I read this a couple of decades ago in some forgotten anthology.

The very old last human on Earth lives in a tall castle or tower, he has like modified dog servants who walk upright, talk and have hands. There are currently only one male dog and a few females left.

The man is getting feeble and beginning to die and one day the devoted dog (also getting old) asks him for the breeding codes to ensure there will be more dogs to continue their race.

The cranky old dude gets irate at the thought of the dog enjoying a sex life and has a rant which ends with him throwing the necessary code thing out of a really high balcony over a cliff, desperately the dog leaps and grabs the package but misses the ledge and plummets to his doom.

The story ends with the female dogs howling dismally as they realise they are doomed to die out.


1 Answer 1


This must surely be Auto-da-fe by Damon Knight, first published in Galaxy in 1961.

The last man alive is just called "the king of the world". He is about 9,000 years old, and approaching the end of his life. He is served by one male dog named Roland, and some female dogs:

Dogs and men, they all died eventually. The dogs lived five hundred years at most; all the art of their masters had not been able to give them more. But the race of dogs was not finished; the race of man was.

There were fifty-nine dogs left, fifty-eight females, one male.

As Roland is approaching the end of his life, he asks the man for the "control code" enabling him to breed. The man at first agrees, but as he takes hold of the control cylinder he changes his mind, as he realizes that this will enable the dogs to continue as a race after mankind has died out. Angrily he throws the cylinder over the edge of the balcony where he is sitting. On instinct Roland jumps after it, to his death.

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 story can be read in full at the Baen website.

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