the dogs. When she asks, "What dogs?", he answers even more exasperatedly that it was obviously all the dogs that have now gone stray.
- Pets, including dogs, are everywhere in Children of Men, showing how humanity has been trying to fill the hole caused by the absence of children in the world.
- In Chernobyl Diaries, the tourists initially blame their guide's grisly off-camera death on feral dogs, which survive as aggressive scavengers in the exclusion zone.
- Stalker tends to have a black dog walking around.
- Harlan Ellison's novella A Boy and His Dog is from the earliest example of this trope, but could be considered the Trope Codifier. It's the classic tale of a disaffected teenager living in a post-apocalyptic world, his only friend a telepathic bloodhound who sniffs out women for him to have sex with. In the story's infamous ending, Vic, the teen, chooses the dog over his most recent fling, because, of course, "A boy loves his dog." (The dog eats her.)
- In Stephen King's post-apocalyptic nightmare The Stand, Kojak the Irish setter comes to the aid of the hero in a time of need, braving wolves and later the wide virus-ravaged wasteland even when injured.
- I Am Legend. All his neighbors have turned into vampires, and Robert Neville is going slowly insane as the Last Man on Earth. But a dog coming into his life saves him: "He stayed drunk for two days and planned on staying drunk till the end of time or the world's whisky supply, whichever came first. And he might have done it, too, if it hadn't been for a miracle. It happened on the third morning, when he stumbled out onto the porch to see if the world was still there. There was a dog roving about on the lawn." His wooing of the dog to become his companion takes up weeks of his time and a good bit of the novel. He succeeds, but Chapter 13 heartbreakingly ends with the line, "In a week the dog was dead."
- In Stephen Vincent BenÚt's 1937 short story about life after global annihilation, "By the Waters of Babylon", the narrator must elude a pack of wild dogs as he makes his way into a destroyed city.
- In Roger Zelazny's post-holocaust road novel Damnation Alley, a pack of wild dogs pursue the main character, but can only howl and snap at his tires.
- In Paolo Bacigalupi's story "The People of Sand and Slag," posthuman cyborgs who mutilate themselves for fun inhabit a ravaged wasteland of a world where no normal organic creatures can survive. One day they miraculously discover a sickly old-style dog, and keep it as a pet for a short time — up until they get tired of its constant injuries and paying for its food. They decide to eat it just to find out what it tastes like.
- In Paul Witcover's story "The Twilight of the Dogs," a militant Evangelical in a civil war-torn United States encounters a pack of ravenous ex-pet dogs. The reversion of the dogs to this status clearly mirrors the behavior of the humans after the apocalypse: "What had turned the dogs so vicious? Had the noise and bloodshed of war snapped something civilized in them, returning them to a wilder, more savage existence? Did the same thing happen to men?" The story ends with the quasi-apotheosis of the narrator's soul among the dogs that have just devoured his former congregation.
- Proving that this trope is way, way Older Than Radio, if perhaps not quite Older Than Steam, Lord Byron's poem "Darkness" describes a vision of an apocalyptic future in which dogs turn on their masters, with one eternally faithful exception, who even guards his dead owner's body: "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 / Lured their lank jaws; himself sought out no food, / But with a piteous and perpetual moan, / And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand / Which answered not with a caress—he died."
- In Mary Shelley's "other" science fiction novel, The Last Man, the world has been devastated by a plague, and the narrator finds himself alone until he meets a dog to break his solitude: "My only companion was a dog." He comes across the sheepdog continuing at his post as if nothing has happened: "His master was dead, but nevertheless he continued fulfilling his duties in expectation of his return. If a sheep strayed from the rest, he forced it to return to the flock, and sedulously kept off every intruder."
