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We all assumed Fallout 4’s Dogmeat was just a construct, but he’s based on a real (and amazingly cute) dog.

Real life Dogmeat update: September 22, 2015

Bethesda have released a behind-the-scenes showing River – the real life Dogmeat – having some motion capture work done. Thankfully they didn’t have to cover him in a silly ping-pong ball suit like Andy Serkis in The Lord of the Rings any movie he’s ever been in; they just let River – the real life Dogmeat – generally lark about and filmed what happened:

Who’s a good boy?

Original real life Dogmeat story

A month and a half ago, we got ludicrously excited to learn that Dogmeat was in Fallout 4. We had already completely lost our shit were already somewhat excited, and then Bethesda’s Todd Howard announced that Dogmeat couldn’t die in Fallout 4, and our excitement went nuclear.

Here’s how a Fallout 3 session (which I am replaying at the moment) usually goes for me at the moment:

“Dogmeat, stay away from that Super Mutant!”
<Dogmeat has died>
*Reload last save*
“Dogmeat, no! I just put a bottlecap mine in that doorw-”
<Dogmeat has died>
*Reload last save*
“God damn it Dogmeat, don’t go swimming with the freaking Mirelurks!”
<Dogmeat has died>
*Reload last save*
“Dogmeat… what are you doing… don’t go into Old Olney, it’s full of Deathclaws!”
<Dogmeat has died>
*Reload last save*
*Fast-travel to Megaton*
“Dogmeat, stay here boy; it’s too dangerous for you out there, and if I have to reload one more save I’ll go insane…”

Everybody naturally assumed that the frustration of losing an uncontrollable Dogmeat time and time again was the reason Bethesda have made Dogmeat invincible* in Fallout 4. With his insanely high perception score and undying desire to protect his master, Dogmeat will go and pick a fight with the biggest badass he can find at the drop of a hat, and it’s almost impossible not to lose him if you don’t leave him safely back at home.

They heard the customer feedback in between Fallout 3 and Fallout 4, and along with the usual suspects – landscape too green, repair system too basic, world full of junk that we can’t actually do anything useful with – propensity of canine suicide-by-Super-Mutant must’ve been right up there.

Dogmeat is real

Now, however, we think there’s another reason: Dogmeat is a real dog.

No, not like that. I’m not a lunatic. I get sad when Dogmeat dies to the point I reload my save, but I don’t think he’s actually real.

What I mean to say is Dogmeat – the dog in Fallout 4 – is actually based on a real-life dog, owned by Joel and Michelle Burgess (a Bethesda staffer and former Bethesda staffer respectively). The good folks at QuakeCon 2015 were treated to some video footage of Dogmeat’s real-life counterpart, a gorgeous German Shepherd named River.

Fallout 4's Dogmeat is River in real life
The way Bethesda have captured River’s likeness in Fallout 4’s Dogmeat is remarkable.

Now, some of you may know that the Dogmeat in Fallout 3 was based on an Australian cattle-dog, the canine companion of Mad Max from the original 80s movies. Now, it’s easy to allow a fictional dog to be killed, if said fictional dog is based on an already-fictional dog. There’s no emotional attachment there.

But if you know the real dog. And you know the person who owns it. And you have to be responsible for the absolute spitting image of that real life dog dying a million deaths, over and over, in homes across the world and all over Twitch and YouTube?

I don’t know about you guys, but I couldn’t cope with the guilt, and I suspect that’s the real reason for Dogmeat’s inability to die.


*Dogmeat is invincible in Fallout 4, but he isn’t invulnerable – he’ll still be able to get hurt, will need Stimpaks to keep going, and will get knocked unconscious – but he can’t die, which is still a minor miracle in itself.

Thanks to Kotaku for the tip on this one.

Fallout 4 is released on November 10, 2015 – pre-order it from Amazon now.

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