Puppy Love: the best dogs in entertainment

Culture Screen

A dog, they say, is not just for Christmas, it’s for life and that’s true in both the fictional and literal sense. Whether you got a new dog over the festive season or not, man’s best friend has always played a seminal role in the creative arts and is a constant source of inspiration. In the dank, post-Christmas period, let these exemplary fictional canines lift your spirits with their loyalty, warmth and humour.

Argos, The Odyssey (c.8th century BC)

The Odyssey isn’t entertainment, you say? Fie, disbeliever! Reading the “rosy-fingered dawn” epithet several hundred times is great fun. What’s more, Homer’s masterful epic poem has some outstanding moments of pathetic nuance, emphasised most powerfully in his description of Odysseus’ loyal hound, Argos.

After twenty years away from his homeland of Ithaca, Odysseus returns disguised as a beggar, ready to take revenge upon the suitors trying to take over his household and his wife, Penelope. But as Odysseus returns, he comes across Argos, the strong hound he owned twenty years previously. In a pile of mud and covered with fleas, Argos cuts a sad figure. Homer’s brief description, “As soon as he saw Odysseus standing there, [Argos] dropped his ears and wagged his tail, but he could not get close up to his master”, is almost too painful to bear.

However, in order to maintain his disguise, Odysseus is forced to ignore his loyal pooch, shedding a single tear as he continues walking. Rather than just leaving the tragedy there, Homer decides to hit us with this final description: “…Argos passed into the darkness of death, now that he had fulfilled his destiny of faith and seen his master once more after twenty years.” Cheers Homer. Thanks for bringing the mood down.

Seymour Asses, ‘Jurassic Bark’, Futurama (2002)

If the creators behind this masterful episode of the animated, sci-fi show didn’t take some heavy inspiration from Homer’s epic poem, I’ll eat my metaphorical hat.

After befriending a dog during a pizza delivery, perennial dimwit, Philip J. Fry names his new partner after the delivery recipient who made the prank call. When Fry falls into a cryogenics tube, Seymour Asses leads Fry’s family towards his master’s location, but to no avail and Fry is transported from 1999 into the 31st century

After Fry discovers Seymour’s remains in the distant future, he initially wants to clone his beloved pooch, but changes his mind when he sees the readings that Seymour had lived till the age of 15. Reasoning that he must have given up waiting and found a new owner, he leaves the dog’s remains untouched.

However, the ensuing tragic montage shows that Seymour had waited outside Pannuchi’s Pizza restaurant (as Fry had told him to) every day after his departure. The image of the loyal canine patiently waiting is painful enough, yet the soundtrack of Connie Francis singing ‘I Will Wait For You’ only increases the torment. Just like Argos, Seymour’s attempt to meet his master for the last time is never achieved. (Controversially, the storyline is undermined in a later Futurama film, Bender’s Big Score, which takes away the power of the original tragedy by giving Seymour a happier ending).  Interestingly, Seymour’s design was supposedly based on a Border Terrier, my favourite dog breed of all time. Goddammit Futurama, the pain is still fresh.

Mr Colin (Spaced, 1999-2001)

Speaking of border terriers, the dog featured in this classic early Edgar Wright TV series inspired the naming of my own dogen, although the onscreen Mr Colin appears infinitely more well-behaved than my own wayward border terrier hound.

Soon after Tim Bisley (Simon Pegg) and Daisy Steiner (Jessica Hynes) lie about being a couple in order to rent a flat, Daisy decides to buy Mr Colin when she learns that he is going to be put down. Despite Tim’s caniphobia, the dog soon becomes a stalwart member of the group as it patiently allows his owners to dress him in a Jacobean ruff (even though Ada, the Miniature Schnauzer who played Colin, was reportedly difficult to work with).

Baxter (Anchorman, 2006)

“Oh Baxter, you are so wise.” Thus does Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) salute his loyal hound. True enough. When it comes to wisdom there are few mystics more gifted than the news anchor’s miniature Buddha border terrier. Despite being punted off a bridge by Jack Black’s angry biker, Baxter survives and later saves his master from a bear through an intellectual debate.

Like his successor in the sequel, Peanut was a shelter dog who entered stardom with the help of his human comrades. Although he passed away in 2010, the “little gentleman of foggy London town” passed on help to vulnerable San Diego hounds through a scholarship page on Facebook. Now that’s classy.

Image Credit: Maklay62/Pixabay.