Argos, the faithful pup of Odysseus in Homer’s epic, was literature’s first dog. He stayed behind in Ithaca while his master went off to fight the Trojan War. Upon Odysseus’ return 20 years later — after some mean adventuring, believe you me — he discovers Argos, who was once a fierce hunter and protector, has grown old, flea-ridden and feeble. After laying eyes one final time on his master, Argos “passed into the darkness of death.”
Cartoonist Charles Schultz knew that every boy needs a dog. That’s why he paired anti-hero Charlie Brown, the unlucky and slightly neurotic star of the “Peanuts” franchise, with Snoopy, a mute but sentient canine who experiences all the things in life that his owner is missing. Snoopy dances like no one’s watching, rides a chopper to camp, writes mystery novels, dons sunglasses to become “Joe Cool” and engages in dogfights with the Red Baron in his Sopwith Camel in the skies above France.
Triumph the insult comic dog
Triumph, the angry canine hand puppet who cruelly mocks celebrities in an Eastern European accent, made his debut on “The Late Show With Conan O’Brien” in 1997 by eviscerating the contestants in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. He has since gone on to insult celebrities like J-Lo, Bon Jovi and Michael Jackson; political figures like Karl Rove (“You’re Bush’s brains, Karl. I was expecting a much smaller man.”); and regular people (he once asked a ComiCon fan dressed as Darth Vader, “Which one of these [buttons] calls your parents to pick you up?). And as an insult comic journalist, he has covered both the Democratic National Convention, the Michael Jackson trial and Bonnaroo.
BriAn griffin (“fAmily guy”)
Dogs with people names — like Kevin or Jason — are funny, but even funnier is one that shares my own name, especially since he is an urbane failed novelist who likes martinis and cigarettes. Also, Brian is the funniest character on the show, particularly when paired with that little Nazi Stewie.
I never cared for Scooby-Doo, and I liked his nephew, that little pissant Scrappy Doo, even less. I also didn’t like his various cousins: Scooby-Dee, Skippy-Doo, Whoopsy-Doo, Yabba-Doo, Yankee-Doodle-Doo, Dixie-Doo, Dooby-Doo, Howdy-Doo or Ruby-Doo. But I did like Scooby-Dum, from the Okefenokee Swamp, probably because he wore a cool red hat.
Tiger (“the BrAdy Bunch”)
Something you may not know: I have a near encyclopedic knowledge of the 1970s family sitcom “The Brady Bunch,” which was my favorite show from the age of 6 until I was in my twenties. Seriously. I remember when he stole Cindy’s Kitty Carryall and hid it in his doghouse like it happened to me. Also, I recall when everyone thought Jan was allergic to Mr. Brady, but it turned out to be Tiger’s new flea powder that was making her sneeze. Ah, the memories.
Okay, so Mickey was a mouse who wore pants. Donald was a duck who wore a sailor suit. Goofy was a big, dumb dog in overalls. All of them walked on two legs and spoke English. But Pluto, also a dog, wore no clothes, walked on all fours and could only bark. What is up with that?
Perhaps I’m leaning too heavily on Greek mythology here, but it’s hard not to mention Cerberus, the three-headed dog charged with guarding the underworld by the River Styx, the watchdog of Hades. Terrifying, to be sure, but most stories where Cerberus appears has him being overcome by some hero or another trying to free someone from the land of the dead. Orpheus put him to sleep. Hercules dragged him to the surface. But in Dante’s Inferno, Cerberus guards the third circle of hell, where people who have committed the deadly sin of gluttony are imprisoned.
Hong Kong phooey
Want to know where I was every Saturday morning between 1974 and 1976? I was sitting about a foot away from the television set watching “Hong Kong Phooey,” a cartoon about a mild-mannered janitor — a dog, naturally — who jumped into a filing cabinet to transform into an inept kung-fu superhero who often needed to be saved by his cat. Yes, the dog had a pet cat. The series was noteworthy for having a laugh track — when was the last time you heard one of those? — and the voice of inimitable Scatman Crothers.
Poochie (“the simpsons”)
When the creators of “The Itchy and Scratchy Show” decided to boost ratings by adding a new character, they created a “dog with attitude” named Poochie and chose Homer Simpson to provide the voice. It’s a classic episode, featuring the late Phil Hartman doing the voice of Troy McClure and the introduction of Comic Book Guy’s catchphrase: “Worst episode ever.”