The next day, Neville goes outside and finds that the milk and hamburger are gone; there are also two dead female bodies lying on the lawn. He notices that the hamburger has been dragged over the garlic, suggesting that the dog took it, not the vampires. Neville takes the two bodies to the fire, and later leaves out more food for the dog.
Instead of spending his day drinking, Neville resumes his routine, dragging bodies to the pit and leaving out food for the dog. Having a companion to care for (the dog) gives Neville a new sense of purpose in life.
As he proceeds with his day, Neville wonders why the vampires have never tried to burn his house down—it seems like such an obvious tactic. Perhaps the vampires are stupider than human beings, since the vampiris germ has ravaged their brains. Later in the day, he is pleased to see the dog walking near his house. The dog eats the hamburger Neville has left for it, and Neville pets the dog, but then lets it walk away (he doesn’t want to scare the dog by pushing it into his house).
It’s not clear why Neville is only now wondering why the vampires don’t burn down his house—one might think that he would’ve thought of this earlier. But perhaps it’s a sign that Neville’s scientific research has helped him think more clearly about his situation, instead of being consumed by fear and paranoia.
The next day, Neville opens his front door to allow the dog to come inside; the dog comes, and Neville feeds it another hamburger. However, the dog scampers away after it’s eaten. Neville spends the evening outside, trying to understand why the dog runs away from him. He becomes so immersed in his thinking that he doesn’t notice that night has fallen—in the distance, he sees Ben Cortman running toward him, and he hurriedly rushes back to his house.
The fact that the dog runs away from Neville may be a subtle symbol that Neville, even if he is the last man on Earth, isn’t necessarily the “good guy” in this story. Neville wants the dog to be on his side, but every night, he’s still left alone.
Over the next few days, Neville continues to feed the dog, and he also begins to talk to it. Neville has barely spoken in the last year, and his own voice sounds strange to him. The dog seems to be getting more and more comfortable with Neville. Then, one day, the dog doesn’t come at all—Neville is very worried. A couple days later, Neville sees the dog, its eyes glazed over, snarling. The dog runs away from Neville, and Neville realizes that it’s seriously infected with the vampiris germ now. He decides that he needs to find a way to cure the dog. He continues leaving food and milk out for the dog during the day, and the dog continues to eat it. One day, Neville picks up the dog and carries it into a room of the house. The dog barks, panicked. Neville thinks, “Why don’t you trust me?”
At first, taking care of the dog is important for Neville because doing so provides him with a sense of purpose and a companion—he finally has someone to talk to (even if the dog can’t talk back to him). Also, the fact that Neville is sympathetic to a victim of the vampiris germ might suggest that Neville is becoming more sympathetic to vampirism in general: instead of regarding all vampires as monsters, he’s starting to see them as victims of an uncontrollable disease.
That night, Neville is eating dinner when he hears the sound of the dog scratching at the linoleum in its room. He realizes that the animal is trying to dig a hole to hide from the vampires. Neville becomes sick to his stomach; he knows that he needs to find a way to cure the dog, fast. He goes into the dog’s room and begins to pet it and talk to it. With tears in his eyes, he promises to take care of the dog. A week later, however, “the dog was dead.”
Neville immediately assumes that the dog is trying to hide from the vampires outside, but it seems just as likely that the dog is trying to escape from Neville, the last uninfected man on Earth! Notice also that Matheson doesn’t say what happens when the dog “dies.” Given that vampires die and then wake from the dead, it’s probable that Neville burns the dog in the pit to ensure that it won’t rise from the grave. Neville, continuing to think of himself as the “good guy,” fails to see things from the point of view of the infected—he thinks he can “cure” vampires, when, in the end, he just ends up burning them to ensure his own survival.