What is the greatest on-screen dog of all time?
Dogs are living their best lives right now. They've got their human beings right where they want them: at home all the time.
People who live with a dog are pretty pleased about the situation, too. Dogs can be a profound comfort in times of anxiety… like for instance, living through a global pandemic.
Having a furry, four-legged mate around the house can be the most wonderful relief.
They are a source of solace and joy, and a reminder to be playful and silly and gentle with ourselves.
My dog, Bert - a three-year-old Shih tzu who is happiest while sleeping - finds a way to make me laugh every single day. He is regularly the highlight of my life.
Friends of mine who have dogs are even more grateful than usual for their cuddles, playful nose bumps and rogue licks.
They know they're lucky to have that sort of company at such a strange time. My dad and step-mum have started talking to their poodle, Agnes, and their golden retriever, Molly, even more than they normally do (a study I once read suggests that those of us who speak to our animals out loud are actually smarter than those who do not, so I endorse this activity wholeheartedly).
Strangers at the dog park smile at each other because we all know what a reprieve and a delight it is to go outside and walk the dog.
The dogless among us are even considering fostering or adopting a hound, because when else will they ever have so much time to care for them?
Rescue shelters around the country have reported an increase in expressions of interest for their pups, but they're also expecting to see more people returning animals because they can no longer afford to care for them. It is a resoundingly popular opinion that dogs might just be the best possible housemates to have during isolation or quarantine.
"We're hearing regularly from our supporters that their pets are providing much-needed support, comfort and companionship in these difficult times," Richard Mussell, CEO of RSPCA Australia, tells me. "People rely on their pets during challenging times for their loyalty, unconditional love, attention and affection."
Richard agrees with me about the joy of dog-walking, too. It can give us a sense of stability when all else feels like chaos. "Owning a dog can also help keep you active and give you a reason to stick to your routine, which is so important at a time like this. Knowing you'll be getting up, feeding the dog, taking the dog for a walk, playing for a while - these things help bring structure to your day when the other usual parts of your routine have gone out the window."
Those of us who have a dog at home know the joy they can bring us. Anyone who longs to have a dog of their can, for the time being, make do by spending time with some fictional beasts. Television, movies and books are also fantastic, comforting distractions at a time like this - what better, then, than pop culture that features a loveable dog? Here's a collection of some of the greatest fictional dogs. May they ease your pandemic anxiety a little, or perhaps simply bring you some happiness right when you need it.
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NANA FROM PETER PAN
Nana is the impossibly sweet but also very responsible St Bernard who looks after Wendy and her brothers in Peter Pan. She was hired by the parents as a babysitter and she can carry trays on her head, make the bed and tidy up the toys. She is particularly adorable in the 1953 Disney film, in which she flaps her ears to try and fly so she can follow the kids to Neverland. 10/10 for maternal dog instinct and good headwear.
KOKO FROM RED DOG
Koko is actually the (very talented) professional canine actor who played Red Dog in the 2011 Australian classic. The film is actually inspired by a real life dog known as Red Dog, who lived in a Western Australian town called Dampier. Several writers have written stories about the famous dog who sort of belonged to everyone in that town, where there is now a commemorative statue of him. The movie is not exactly comic relief, though; be prepared for a bit of a sob.
PADFOOT FROM HARRY POTTER
Technically, Padfoot is actually the dog Harry Potter's stepfather, Sirius Black, can transform into when he wants. Sirius is an "animagus", which is a wizard who can transfigure themselves into a creature. When he turns into Padfoot, he takes the form of an enormous, shaggy black dog who looks so like the Grim that Harry mistakes him for a mortally bad omen when he first encounters him. He is a brave, loving, loyal beast, just like the man who becomes him. Honourable mention to Hagrid's dog, Fang, who is also a terrific beast.
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CHEDDAR FROM THE TV SHOW BROOKLYN 99
Cheddar is the corgi who belongs to one of the great comedic characters of our time, Captain Raymond Holt from American cop sitcom Brooklyn 99. His greatest moments include raiding his master's closet to turn all his turtlenecks into regular necks, running away very slowly, enjoying an ice cream cone of his own and performing an important task during a Halloween-themed heist. The canine actor who played Cheddar, known as Stewart, sadly died last year, but his wonderful legacy lives on.
BEETHOVEN FROM ALL EIGHT BEETHOVEN MOVIES
I have only seen the second Beethoven movie, many times, because it was the only Beethoven movie my dad owned on VHS. I was only made aware of all seven other films in the franchise when I became an adult. These movies are all about one family and their huge, wonderful Saintt Bernard. Across the many plots, he sires a litter of adorable puppies the family must save from their diabolic breeder, crosses the country to attend a family reunion, gets switched with a look-alike dog and becomes a movie star. Absolute classics, all.
Kate Leaver's Good Dog, (HarperCollins) is available now
Originally published as What is the greatest on-screen dog of all time?