In this story a man has developed a new type of intelligence/IQ testing machine. He tries it out on a friend's dog and finds out the dog gets a rating of 400, where the median or mean for humans is 100.

He and his friend confront the dog and either a) the dog somehow tells them this or b) they determine that dogs are actually an alien race that came here and decided to hide their intelligence so the humans would provide everything for them - food, shelter, medical care, etc. Perhaps the dog is somewhat apologetic about the deception but asks them to understand and wonders if they wouldn't have done the same thing if they had the opportunity.

This was probably the late fifties to early sixties and I think it was in one of those short story collections from the Science Fiction Book Club.

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    Probably not this, but there are similarities. "** Eric Frank Russell's "Into Your Tent I'll Creep" (short story, science fiction) Humans are slaves of a master race unknown to them - the dogs! And now this master race has used humans to spawn itself as masters of an alien race too - aliens that are friendly to humans."
    – sueelleker
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 16:53
  • In a similar vein, Pratchett has camels as the best mathematicians on the Disc who hide the talent in order to be left with time to contemplate such matters. Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 19:19
  • Dear sueelleker, It doesn't sound quite right. I have been finding through the answers I am getting to the other posts I have just made that memory, of course, is a tricky thing. I just don't remember any aliens. The 'tone' of my memory is two guys in suburban America in the fifties or sixties and one has a dog for a pet. Thanks. Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 23:37

1 Answer 1


I read a story very similar to this when I was a teenager. (It was reprinted in a schoolbook.) I remembered the author as soon as I saw your description, but I had to look up the title.

"Tom Edison's Shaggy Dog," by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. First printed in the magazine Collier's (March 14, 1953). If you follow the link to the ISFDB listing, you'll see this story has been reprinted many times, most of them being successive editions of a Vonnegut story collection: Welcome to the Monkey House.

The "Shaggy Dog" bit in the title is meant to give us readers fair warning that the entire thing may well be an elaborate joke on the part of the guy telling the story. You see, the major plot points are only being recounted, in dialogue, by one old man talking to another old man as they sit on a park bench in Tampa, Florida.

One man is Harold K. Bullard, accompanied by a Labrador retriever. He loves to talk long and loud to a captive audience, but nobody ever wants to be the captive audience for a second time after they've endured the first experience, so he is always hunting for new victims. The other elderly man is simply referred to as "the stranger," because Bullard has never seen him before, couldn't care less about his name, and never bothers to ask!

The stranger tries to shake Bullard off, but finally seizes control of the conversation by starting to tell a story about something interesting that happened to him when he was a nine-year-old boy, living in Menlo Park, New Jersey, and just happened to be a neighbor to Thomas Alva Edison. This was back when Edison was working hard to find just the right ingredient to put inside a glass bulb in order to get a really practical method of lighting places up with electricity. But in his spare time, Edison had done something else with electricity: He had built a prototype "intelligence analyzer." Hook up some wires to a person's head and a gauge would show how intelligent he was. (Presumably by somehow measuring how much thinking he was doing, and how quickly, in terms of electrical impulses in the brain, although the narrator doesn't go into much technical detail.)

The boy suggests they try it on Edison's dog Sparky. The dog vigorously resists being hooked up to the intelligence analyzer, but the humans persevere. Then they find that the dog's reading goes past a line on the gauge which represents Edison's own intellectual prowess. After checking his analyzer to make sure it isn't broken or something, Edison does some hard thinking and accepts the implications of this startling evidence. I will quote the key passage. (Bear in mind that most of this is dialogue spoken by the stranger as he talks to Bullard, with the "single quotes" marking the bits that are supposedly a word-for-word rendition of what he said, and others said, at the time, several decades earlier.)

"'So!' said Edison to Sparky. ’Man’s best friend, huh? Dumb animal, huh?'

"That Sparky was a caution. He pretended not to hear. He scratched himself and bit fleas and went around growling at ratholes — anything to get out of looking Edison in the eye.

"'Pretty soft, isn’t it, Sparky?’ said Edison. 'Let somebody else worry about getting food, building shelters and keeping warm, while you sleep in front of a fire or go chasing after the girls or raise hell with the boys. No mortgages, no politics, no war, no work, no worry. Just wag the old tail or lick a hand, and you’re all taken care of.'

"'Mr. Edison,' I said, 'do you mean to tell me that dogs are smarter than people?'

"'Smarter?' said Edison. 'I’ll tell the world! And what have I been doing for the past year? Slaving to work out a light bulb so dogs can play at night!'

"'Look, Mr. Edison,' said Sparky, 'why not—'"

"Hold on!" roared Bullard.

"Silence!" shouted the stranger, triumphantly. "'Look, Mr. Edison,' said Sparky, 'why not keep quiet about this? It’s been working out to everybody’s satisfaction for hundreds of thousands of years. Let sleeping dogs lie. You forget all about it, destroy the intelligence analyzer, and I’ll tell you what to use for a lamp filament.'"

It is also stated that Edison and the kid (the future elderly stranger) both swore a vow of secrecy, and that the kid's payoff was a stock market tip from Sparky which made him independently wealthy for life. But, as I said, we receive no reliable confirmation of any of this, and there is a high probability that the stranger was simply trying to give Bullard a psychological shock. (And perhaps make him suspicious of his own dog!)

  • Thank you Lorendiac, this is exactly what I remember! As I read it I remembered the dialog "Let somebody else worry about getting food...". Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 15:17
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    I say again, this is a great website. I have had four stories that I only remembered fragments of for many years. I kept on meaning to try to find the stories then, fortuitously, stumbled on this site. And in a coupla days have all of the questions not only answered but linked to a site that has OCR copies of SF stories. Thanks to all. Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 15:20

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