So, a zombie apocalypse has happened and your best friend, Fido, is looking at you with those big ol’ puppy dog eyes, begging you to take him with you. What do you do? The first thought is “Well, I take the little guy with me! What else?” Well, I’ve got some things for you to consider.
Keep in mind that I will only be covering dogs in this assessment. I have no experience with other pets and question their viability as a useful companion.
First let’s examine the pros. There are some beneficial aspects of keeping your pet with you. First and foremost, the apocalypse might be a very lonely place for you. There’s no telling if you’ll be able to get to your friends or family and, the truth is, they may already be dead. Your pet might be your only companion.
This plays a big role in your morale. Long periods of being alone is okay for some people but most people need emotional contact on a regular basis. Pets can provide this. The physical contact from petting your animal and the responsibility of keeping that animal alive might be able to distract your baser instincts from descending into a Lord of the Flies-esque insanity.
Second: defense. IF you have one of several breeds of dog, they might be able to aid you, especially against maligned humans. We’ll assume the zombie virus has not yet jumped species to infect your canine. Your dog might also be able to fend off the undead long enough for you to make an escape.
Your sweet little poochy might also help defend you from wild animals. After all, the wilds will be even more wild after the collapse of society and rise of the dead. Former pets will eventually go feral. Your doggy might be able to kick some feral suburbanite dog ass and keep you safe another day.
Some dogs also have an uncanny sense of people. Some dogs get a bad vibe from certain people. As a general rule of thumb, if my dog doesn’t like you, I don’t like you. This might help you overcome any shifty tricksters wanting to ‘trade’ some supplies.
Last, but perhaps most importantly: hunting. Granted you have the correct breed, it can help you acquire food. If you have no weapon, you might still be able to procure squirrels or rabbits if you have your dog with you. Dogs instinctively hunt small game such as rabbits, squirrels, groundhogs, and rats. If you can wrestle some food away from your buddy, he might just keep you fed.
I’ll admit, the cons on this list are pretty weighted. They might all be dealbreakers, unfortunately. The first one might be the most obvious: dogs bark. Some have argued that a barking dog will alert zombies to your location. I tend to think that there will be lots and lots of barking dogs once the apocalypse hits… in certain areas, anyway.
Will your dog’s bark alert zombies to your location any more than any other dog’s bark will draw zombies to their position? In most zombie fiction, zombies are only hungry for humans. Will the same be true for you? It’s a calculated risk.
Personally, I don’t think barking is a deal breaker for me. It’s just more background noise. Zombies are looking (sniffing? listening? .. feeling?) for humans, not dogs, right? Why would they care a dog is barking?
Some dogs, such as the Alaskan Malamute, don’t bark as much as other dogs. No dog is mute (barring any injury) but larger dogs tend to be less vocal. I’d hesitate bringing a small ‘toy’ dog with me. They definitely make too much noise.
Of course, you’re fighting a war on two fronts. If you’ve got a dog, the zombies may ignore it. Other humans, however, may not. I just hope your companion can take some raiders down if need be if you decide you do want to bring your dog along.
The second con is one that worries me. Food. Your pooch is gonna get hungry. If it’s not accustomed to hunting food, it’ll starve.
Some dogs won’t care that you’re not feeding him and just go hunt some squirrels or rabbits or something for itself and be fine. Others, however, don’t know a squirrel from a rock. If your dog isn’t a hunting breed, they may not be cut out for the zombie apocalypse.
Fortunately, dogs can eat a much larger variety of foods than we can. They can eat rotten food. If there are any supplies left in groceries and supermarkets, they will turn rancid mere hours after the power grid goes down. You could take these supplies and feed them to your dog.
Overall, I think having a dog with you is mostly beneficial. I’m absolutely sure that there will be those that disagree. I’m also absolutely sure that they’ll voice their opinions. If you think up anything I left out, please drop me a line on Twitter or Facebook.