I can't remember exactly when it was that I first began to notice the rock dogs. Not the wild ones that roam the umber plains and valleys of Ascalon, nor yet the snarling guards of the ogre camps. Those I'd known forever. They'd long since ceased to feel bizarre or alien with their spiked and plated coats and their scimitar bone spurs.
No, these were pets, or so it seemed. Suddenly they were everywhere, flinging themselves on the deluded grawl at The Frozen Maw or leaping at the throats of invaders in The Mists. They'd fight ferociously for a while and then, as mysteriously as they appeared, they'd slump to the ground, curl up and fade away.
At first I thought they were being summoned into battle by a mass blowing of Ogre Pet Whistles, as used once to happen often when we battled Tequatl, but although the grateful Gortho, Son of Malik still sells his whistles on occasion, the Great Pet Summoning Items Nerf of '14 put them and their like squarely out of fashion.
If there was one person likely to know what was going on, I reasoned, it would be Evon "I was the favorite" Gnashblade. Arms-dealer, entrepreneur, failed political candidate and erstwhile civil servant, he's a charr with his sharp-clawed fingers in every pie.
And so it proved. There it was, on Gnashblade's Black Lion Trading Post, listed openly. Yours for less than a gold apiece (just barely): the Superior Rune of the Ogre. Scan down the set bonuses and you'll see it: "25% chance when struck to summon a rock dog (cooldown 90 seconds)".
In Tyria almost everyone has pets. Not just the peaceful minis that trail behind us humming and whirring and doing little dances, the princesses and pigs, the queens and the quaggans, but real, fighting creatures, willing, or at least compelled, to fight for us until they either die or vanish into the netherworlds whence we summoned them.
Some are the true pet masters and mistresses, the rangers with their menageries, the necromancers with their minions, perhaps even the mesmers with their clones. The rest make do with their assortment of short-lived assistants. Thieves get to call on their guild, elementalists summon elementals (well, what would you expect?), guardians fight beside ethereal self-wielding weapons. Engineers have turrets but until they invent the wheel those hardly count. Warriors...do they get any help at all? If so I can't recall what it might be.
If there's one thing everyone other than a thief or mesmer about to step into the shadows knows it's that when you're in a tight corner you can never have too many pets. Every biting, scratching, clawing, punching creature counts. For my money rock dogs count double.
Take that "25% chance when struck". It doesn't sound like much but let me tell you it can be a life-saver. Literally. If you're on the losing end of a fight one thing you can guarantee is that you're going to get struck - a lot. Frankly, unless you're one of those float like a butterfly types, you're going to get struck a lot even when you're winning.
Rock dog's procs rock. He's out far more than he's in. With a set of ogre runes you'll never fight alone. What's more he's tough. He can take a hit and dish one out and he hangs around. He's vigilant too. He'll leap to your aid whenever anything attacks you and if there's nothing left to fight he waits a good while before deciding it's time for his eternal sleep.
With a rock dog everyone's a ranger. Out exploring the wilderness alone, far from any chance of a drive-by revive, it's rock dog who stands between you and a trip to the nearest waypoint. There have been times, not a few, when I've lain there, downed, throwing my handfuls of dirt and cheering him on as he clawed something down, rallying me back to my feet.
It doesn't hurt that the rest of the stats on the Ogre rune are decent too. For a self-reliant soul not bound to the meta it's a respectable option even without the dog. With him it's almost too good to miss. At just under six gold for the set it's a far more affordable option than the similar, supposedly superior, Scholar. When a new member of the crew hits 80 and runes are being bought it's sometimes hard to look beyond the dog.
And, as I see rock dogs bounding into battle all around me, I think I can't be the only one who feels this way.