I read this in a 70's or 80's mass market paperback anthology. I believe it may have been a single-author anthology, but I'm not sure.

The cover may have had a statue on it of the extinct god-figure "Man".

The story concerns the last man on Earth, who knows that he will soon die. At some point during Man's long decline, he raised dogs to sentience. Dogs are almost extinct too, though - there is one male dog and a handful of female dogs left. The dogs have been sterilized, to control them, and the man controls the antidote.

The male dog, who has been the man's friend, asks him for the antidote so that the dogs can keep going after humans are finally extinct. The man considers this, and imagines the future that the dogs will build after he is gone. He concludes that because of the positive qualities dogs possess, sentient dogs will eventually build a society better than anything humanity ever built.

He then lies to the dog and tells him he will give him the antidote - but throws it over a cliff. Since dogs - even sentient dogs - can't resist playing fetch, the male dog jumps over the cliff after it. The female dogs wail and howl because they know the man has maliciously stolen the future from them, because he couldn't stand the thought of dogs being better than humanity.

I have found this to be a difficult story to search for, because no matter how I phrase the story elements I end up getting a hundred hits for Simak's City, which is not it.

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    I've read that, but I'm not sure of the title. The last sentence in the short story is something about the last man sitting back and "listen to the bitches howl". Nov 21, 2020 at 19:50
  • Could this be City by Clifford Simak? Or rather one of the many stories that make up City.
    – NomadMaker
    Nov 22, 2020 at 5:54
  • When you mentioned a "handful of sentient dogs", my mind immediately went to Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon The Deep and its 2011 sequel, The Children of the Sky. Both tales heavily feature the Tines, a race of sentient dog[-like] PACKS: groups of four or five animals who achieve sentience collectively, though individually they're comparable to Earth canines. Even though it wasn't the answer to your question, I can't recommend it highly enough. The Tines are compelling as characters, and Vinge is very much in his element writing them.
    – FeRD
    Nov 23, 2020 at 4:14

2 Answers 2


Auto-Da-Fe by Damon Knight. I read it in the anthology Dogtales! but that is quite recent. You would probably have read in in Turning On or The Tenth Galaxy Reader.

This is not a nice story. The last male dog is Roland. We never learn the name of the last man, only that he:

... was nine thousand and some odd hundreds of years old. Long ago, in the first fraction of that life span, he had been given the organic catalysts that slowed down the process of maturity and decay almost to zero ... not quite. At the age of one thousand, he had been a man of thirty, at two thousand, not quite forty. The golden years of full maturity, full powers, were multiplied until it had seemed they would never end.

The chemical causing sterility is in the food, and Roland asks that it be removed:

The words tumbled out in confusion. “Master, I am the last dog. I am near the end of my breeding time. If we do not breed, you will be left unattended when this generation is gone.”

The man looked at him with open hostility in his narrow eyes. “Well, breed, then,” he said. “Don’t come to me for permission to play your dirty little games.”

Roland’s throat was hot with shame. “Master, to breed, I must stop the chemical in the food.”

And the man replies:

The man stared at him silently for a moment, and scrubbed the bristles on his chin with one splotched and bony hand. “So that’s it, is it?” he said. “You want me to unlock the cylinder, so you can make another generation of whining, dirty pups.”

At the end:

“Master? You will unseal the cylinder?”

Tears of rage leaked from the man’s eye-corners. He said thickly, “Here’s your damned cylinder. Catch it, and you can have it!” And then the thing was done: he had flung out his arm with all its waning strength, and the cylinder was turning in the air, beyond the parapet.

Roland acted without thought. His hands and feet scrabbled on the flagstones, his muscles bunched in a pattern as old as the race; then he felt the smooth ivory of the balustrade for an instant under his feet.

He snapped once, vainly, at the cylinder as its arc passed him. Then there was nothing but the rushing wind.

The king of the world sat on his throne, and listened to the bitches howl.

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    "This is not a nice story." No kidding... Nov 22, 2020 at 13:54
  • It is a short story written by Damon Knight, published in Galaxy Magazine, February 1961, page 158. Can be found on archive.org
    – sorix
    Jan 4, 2021 at 10:14

This might be "The Faithful" by Lester Del Rey.

Humans have surgically, genetically, and chemically bio-engineered dogs and apes until they are sentient, then gone ahead and destroyed their society with another world war. The story is told from the point of view of Hungor Beowulf IV, a descendent of the first sentient dog-person. Hungor leads his people in a nomadic lifestyle at first, but finally finds one surviving human, Roger Stren, whose experiments have extended the lifespan of the dog-people to 50+ years -- and allowed him to survive the bioengineered plague which has wiped out humanity..

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    The cover of the 1978 "The Best of Lester Del Ray" looks really promising. This might be it. I will investigate further, and accept the answer tomorrow if this is it. Thanks!
    – tbrookside
    Nov 21, 2020 at 17:20
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    I'm pretty confident that @JohnRennie made a better identification in his answer. I'm sure I read both the Knight and the Del Rey stories, but conflated them over the intervening decades.
    – user888379
    Nov 21, 2020 at 22:31
  • Wow, the Knight story does seem to be it. I think the problem is that I used to own the Del Ray anthology and got the cover stuck in my head.
    – tbrookside
    Nov 21, 2020 at 23:35

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