- Richard Jefferies's 1885 novel After London traces how domestic dogs fared after the collapse of human civilization, some dying out, and others reverting to wolfhood: "The dogs, of course, like the cats, were forced by starvation into the fields, where they perished in incredible numbers. Of many species of dogs which are stated to have been plentiful among the ancients, we have now nothing but the name. The poodle is extinct, the Maltese terrier, the Pomeranian, the Italian greyhound, and, it is believed, great numbers of crosses and mongrels have utterly disappeared. There was none to feed them, and they could not find food for themselves, nor could they stand the rigour of the winter when exposed to the frost in the open air. Some kinds, more hardy and fitted by nature for the chase, became wild, and their descendants are now found in the woods."
- In one of the earliest nuclear holocaust novels, Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon, the young Ben Franklin becomes upset about having killed a dog in self-defense, thinking it had been a wolf. Another character assures him that he has acted properly, not only because times have changed, but because of a specific shift in canine identity the nuclear disaster has caused: "'It was a wolf,' Randy said.'It wasn't a dog any longer. In times like these dogs can turn into wolves.'"
- In Robert C. O'Brien's young adult novel Z for Zachariah, survivor farm girl Ann Burden lives alone in a rural valley with a dog named Faro, a fellow survivor of the radioactive fallout of a nuclear war. The antagonist of the novel, an adult male scientist with radiation poisoning, uses her dog to track her after she flees from him. Ann is forced to kill her beloved Faro to protect herself: although she can't bring herself to shoot, she tricks him into entering a fatally contaminated stream instead.
- In Alfred Bester's 1941 short story "Adam and No Eve" a disaster has killed all life on the planet, and proto-astronaut Steven Krane descends back down to Earth from a rocket, carrying his mastiff Umber with him. Unfortunately, Krane is eventually forced to kill him, recognizing him as a threatening animal consumed by hunger: "Panic jerked within him. A voice persisted: This is no friend. He has no love or companionship for you. Love and companionship have vanished from the land along with life. Now there is nothing left but hunger."
- Mike Resnick's story "The Last Dog" is about both the last man on earth and the last dog on earth. An alien third party, aptly named "Other," has come to cleanse Earth with a moral imperative, but in the end it only reinforces the unbreakable bond of man and dog. Dog rejects the attacks of the Other on mankind, and stays loyal to the last.
- In Will McIntosh's novel Soft Apocalypse, ex-pets have become a valuable resource for entrepreneurs after the collapse of civilization. At one point, the main character hitches a hide in a dog taxi: a hollowed-out Mustang pulled by a team of scrappy mutts: "It made sense, really. There were plenty of dogs. Hell, they were all over, like big rats."
- George R. Stewart's classic post-apocalyptic Earth Abides is full of dogs, so many that the main character is a little disturbed by their implications in this new "dog-eat-dog" world: "He had seen many dogs in the last two days, and he had tried to shut them out of his mind." The beginning of another chapter consists of a virtuoso meditation on how the disease that has wiped most humans off the face of the Earth has also fundamentally changed the dogs.
- In The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller, the main character really has only his faithful dog Jasper to help him survive and keep him sane during his hard life after the apocalypse. When Jasper finally dies of old age, the tragedy inspires the man to leave his makeshift home in search of something more to live for.
- In T.C. Boyle's post-apocalyptic short story "After the Plague," the narrator must take precautions against packs of starving neighborhood pets: "I took to walking round the neighborhood with a baseball bat to ward off the packs of feral dogs for which Alpo would never again materialize in a neat bowl in the corner of a dry and warm kitchen."
- Sara Genge's "The Story in Which Dog Dies" is a short post-apocalyptic fable about the last man and the last dog on Earth: "If you happen to survive to the End of Time, you may see them hunting. [...] They will live happily ever after until the Very End. Last Man hopes it will come soon."
- Lester del Rey's 1938 short story "The Faithful" features a post-apocalyptic world where humans have gone extinct, but dogs have evolved human levels of intelligence. Of course, they still pine for their lost masters.
