It's National Dog Day, so let's pick pop culture's best pooch.

It’s National Dog Day, So Let’s Pick Pop Culture’s Greatest Pooch

It’s National Dog Day, So Let’s Pick Pop Culture’s Greatest Pooch

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 26 2015 8:02 AM

It’s National Dog Day, So Let’s Pick Pop Culture’s Greatest Pooch

Lassie, Uggie, and Rin Tin Tin are iconic. But who is pop culture’s top dog?
Lassie, Uggie, and Rin Tin Tin are iconic. But who is pop culture’s top dog?

ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages

Aug. 26 is National Dog Day, a day to celebrate man’s best friend, and when it comes to the dogs of pop culture, there are plenty to choose from—you have your Marmadukes, your Old Yellers, your Scoobies Doo. So devoted are we to our furry friends that there's even a website to warn you if one dies in a book or film. But which pooch is pop culture’s greatest ? We picked our favorite canine candidates, and now it’s time for you to vote for the top dog.

Tramp, The Lady and the Tramp

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A feature-length animated tribute to the allure of a jaunty rapscallion from the wrong side of the tracks, Walt Disney’s The Lady and the Tramp prompted an epically hilarious rant in Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco by an uptight fellow who accused the film of idealizing a “self-confessed chicken thief and all-around sleaze ball” and “programming women to adore jerks.” Yes, Tramp, that adorable, collarless mutt, is disreputable and (at the beginning at least) a bit of cynic, but all it takes to redeem a guy like that is the true love of a dainty purebred cocker spaniel, right? –Laura Miller, books and culture columnist

Gromit, Wallace and Gromit

Pity poor Gromit, the unspeaking, eye-rolling, put-upon hero of Aardman's stop-motion Wallace and Gromit films. Sure, Wallace is the hero in this relationship, but it's his loyal pooch who tends to solve the mysteries, rescue the damsels, and generally have any idea that the world isn't the cheese-filled, benevolent place Wallace believes it to be. He represents all dogs that are secretly smarter than their so-called owners—but who love them anyway. —Dan Kois, culture editor

Snowy (French: Milou), The Adventures of Tintin

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A central character in The Adventures of Tintin from the strip’s debut in 1929 to its conclusion in the mid-’70s, Snowy may be the most well-traveled dog of all time. What other pup has flown to the moon (in his own adorable custom space suit, no less!), explored the depths of the ocean, and climbed the mountains of Tibet? Heroic to the point of foolhardiness, Snowy has saved his human friends on numerous occasions, but he also knows how to party. Indeed, given his love for whiskey, this adorable terrier might be described as a literal boozehound. —Jacob Brogan, Future Tense research associate

Asta, The Thin Man

In a world of star canines, Asta (born Skippy) rules over them all. The adorable Wire Fox Terrier does his own thing with spunk and commitment, whether it’s protecting his family from other home-wrecking pups or ducking for cover when things get rough. But he’s a devoted companion, too, helping Nick and Nora sniff out clues during their alcohol-fueled mystery-solving adventures. Smart, athletic, and (sometimes) brave—basically, he’s everything you’d ever want in a dog. —Aisha Harris, staff writer

The Beast/Hercules, The Sandlot

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“The legend of the Beast goes back a long time, before any of us could even pick up a baseball.” So begins Michael “Squints” Palledorous’s treehouse tale in The Sandlot, which describes to his friends the “true killing machine” that slumbers in Mr. Mertle’s backyard. For most of The Sandlot, the Beast is perceived as a feral monster that eats errant baseballs and their owners, “bone and all.” But when Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez outruns the dog, leaving it weak, vulnerable, and in need of assistance, it becomes clear just how unfounded the boys’ terror was. Another thing that becomes clear: the best dogs aren’t always cuddly, or even friendly. They just help you face your fears. —Sharan Shetty, staff writer

Chewbacca, Star Wars

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Screenshot from the Force Awakens trailer via Lucasfilm/Star Wars/YouTube

I hope no Wookiees pull my arms off for this one. The original inspiration for Star Wars’ leading fuzzball was a dog: George Lucas’ Alaskan Malamute, Indiana. The great Lucas biography Skywalking tells the story:

Chewbacca leaped out of Lucas’s imagination one day as Marcia [Lucas’s wife] and Indiana drove away from the house. Sitting next to Marcia in the front seat, the dog looked like a giant, shaggy creature.
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Of course, Chewbacca’s canine traits have never been lost on dog-owners, who know the feeling of always having a furry creature at their side. The creators of Spaceballs even picked up on the connection when they came up with the sidekick Barf, played by John Candy, who is half man and half dog. (“I’m my own best friend,” Barf explains.) Meanwhile, one origin that’s been suggested for the name Chewbacca is собакa, the Russian word for dog. Once you accept that Chewbacca is just the Star Wars universe’s equivalent of Toto, he’s hard to beat.

