Fallout 4: My long, strange journey to find my lost dog
Like thousands of other gamers out there, I have been playing a lot of Fallout 4 as of late. After receiving the game as a Christmas present, I proceeded to get lost in its virtual post-apocalyptic take on the Massachusetts Commonwealth (a surreal adventure to be sure considering I grew up in Massachusetts). Only just recently, I finally finished the game’s engrossing main storyline, after which I decided to pursue more mundane secondary tasks like tracking down Bobbleheads and finding all of the game’s recruitable companions.
However, I quickly discovered that one companion was proving more elusive than usual, which was especially worrying since it was a companion I had already recruited. This is the story of how I lost and eventually found Dogmeat, and how said rediscovery opened my eyes to some of Fallout 4’s more minor (yet still noticeable) flaws.
I’m going to explain how I lost Dogmeat in as spoiler-free a way as possible, so don’t worry if you have yet to play Fallout 4 or beat its main questline. Early in the game, you receive a quest which involves following Dogmeat as he sniffs out the scent of a person you’re looking for. You first encounter Dogmeat even earlier than that, guaranteeing that he’s a potential companion by the time you get this quest.
However, the exact nature of how you utilize Dogmeat in this quest is unique, since you can bring him along even if you already have another companion with you (the game usually restricts you to one companion at a time).
When I got the quest, I was still relatively new to Fallout 4, so I didn’t give much thought to these unique circumstances which basically allowed me to have two companions at once. I followed Dogmeat on a lengthy journey through the outdoors up to our final destination, where I was promptly forced to deal with hostile forces (as Fallout 4 players often are when finding a new location).
Here’s where my lack of foresight betrayed me. Instead of methodically dealing with the enemies and then making sure Dogmeat was safe and secure, I simply charged in blindly (I know, I know, rookie mistake) and then ventured into the structure Dogmeat had led me to without a second thought given to my loyal canine companion.
I should have waited and made sure to send Dogmeat back to one of my outposts (when swapping one companion out for another, you decide where your previous companion will travel to and wait for your return), but in my eager excitement to see the next part of the story unfold, I just left Dogmeat to fend for himself, assuming he’d be fine. It wasn’t until many, many hours later (i.e. shortly after beating the main storyline) that I came to a startling realization: I had no idea where Dogmeat was.
I felt bad about abandoning my loyal friend, but I also found some comfort in the knowledge that he had to be somewhere in the world (I was willing to bet that the game wouldn’t simply despawn such an important NPC out of the game entirely), I just had to find him. I tried checking popular outposts like Sanctuary and The Castle, I tried retracing my steps from the tracking quest, I tried looking around the structure Dogmeat had led me to, I took the internet’s advice and checked both the location where you initially find Dogmeat as well as nearby dog houses, and every time I turned up nothing.
Then, finally, after I had just about given up, I discovered one more user-suggested trick I could try. I have no proof of whether or not this trick actually worked, but one internet user suggested destroying every dog house in every outpost until only one was left, thereby leaving only one place for Dogmeat to potentially return to.
I knew from previous experience that there were already several dog houses spread around Sanctuary, so I went about finding them and scrapping them one by one. I found the first one, then the second, then a third, and as I approached the fourth and final Sanctuary dog house, I stopped dead in my tracks. There, lying in the dog house and wagging his tongue without a care in the world, was Dogmeat.
My theory is that destroying the other dog houses allowed the game to finally pick a definitive spot for Dogmeat to return to, and that beforehand he had simply been lost in some sort of world-spawning limbo. I’ve come to this conclusion because I recall ringing the bell I built in Sanctuary (a device which gathers all of the outpost’s settlers when rung) before dismantling the dog houses and never seeing Dog Meat, I’m also quite sure that I checked the exact dog house where Dogmeat was during an earlier visit and he wasn’t there (though it’s possible he was simply wandering around at the time and that he doesn’t respond to the bell).
Chinks In The Power Armor
While my long journey to track down my missing digital dog ended in success, it still highlights a few glaring oversights Bethesda made when designing the outpost and companion recruitment systems. The whole ordeal would not have been necessary if there was a way to track which companions are stationed at which outposts, or if there was a way to see detailed information about a particular outpost at a glance, including which settlers and companions are stationed there. I remember at one point deciding it might be best to simply wait for a modder to create a mod with companion-tracking functionality and pray the mod was eventually ported over to consoles (I play on PlayStation 4).
Of course, I doubt it’d be terribly hard for Bethesda to patch such functionality into the game itself. Who knows? Maybe one of the game’s planned DLC packs will include some sort of in-game method for tracking and locating companions, allowing future players to avoid the trials and tribulations I had to endure just to find my lost dog.
Internet threads like this one prove that losing companions is a widespread issue for the Fallout 4 community, and one which doesn’t just affect Dogmeat. Hopefully a future DLC pack or mod will nullify this issue, but in the meantime, be sure to keep a close eye on your companions if you too decide to venture into Fallout 4’s unforgiving wasteland.