"I get such a kick out of calling him Albert, after Albert Payson Terhune, who wrote all those stupid dog books in which we noble creatures were pets, always being saved by some sappy human - it is my best gambit to make him scream."
—The dog Blood talking about his human Vic, A Boy and His Dog
In fiction, oftentimes the protagonists have pets. Smaller (or not so small), less intelligent companions of a different species than the heroes. Sometimes the pet will come along on an adventure and help out. Wait, those heroes are the humans, aren't they?
This trope is where it turns out that the humans aren't as in charge as they think. As far as their supposed pet is concerned, the human is the real
pet. The pet may know how the human thinks of the relationship and keep a masquerade going, or it may not care what the hairless ape thinks of things as long as it knows it's the real master. In rarer cases, the human may even find out that their relationship with their pet isn't quite what they thought.
Related to Dog Walks You
, where the pet isn't just being rambunctious. Or maybe they just think they're taking their human out for a walk. Compare Loyal Animal Companion
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Anime and Manga
- Subverted in one issue of The Sandman, a cat states that she thought she was the owner of her humans, until she mated with a stray and her master threw the kittens in a river.
- In Gold Digger, alien dog Alfred Peachbody owned a pet human named Benji.
- Some X-Men stories imply that Lockheed regards Kitty Pryde this way. In Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men, it is revealed that Lockheed is very intelligent, and was working for SWORD to spy on the X-Men. Presumably he was doing so in part to protect his "girl".
- During the first season of LOST, an untitled fanfic from Vincent the dog's POV circulated around the web. In it, Vincent refers to his owner as "my pet Walt" (and to his owner's older companion as "the guy who thinks he's Walt's dad"). It's probably a homage to The Hundred and One Dalmatians, as detailed in Literature below.
- In Hiccups, this is how Toothless sees the Vikings.
Toothless didn't get language, but he did get Hiccup. Hiccup was sensible and liked to fly nearly as much as Toothless did. He was brave, kind, and the dragon suspected extremely intelligent for his kind. How else could he begin to understand the incredibly complex mind of a dragon? Yes, Toothless' rider was the smartest of the humans.
- Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey is told from the perspective of a bulldog named Chance who travels with his fellow pets Sassy and Shadow, trying to get back to their owners Jamie, Hope and Peter respectively. At the beginning of the film, Chance is describing their supposed owners and says "Hope belonged to Sassy" and "Peter belonged to Shadow."
- In Toy Story the toys understand and accept the real dynamic they have with humans, but still make affectionate comments about "my boy," "my family," etc.
- Robert A. Heinlein
- The Star Beast has the hero keeping an alien pet passed down through the generations. The titular Star Beast turns out to actually be a highly intelligent alien whose hobby is raising humans, namely the generations of the hero's family.
- The same thing happens in Red Planet with Willis the Bouncer, a volleyball-sized Martian lifeform kept by the protagonist Jim. Towards the end of the novel Jim forms a Mind Meld and finds that Willis is actually an early stage of the sentient Martian species, and sees Jim as an awkward yet loveable pet.
- Alan Dean Foster's Cat-A-Lyst has the human hero adopting a small cat early on. In reality, the cat is an extra-dimensional entity that fights off the real villain while the humans fight off his minions. In the end the cat decides to stay on Earth and watch over her pets.
- The Chronicles of Narnia book The Horse and His Boy has this right in the title. However, by the end of the book the boy has matured into a decisive young man and the horse's opinion of himself has been knocked down a peg, making it more like A Boy and His X
- also mentioned explicitly in the text when Aravis is told after referring to Hwin as her horse, that it could just as easily be said that Aravis is Hwin's human.
- Firekeeper is more Blind Seer's pet than the other way around, but she was Raised by Wolves, after all, and the other humans do a poor job of civilizing both of them.
- Avi's horror story Cats has ghost cats wanting to bring their "pet" along to the next world with them.
- Occurs in both the novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians and the Disney film version 101 Dalmatians. The original novel really plays this up, as Pongo and "Mrs Pongo" (Perdita in the film) honestly believe they are the real masters in their pet-human relationships.
- The sequel to the book, The Starlight Barking, has Sirius point out to the dogs that no matter how much they might tell themselves otherwise, they aren't the masters; at the end of the day, the humans are the ones in charge.
- In Robert Asprin's novel series Myth Adventures, the dragon Gleep feels this way about Skeeve.
- It's implied that all dragons in the series feel this way about humans.
- In both the book and film, A Boy and His Dog, the well-read and wise-cracking telepathic dog named Blood is pretty much in charge of the relationship. (This is NOT a kids movie!)
- Discworld : In the same way that blind people have seeing-eye dogs, the crazy beggar Foul Old Ron has a thinking-brain dog in the form of Gaspode (who can speak, but doesn't let most people know it). As the most sensible, intelligent and above all sane member of the bunch, Gaspode could claim to be The Leader of the Canting Crew.
