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If there was one thing that aliens could never figure out about humans, it was probably the continued existence of dogs.

Sure, they argued in their off-world universities, their great bastions of learning and knowledge. Long ago, when our ape ancestors were barely able to wrap their fat fingers around tools, it made sense to keep dogs around. They barked to alert their nearly deaf masters of danger, helped fight back against those predators that sought to rip apart these useless apes. Dogs served a purpose.

Even as humans mastered the art of hammering a peg into a hole, built primitive weapons and warred back and forth for control of tiny little chunks of their homeworld, dogs continued to serve a purpose, at least for a while longer. Some continued filling the role of defense, while others hunted pests, turned spits to roast meat, even helped rescue some of the stranded humans when they got lost (usually from their own stupidity). Dogs still made sense.

But now? Now, when the enlightened races had finally accepted humanity into their fold, had gifted these apes with knowledge of how the most advanced technology in the galaxy functioned, now that humans could finally reach those stars that had twinkled and taunted them overhead for so long?

Now, they had no need of dogs. These animals were a relic of their past, like some of their diseases, like wars over resources that were incredibly bountiful once they dared to reach beyond their own planet.

But still, thought Hez’Reen irritably as he gazed out the porthole of the ship, they insisted on keeping the dumb creatures around.

Glancing over at him, the human, Erik, observed his discomfort. “Don’t worry,” he called out, widening his big, watery eyes. “They won’t hurt you. They’re well trained, even if they do like to jump on people.”

“Yes, jumping,” Hez’Reen repeated, two of his eyes lingering on the porthole. They were jumping now, he observed, although not on anything, as far as he could tell. Just up and down, mouths hanging open, teeth flashing and a large masticating muscle – a tongue, he recalled the name – hanging out. They looked ridiculous, caricatures of true predators.

Erik raised and lowered his shoulders, a gesture of mild embarrassment. “The wife had them, first,” he said. “We had a hell of a time finding a complex out here that would accept pets, but whatever, I’ve gotten attached to them, too. The lighter colored guy is Bruce, the other one’s Bucky.”

“Bruce? Bucky?” Hez’Reen repeated, confused. “What is a Bruce? What is a Bucky?”

“Oh, sorry. Those are their names,” Erik said, turning back to the controls as if this made everything obvious.

Hez’Reen looked out at the dogs, aghast. The humans even named them, as if they were more than dumb animals, beasts that had somehow survived far longer than should have been permitted by evolution?

The ship settled down, the docking clamps automatically engaging and pulling it in against the building. Erik powered down the engines and stood up, moving to the ship’s hatch. He hit the release button, Hez’Reen following a pace or two behind.

Outside, on the bridge that led from the dock to the huge apartment block, the dogs immediately leapt forward, attacking Erik! Hez’Reen fell back, fearful, as he saw their big tails sweeping back and forth, perhaps aiding them in balance as they repeatedly attacked. Erik let out a shout – was it a cry of pain? Was he being brought down by their teeth and claws?

But no, Hez’Reen saw after a minute. Erik was shouting, but he appeared unscathed, and that upward twist of his mouth indicated happiness. “Good boys!” he shouted out, his fingers rubbing the dogs on top of their heads. They seemed to lean in towards him, those big tongue-muscles hanging out. “Yes, it’s me! I’m home!”

Finally, he climbed back up to his feet, heading in towards the apartment blocks. “Well, come on,” he called back to Hez’Reen, as the dogs continued to bounce around him, following him. It was adoration, Hez’Reen now recognized. The dogs seemed to adore the human, almost worshipping him. “You can come meet the wife, have some dinner with us.”

For a moment, Hez’Reen almost considered leaving, excusing himself from the invitation. Social protocols had dictated that it was good manners to accept such an invitation from his superior at work, but he felt very out of place here. But the dogs appeared to not be bothering him, after all, and it would be rude to reject an already accepted invitation.

So he followed after the human, locomoting across the jetway between the docked ship and the apartment block. Dogs, he thought again to himself with disgust. Slavish worshipping lesser animals, kept by humans just for dominance and entertainment.

It made no sense.

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