Friends, I have a theory about dogs.
The image you have just seen is a not-very-good screenshot taken from my first encounter with the Watchdog of the Old Lords in Bloodborne's Pthumeru chalice dungeon. Apart from being very big and covered in fire, this "Watchdog" has one particular characteristic that caught my eye; something that's bothered me ever since the revelation crept its way into my mind.
It doesn't really look like a dog.
Look at it. Clearly not a dog. Look at its head.That's not a dog's head. It's clearly the head of a crocodile. This creature, if anything, more closely resembles Ammit, devourer of the dead, than any kind of canine known to this world.
Clearly neither of these creatures are dogs...but what if this is what a dog was originally supposed to be? Could what we know as a 'dog' actually be nothing more than a defective product?
What is a dog, as we know it? A shit wolf. A capable pack hunter downgraded in order to plod about bumping into things and shitting everywhere. A laughing stock, manufactured for our own amusement and too dumb to realise that they're essentially slaves whom we are all quietly laughing at inside. It's not unthinkable that this might not be what the gods had in mind when the dog was in the design phase, and that the menacing and dignified crocodile was more what they were going for.
Let's compare a dog to a crocodile right now. Which do you think any self-respecting creator deity would aim for?
This is a dog. Note the expression of vague worry plastered across its gormless face. Clearly it has no idea where it is or what it's meant to be doing there. The dog hasn't the faintest idea what's going on, but it seems to know that it's fucking up. It's trying to put up a front, trying to convince you that it's got this, but it clearly expects you to do something about the current situation. It wants to help, don't get me wrong, but it's waiting on you to take charge, because the one thing it knows with any certainty is that it's not equipped to deal with this. It's never equipped to deal with this.
Now let's take a look at the crocodile.
The crocodile, in stark contrast to the dog, clearly knows something you don't. Notice its smug expression; it knows it has the upper hand. This is the face of a creature that has been planning for this day for years. There is no eventuality for which this beast hasn't accounted for, and one way or another we will always find ourselves dancing in its palm, no matter how we may fight it...because it has quite simply planned for everything. Who can say what meticulous schemes are forming in its mind even now?
Clearly a master tactician, even the baby crocodile seems to know what it's doing. While it does not wear the face of experience, you can see that it has already started to see the pieces fall into place. It has seen through you, and everything around you, and you realise that if you don't stop this creature now, you will never have another chance to do so. It will not give you one.
There can be no doubt that crocodiles are superior to dogs, but they are not perfect. Dogs have one advantage: mobility.
I'd wager a dog could outmanoeuvre most crocodiles if pressed, and thus mercifully the crocodile lacks the physical dexterity to enact many of its plans itself, relying instead on pawns wherever it can. This places a severe limitation on the kinds of schemes a crocodile can enact, since it is forced to rely on other, less competent species. Not, then, the ideal situation for one of the natural world's finest strategic minds.
But suppose that the mind of the crocodile, combined with its intimidating and respectable visage, were combined with the superior mobility of the dog. Surely such a creature would be a masterpiece of design, a testament to the infinite wisdom of the creator. There is no doubt in my mind that this was the design intended by the creator, and that the separation of dog and crocodile was not part of the original vision.
The implications of this are many. Look again upon Ammit the Devourer. What we see here could perhaps represent the original prototype for all dogs. Clearly Ammit was part of the early stage of development, as she is still burdened by the rather inelegant addition of the hippo segment toward the rear. The hind legs of the hippo cannot hope to match the speed and dexterity of the lion's legs found at the front, and so they become nothing more than a hindrance. We can tell even from just the illustrations that this complete mismatch between front and back legs makes things incredibly awkward for the gods' first attempt at a dog.
But why scrap the lion segment? Wouldn't a cat-like form be the best choice for mobility? Why create what we now know to be the body of a dog, and why were dogs and crocodiles forced to become separate beings? I still had many unanswered questions that burned in my mind like a bunch of burning objects that require some kind of answer in order to stop burning and hurting the inside of my head. I was determined to find out more.
In order to learn what exactly happened during the development of the dog, I made the long journey to the Valley of the Lost Gods to meet with Xt'n Shakkahg the Immaculate - keeper of the Guiding Blood. The Guiding Blood is essentially the medium through which the Ancient Ones chart the course of evolution as detailed in a kind of blueprint kept by one who I will simply refer to as "The Architect". The actual names of both the blueprints and their keeper cannot be written here for my own safety.
What little I knew of the Guiding Blood stated that it eventually came to be considered obsolete, presumably by the emergence of an improved medium. As a result, Xt'n Shakkahg was rendered obsolete and cast down from the Higher Plane. Feeling that there might be some connection to the failed development of dogs, I managed to secure an audience with Xt'n Shakkahg, whose inhuman utterings I have roughly translated bellow:
"A while into development, we found that the limitations of the blood were too great for us to create our original, ideal version of the dog," he explained. "We were forced to make more and more compromises with the design just to get it to work. By the end of it, what we had barely resembled what (The Architect) had initially shown us. Since I was providing the blood as a medium the blame for the failure was entirely levelled at me, but I don't think it was a particularly proud moment for any of us."
He went on to explain that there were many creatures that he never got to attempt thanks to the limitations of the Guiding Blood to which he is intrinsically bound. "The truth is that even if these creatures were within reach of the blood, (The Architect) most likely wouldn't have greenlit the development after what our team did with the dog. The blood was dropped the minute another medium was found." At this point the mood in the room seemed to darken. "I think it was more an excuse to cast me down than due to problems with the blood itself. The blood could have been improved; they just wanted me gone so they could put the whole 'dog' thing behind them."
Xt'n Shakkahg allowed me to take a look at the initial sketches for one of the creatures he had wanted to make before the poor reception of the 'dog' cut his career short. Again I cannot write the name of the creature for fear of opening my soul to unspeakable horrors, but I have taken to calling it the "Onion Basilisk" - a charming, if agonisingly obtuse, reptile that sadly never saw the light of day.
"My best work has always been with reptiles," X'tn Shakkahg elaborates. "Even my more vocal critics of the time now admit that the crocodile was a good idea. There are some who even say that it makes up for butchering the design of the dog, but I don't think that's a popular opinion."
I went on to show X'tn Shakkahg an image of the Watchdog of the Old Lords. He laughed: "It's probably just a coincidence. It's still pretty uncanny how accurate it is, though. The flames are a nice touch. Completely impractical, though. It'd just burn to death."
X'tn Shakkahg did however admit that "It's not unthinkable that whoever designed this boss might have known about the dog's early development. I've lost count of the number of game developers who have been touched by eldritch wisdom and then subconsciously incorporated it into their game design."
Assuming that my recollection of events is unaffected by the trauma inflicted on the mortal mind by beholding the Ancient Ones, this categorically proves that what we know as 'dogs' were never meant to be, and were merely the recessive component left over from the creation of what we now call 'crocodiles'. The Watchdog of the Old Lords is a 'dog' in the sense that it is what all dogs were meant to be: gigantic and clearly reptilian. In this way, From Software have made possible what the Guiding Blood could not - they have brought this creation to life, finally giving us the chance to not only look upon it, but interact with it - backing away hurriedly, violently clawing back as much ground as we can, fighting through teeth and flame in a desperate effort to cling to our miserable lives...the way the creator always intended.
Or maybe "Watchdog" was an idiom. I dunno.