By the way, if Indiana’s name sounds familiar, that’s not a coincidence, as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade itself acknowledges. (Indiana Jones’ real name is Henry Jones, Jr., his father explains, while Indy got his nickname from the family dog.) Perhaps no dog has left a bigger pawprint on popular culture than Indiana. —Forrest Wickman, senior editor

Balthazar, Vicious

The greatest dog in pop culture is Balthazar from Vicious, the British sitcom that returns to PBS on Aug. 23. Anyone who’s ever lived with an aging pet will recognize the challenges owners Freddie and Stuart face when caring for their 21-year-old mutt—frequent visits to the vet, the difficulty of getting his little oxygen mask on, a glass eye that occasionally falls into his water bowl. It’s hard to say what breed Balthazar is, because he’s become one with blankets and basket—we only know he’s alive because his owners occasionally prod him with a stick to confirm that they need to buy more dog food. Unlike some other never-revealed TV characters—say, Charlie of the angels or Big Bang Theory’s Mrs. Wolowitz—Balthazar is utterly silent. He really is the perfect dog. —June Thomas, culture critic and Outward editor

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Seymour, Futurama

During a Q-and-A session at an October 2014 Future Tense event on science fictionFuturama’s Patric Verrone pleaded with the audience not to ask him about “the dog.” For Futurama fans, just the words “the dog” can inspire tears. When pizza delivery boy Fry is accidentally frozen on Dec. 31, 1999, his devoted pup tries to save him—but no 21st-century humans listen. And so he waits, and waits, and waits, in what was purportedly an ode to a famously loyal Japanese dog [see: Hachikō]. Surely, Futurama’s mutt is the most honorable creature ever to bear the name Seymour Asses. Now please excuse me, as I need to sob. —Torie Bosch, editor of Future Tense

Mr. Peanutbutter, BoJack Horseman

Mr. Peanutbutter is the kind of enlightened, leather-cuff-wearing, earnest guy you might expect to encounter in Los Angeles. He’s also a dog, with all the interests of a dog, like chasing mail trucks and chewing bandanas. He starred in a TV show called Mr. Peanutbutter's House that was similar to BoJack's show, Horsin' Around, both of which borrowed elements from many family-friendly sitcoms of the ’80s and ’90s, but with an extra dose of adorableness, because they starred not Scott Baio or Tony Danza but anthropomorphized animals. And Mr. Peanutbutter is a yellow labrador, like Air Bud or Full House’s Comet, the ur-breed for heartwarming family entertainment. Sweet, loving Mr. Peanutbutter is the best pop culture dog because he is a parody of the whole idea of pop culture dogs, in conversation with all the Snoopies and Lassies that came before him. —Heather Schwedel, copy editor

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Poochie (of “The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show”), The Simpsons

He’s the in-your-face anti-star of “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show,” one of the greatest episodes of The Simpsons ever made. You've heard the expression “let’s get busy?” Well, a vote for Poochie is a vote for a dog who gets biz-zay. Sadly, if Poochie wins this award—and please, please, Slate readers, help Poochie win this award—it will be a posthumous honor, as he died 18 years ago on the way back to his home planet. —Jack Hamilton, pop critic

Hachikō

Hachiko

Even among his many fictional counterparts, real-life hero Hachikō is the dog who best exemplifies just why they’re known as “man’s best friend.” When the Akita was adopted in 1924 by Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor at the University of Tokyo, Hachikō would loyally greet his master each day as he arrived at Shibuya train station after work. When one day the professor died of a brain hemorrhage and never came back, faithful Hachikō dutifully continued to wait for him, returning to meet the train at the same time each day long after Ueno had passed. So beloved was the pooch that a statue of him was erected at Shibuya, where he is honored every year on April 8. He was further immortalized in the (considerably fictionalized) Richard Gere tearjerker Hachi: A Dog’s Tale. I dare you to watch it with a dry eye. —Marissa Visci, culture intern

Doge

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Facebook.com/VeryDoge

The best dog in pop culture did not romp across a movie screen or sniff her way through a book; all she did was lend her piercing gaze to the Internet. Her fans did the rest. Doge, whose off-Web name is Kabosu, has become iconic. She came as a perturbed-looking Shiba Inu, but has emerged an icon. One day, she’s a Twinkie. The next, she’s a taco flying through space. And the next, she’s got her face on currency. She’s the perfect storm that happens when exemplary canine-cute combines with meme-friendly side-eye. Now, any shibe—or dog, or flying Pop-Tart cat, or iconic portrait—can be subject to the doge treatment. Through the power of the Internet, this pooch has managed to transcend her bodily form to take over the world—one shapeshift at a time. She is the perfect icon for the bizarrely wonderful age in which we live. And I will never get sick of her. So Internet. Many canine. Such meme. Wow. —Laura Bradley, editorial assistant

Jacob Brogan writes for Slate about technology and culture. Follow him on Twitter.

Aisha Harris is a Slate culture writer and host of the Slate podcast Represent.

Forrest Wickman is Slate’s culture editor.

Laura Miller is a books and culture columnist for Slate and the author of The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia. Follow her on Twitter.

Dan Kois edits and writes for Slate’s culture department. He is writing a book called How to Be a Family and co-writing, with Isaac Butler, an oral history of Angels in America.

Sharan Shetty is on the editorial staff of the New Yorker. You can follow him on Twitter

June Thomas is managing producer of Slate podcasts.

Heather Schwedel is a Slate staff writer. Follow her on Twitter.

Jack Hamilton is Slate’s pop critic and assistant professor of American studies and media studies at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, New America, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

Laura Bradley is a Hollywood writer for Vanity Fair.

Marissa Martinelli is a Slate editorial assistant. Follow her on Twitter.