- Temeraire: Temeraire proves in Victory of Eagles that, contrary to prior belief, dragons are perfectly capable of defending their country without human handlers to direct them. That being said, most dragons in service with a captain and crew tend to be extremely possessive of them: Temeraire in particular gets jealous and grumpy when a crewman leaves him to serve with another dragon.
- Rhiow and the other feline wizards from the The Book of Night with Moon companion series to Diane Duane's Young Wizards series occasionally take this attitude toward the ehhif in their lives.
- Anne Bishop's Black Jewels Universe has this, where you, the human, doesn't choose the kindred, the kindred chooses you. And once they decide, you don't really have much of a choice.
- Snot Stew stars two kittens who are discovered and adopted by a human family.
- In The Dresden Files, the reader learns very early (from a spirit of intellect possessing him) that Harry Dresden's normal cat Mister views Harry as his servant/pet (which is implied to be standard for cats). Somewhat later, we eventually discover that as far as Harry's intelligent dog Mouse is concerned, Harry is his, not the other way around. Whether he battled Mister for ownership rights at some point is unknown. Unlike other examples on this page, though, the latter relationship is not just a reversal of the master-pet one. It's hard to explain how it comes off exactly, but it's a lot more like a proud, loving parent.
- John Scalzi's short story, The Other Large Thing, is set from the viewpoint of a cat named Sanchez who refers to his human owners as "large things". Later, he specifically says that he doesn't even consider them worthy of having actual names or titles.
- British Labour politician Roy Hattersley has written diaries from the perspective of his dog Buster that take this view; Buster refers to Hattersley as "The Man".
- The Puppy Who Wanted A Boy
- My New Boy
- Ralph Von Wau Wau from Spider Robinson's Callahans Crosstime Saloon stories, qualifies. His "master" brought the dog to Callahan's one night, claiming he could talk. When Ralph proved to be quite eloquent, the regulars figured that his "master" was a gifted ventriloquist. It is later revealed that the "master" was mute and Ralph, a mutant dog possessing human intelligence who happened to be given a human larynx and mouth structure in a lab experiment, was the ventriloquist, who unofficially adopted his "master" and cooked up the "my dog can talk" shtick to make a few bucks.
- Averted in White Fang. While it is told from the (wolf)dog's perspective, he's perfectly aware that he belongs to (or at least must serve) "the gods", not the other way around. In Call Of The Wild, though, Buck thinks of himself as the Judge's "steward", if nothing else, and thinks of the Judge's children as the Judge's property (and thus beneath himself). He realizes the error in his thinking after he's stolen and beaten into submission as a sled dog.
Live Action TV
- Lassie: Although Lassie was supposedly a "normal" dog, she was generally more intelligent than Timmy and was constantly rescuing him. June Lockhart, who played Timmy's adoptive mother, described the show as "...a fairy tale about people on a farm in which the dog solves all the problems in 22 minutes, in time for the last commercial."
- One of the aliens in Dani's House tried to keep a postman as a pet in one episode.
- Doctor Who, "The Doctor's Wife" - The mind of the TARDIS gets shunted into a human body by the villain of the week, and insists that she "stole a Time Lord" as much as the Doctor stole her. They both did it for the same reason (wanting to get out and see the universe).
Idris: My thief.
- After psychically linking with a dog in Warehouse13, Artie claims their bond is too great and the dog owns him now. He also mentions that Cats are prisoners.
- The first strip of Garfield has Jon introducing himself, and declaring Garfield to be his cat. Garfield then introduces himself, declaring Jon to be his cartoonist.
- Dilbert: Dogbert is definitely the master of that relationship. Although Dogbert doesn't seem to care about Dilbert. However, you feel that if Dilbert were actually in danger of dying, Dogbert would probably help him out.
- This is quite true. In one instance, Catbert was going to have Dilbert executed as a disciplinary action, and Dogbert promptly had Bob the Dinosaur force Catbert to pardon his human. And never taking credit for his good deed, either.
- Dogbert has also rescued Dilbert from being lowered into a pit of lava by the trolls (as in actual monsters) from the Accounting department, and has sicced Bob and Dawn on a burglar who took all of Dilbert's posessions. Word of God is that Dogbert does care for Dilbert, it just only shows when Dilbert is in genuine danger.
- In an early strip (before office humor became the norm), Dogbert tried to trick Dilbert into signing a contract that would legally name Dilbert the 'pet' in the relationship.
- Peanuts: Snoopy is slightly better than Dogbert. Although Snoopy just wants Charlie Brown to keep his water bowl full and always bring a full dinner bowl, if Charlie was in trouble Snoopy would help him out, if only for the adventure.
- But, similarly to Discworld's Maurice, would only ever refer to him as "that round-headed kid".