- In the short story "Stay," by Stephen L. Burns, humans have disappeared off the face of the Earth, but a mysterious "Change" imposed by aliens has altered dogs to have human levels of intelligence. The malediction "bad dog," however, remains the foulest of insults from one dog to another, and the plot naturally revolves around the discovery of a few surviving humans.
- Clifford Simak's 1952 fixup novel City is another "dogs have inherited the earth" narrative, except his intelligent dogs live in a kind of utopian future where killing and war are foreign concepts.
- Jack London is famous for his dog stories, and, lo and behold, his 1915 post-apocalyptic novel The Scarlet Plague takes particular care to describe what happened to the dogs as they slowly became feral again: "A strange thing was what was taking place with all the domestic animals. Everywhere they were going wild and preying on one another. [...] Nor were the dogs long in adapting themselves to the changed conditions. There was a veritable plague of dogs. They devoured the corpses, barked and howled during the nights, and in the daytime slunk about in the distance. [...] The dog [...] always was a social animal, and this was true before ever he came to be domesticated by man. [...] Well, all the small dogs, and the weak types, were killed by their fellows. Also, the very large ones were not adapted for the wild life and bred out. As a result, the many different kinds of dogs disappeared, and there remained, running in packs, the medium-sized wolfish dogs that you know to-day."
- In Margaret Atwood's post-apocalyptic novel Oryx and Crake, the lone survivor Snowman finds himself treed by genetically engineered "wolvogs" that have apparently eaten all of the "real dogs," and the fate of a particular insufficiently fit "yapping Pekinese" is graphically described.
- There's always a dog at the end of the world — even when that dog isn't exactly a dog, like in Jeanette Winterson's literary apocalypse The Stone Gods, where that dog is a three-horned alien "hog-hippo hybrid." We're probably talking about some kind of triceratops, since this portion of the novel takes place on a prehistoric version of Earth, where the visitors from outer space encounter this "creature about the size of an Alsatian dog, but stockier, and with very short legs and three horns" (81). But Winterson treats and describes the thing as if it were an Alsatian and not a dinosaur, and, faithful as any Fido, it sticks with the two main characters as they freeze to death at the end of time.
- In JosÚ Saramago's Blindness, civilization begins to collapse (at least in the unnamed city where the action takes) after a plague of blindness strikes. A loving, faithful dog called only the "dog of tears" accompanies the one remaining sighted human in her quest to save herself and those around her.
- There's a kind of PRE-apocalyptic dog in William Blake's poem "Auguries of Innocence": one of the portents of the end of the world is a starving dog: "A dog starv'd at his Master's Gate / Predicts the ruin of the State."
- Dog Act is a post-apocalyptic comedic play about a traveling performer named Zetta Stone who journeys throughout the wasted United States. The other half of her act is a man who has decided to become "species demoted" to a dog (he is aptly named Dog).
- Each installment of the post-apocalyptic Fallout series includes the possibility of gaining a faithful canine companion called Dogmeat. Various installments feature additional dog-like companions, including K-9 and Robodog.
- Fallout2 plays with this with the Pariah Dog that will join your party whether you want it to or not depending on how unlucky you are. It gives you the "Jinxed" trait, drops your luck to 1, and contributes nothing. The only way to get rid of it is to kill it, which is no easy feat.
- Vicious enemy dogs are also present, so Fallout has both halves of this trope in effect.
- Dogs were given a mention in an episode of Life After People: specifically, it was said that most dogs would die within a few weeks of humans vanishing, either because they were trapped inside with no access to food or just because they had lost their hunting instincts. However, there would be lots of feral survivors roaming the streets for years afterward.
- Souls RPG depicts a post-apocalyptic world run by dogs, and they're having a grand old time.
- Technically, Jake from Adventure Time counts. The show's set after the Apocalypse, after all, and he is a dog, although admittedly a talking, sentient, magically stretching one who functions more like Finn's brother/best friend.