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Literature / A Boy's Best Friend

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First published in Boys Life (March 1975 issue), by Isaac Asimov, this Short Story is the classic tale of a boy and his dog. But what sort of dog?

The Anderson family are citizens of Lunar City, on The Moon's northern hemisphere. The parents have decided to buy a Scotch terrier, the first dog on the moon. It's a surprise for their only son, but they get surprised instead; Jimmy doesn't want one. He prefers his Robot Dog instead.


Robutt can follow him around on the lunar surface without a spacesuit, can hear him over the radio and call for help if needed, glows in the dark and can sense where Jimmy is by radar. As far as Jimmy is concerned, Robutt loves him, even if he's just programmed to act that way.

"A Boy's Best Friend" has been republished in The Complete Robot (1982).

"A Boy's Best Friend" contains examples of:

  • Alien Sky: This story is set on The Moon and the narration takes pleasure in describing the unusual sky; the way Earth is always in the southern sky and the abrupt nature of shade vs Earthshine (because there's no atmosphere to diffuse the light rays)
  • Androids Are People, Too: Most animal-lovers will insist on their pets being as "human" as anyone else. In this story, the titular boy insists that his Robot Dog is as good, or better, than any "real" dog, because the most important thing is that he loves his dog.
    "Robutt's just steel and wiring and a simple positronic brain. It's not alive."
    "He does everything I want him to do, Dad. He understands me. Sure, he's alive."
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  • Bizarre Alien Senses: Jimmy's Robutt was designed with radio communication, radar equipment, and the ability to make himself glow in the dark. This is all so that he can better travel with and protect humans like we expect dogs to do.
  • Cheerful A.I.: Robutt, Jimmy's Robot Dog, is a chipper creature, squeaking to reflect his emotions. Jimmy's father points out that it only acts that way because it's been programmed to, it only acts like it loves Jimmy.
  • Colonized Solar System: This story takes place on an early moon colony, mentioning that the dog they've imported is the first one to ever live in Lunar City. The colony is large enough that their son, Jimmy, had actually been born there, and therefore has never seen a "real" dog before.
  • Domed Hometown: The story doesn't specify a shape to the protection that Lunar City has from the airless void of The Moon, but does describe that anyone who re-enters must wash the dust/regolith off before entering fully. This establishes an airlock-like divide between the city's residents and the lunar environment.
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  • Featureless Plane of Disembodied Dialogue: Only Jimmy and Robutt are described, due to this story's Flash Fiction format. His parents, and the home where they live, are left entirely to the audience's imagination. When printed in Boys Life magazine, it was accompanied by art to help the reader imagine what living on the moon would be like for kids their age.
  • In-Series Nickname: The Robot Dog in this work is called Robutt; a Portmanteau of "robot-mutt".
  • Lightworlder: Jimmy is "Moonborn", meaning he was born in Lunar City. The Moon has much less gravity than Earth, which causes him to grow up taller and skinnier compared to Earthborn boys his age. However, this means he's too fragile to visit Earth and its much stronger gravity.
    By Earth standards, he was spindly, but rather tall for a 10-year-old. His arms and legs were long and agile. He looked thicker and stubbier with his spacesuit on, but he could handle the lunar gravity as no Earth-born human being could. His father couldn't begin to keep up with him when Jimmy stretched his legs and went into the kangaroo hop.
  • The Namesake: The title refers to the popular English phrase "a dog is man's best friend", modified to focus on a child instead. However, the titular "best friend" isn't a real dog like the parents want for their son; it's a Robot Dog.
  • Noisy Robots: The Robutt squeaks instead of barking or whining as it ambles around. It can make audible squeaks or transmit them over radio signals for the same purpose, but doesn't have a mouth/speaker to squeak with.
  • Portmanteau: The titular character is a "robot-mutt" or Robutt.
  • Robot Buddy: Jimmy's best friend is Robutt and he objects when his parents want to replace his dog with a "real" dog.
  • Robot Dog: The titular "best friend" is a "robot-mutt" or Robutt. Jimmy's parents want to replace the "imitation" dog with a "real" dog by importing a Scotch terrier.
  • The Speechless: Although Robutt has a positronic brain like most of Dr Asimov's Robot Series and has radio communication, it cannot speak the same language as its owners, instead squeaking and whining.
  • Timmy in a Well: Jimmy recalls the one time when he pretended to be injured, and Robutt called for help from Lunar City. His father made it clear that Jimmy was never to play that trick again.
  • Unnamed Parent: The main character is Jimmy, and his parents, Mr and Mrs Anderson, act as antagonists (in that they want to replace his Robot Dog with a flesh-and-blood dog).