- He also only ever thinks about Charlie Brown as an actual individual (as opposed to a service provider) when someone spends an extended period calling him on his terrible treatment of the poor lad.
- There is a clear reference to A Boy and His Dog (see above) in each of the three Fallout games, in which the player character wanders a post-nuclear wasteland with an option of having a canine companion called "Dogmeat". "Dogmeat" is what Vic calls Blood at certain points of A Boy and His Dog when they are arguing.
- It's more likely a reference to the dog from the Mad Max series.
- Cats in Dwarf Fortress adopt dwarves, not the other way around. While this is meant as a joke, it actually ends up contributing to their Small Annoying Creature status, since their apparent mind-control abilities make it much more difficult to keep their population under control.
- Which is important. Both because dwarves who lose their cats to the inevitable goblin attacks/invading monsters from underground/berserk dwarves/etc have a tendancy to tantrum, and because lots of cats ruin FPS.
- In Exit Fate, Klaus von Lichtenheim (a cat) claims to be descended from a long line of feline nobility, and gracefully agrees to join the Elysium Army only because the protagonist seems so insistent on it (recruiting him requires tracking him down several times in different towns). If he's with you when you talk to Griever (a despondent former general with a nihilistic streak and a deep love of cats) he'll tell her that he's mostly following you because it amuses him. He'll also mention that there's nothing strange about him being able to talk, since even humans can master the skill.
- The Peabody's Improbable History segment of the The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show has Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman.
Mr. Peabody: No doubt about it. Every dog ought to have a boy.
- Wallace & Gromit: Gromit, the dog, is pretty much actually the master and much more intelligent than Wallace, but we never find out whether he sees it that way.
- Family Guy: Peter (a Man Child who in several episodes is stated to be legally retarded) and Brian (a Talking Animal who is more or less treated like a human being) have this relationship. The original pilot for Family Guy was totally based around this, in fact.
- Lady and the Tramp is told from this point of view.
- In Felidae the feline protagonist also refers to the man he's living with as "my human." Amusingly, in one scene the man comments how the cats are lucky in how they can just eat and sleep all day - even though that seems to be exactly what he's doing, while Francis goes around solving cat murders in the neighbourhood, risking life and limb.
- In one episode of Johnny Test, Dukey briefly muses on this trope when watching Johnny mess around with some barrels of toxic waste.
Dukey: In a just world, he'd be my pet.
- The Adventure Time pilot has a variant: the Ice King refers to Jake as Pen/Finn's dog during their fight. Pen/Finn punches him and responds "He's not my dog! He's my friend!" When the actual series came out this is taken even further by making them adoptive brothers. Fridge Brilliance when you realize that the Ice King was born in a time when dogs were pets, whereas Finn has never known a world where they weren't an intelligent race.
- Futurama took this trope to its most literal. A cat alien has been shown with a pet human, even winning third place at a pet show.◊
- In Real Life this is a common joke among cat owners. "A dog thinks 'Wow, the humans feed me, shelter me, and take care of my needs. They must be gods!' A cat thinks 'Wow, the humans feed me, shelter me, and take care of my needs. I must be a god!'"
- There's also the common phrase "dogs have owners, cats have staff."
- C. S. Lewis once said of his dog, "He never exactly obeyed you. He sometimes agreed with you."
- It should be noted that in real life, letting dogs think they're in charge is a BAD idea. Humans tend to like the thought of being defended by a loyal companion, but letting it go too far is grounds for disaster. Growling at people, excessive barking, and guarding furniture/people are all extremely bad signs—but unfortunately, small dogs get away with all of that because "it's cute when THEY do it." The truth is that there should be no reason to let things get to that point; a bite from a Pomeranian isn't as bad as a Doberman's bite, but it means the exact same thing: The dog will assert his authority by any means possible—from barking at friends for invading his territory, to growling at your boyfriend for invading your personal space, to biting your kid for trying to pet him.
- It is also in your own benefit not to let your dog get to that point - some people have no qualms whatsoever to react with lethal force when they find an animal attacking them.
- In addition it's highly unhealthy for the dog; guarding behavior and excessive territorialism is usually as much a sign of insecurity and anxiety as anything else, as it can stem from a neurotic need for control in the absence of an owner they can trust and a system of rules that makes sense and makes them feel safe. A dog should not feel the need to "run" a family; if they do, it's a serious problem and requires help from the owner to establish a clear, consistent system in which the dog can feel safe and secure because it knows exactly why things happen, and trusts that its humans do things for a good reason. (There is no concept of an "alpha" in a natural, healthy wolf pack—the leaders are the matriarch and patriarch of the clan, and lead by virtue of simple experience and seniority over their younger family members—so trying to establish "dominance" over a misbehaving dog is ineffective at best and genuinely abusive at worst. Dogs need consistency in what is asked of them, not a pecking order.)