there’s an educational trivia game at the citadel on the exhibits on different planets called “Dog or Not?” that shows pictures of various four legged mammals and asks if they’re a breed of dog.
it was mainly for kids to learn about the diversity of earth’s flora and fauna but it became popular with adult aliens too and had to be shut down after almost causing no less than three diplomatic incidents.
they brought it to the nexus and it’s caused two more so far
“That’s definitely a dog.” “Incorrect. This is actually an animal called a ‘raccoon’” “What? No! It’s got the ears and the tail!”
“Okay, okay, I got this. That’s not a dog. It’s way too big it’s uhhh I think humans call them bears.” “Incorrect. This is a dog breed called a ‘newfoundland’”
And when it becomes such a cultural obsession that they run tournaments and the final rounds are displayed live on the worldswide hologram system …
Somewhat cocky contestant (who heckles the others for wrong answers) looks at the hologram on display: “I’ve read up on a lot of Earth animals, even visited the Earth zoo, so you can’t fool me. It’s a picture on a farm so that’s the first clue. It’s white, fluffy, got a sloping forehead and no distinct… muzzle.. if I do remember the term correctly. It’s most definitely a sheep.”
Trivia host (attempting to hide their joy at finally being able to tell the contestant they’re wrong): “I’m sorry, that is a dog called a Bedlington Terrier. It is actually bred to look like a sheep, but notice the lack of keratinized tissue coverings on the extremities that make contact with the ground. You missed quite an obvious difference there.” (after the contestant stutters a bit and protests about dogs made specifically to look like not-dogs) “Let’s take it to the judges then” (after consulting small podium-top hologram of judging panel, now grinning and dripping with sarcasm) “Awwww…unfortunately it is a dog and rules of the game do not allow us to award partial credit… toooooo baaaaaad” (super cheerfully) “aaand… next image please!”
Shepard loves “Dog or Not?”. The human crew never misses a tournament airing. They get it on a vid screen in the mess hall and all crowd around. Some people bring blankets and pillows. Some make snacks to share. Eventually it becomes like a Superbowl party.
Dog or Not becomes a sort of inside joke on the Normandy, one that the non-human crew members still kind of get – they’re always invited to the viewing parties and sometimes sit in – but don’t really understand. Tali especially doesn’t understand when a snickering Shepard elbows her and, pointing to a varren being taken for a walk, asks, “Hey, Tali – dog or not?”
“That’s…that’s a varren, Shepard,” Tali responds, bemused. “You know what a varren is.”
Shepard is still giggling, and Kaidan, who heard the exchange, joins in.
Liara, Ashley, and Shepard go to recover the lost data drive at Admiral Hackett’s request. They eventually find themselves surrounded by the strange monkey-looking organisms.
With a straight face, Ashley comments, “Wow, sure are a lot of dogs on this planet.”
Shepard doubles over. Liara isn’t sure whether or not to laugh. She’s watched “Dog or Not?” before, so she knows these creatures aren’t dogs…right?
Garrus accidentally joins in on the fun after they discover a new species on a fog-covered planet. They’re bright red, they have carapaces, and they breathe fire. The team is examining one’s corpse when Garrus asks hesitantly, “So…is that a dog?”
Shepard’s head whips up and they stare at him for a full five seconds before breaking down. Garrus has to half-carry a wheezing, crying Shepard back to the shuttle. Jack’s eyelashes are wet from her own mirth.
They’re driving full speed over the scorching desert of Tuchanka. They’ve just called Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws, to deal with the Reaper destroyer in their way. All faces are pressed to the windows to see the fight.
Kalros bursts from the sands with an unearthly screech and tackles the Reaper. The two grapple in the sands, both representing the might of organic and synthetic, respectively.
“Garrus,” Shepard says in a low, awed voice.
Garrus has been around Shepard for too long not to know when they’re about to make a joke. “Shepard, I swear on all the spirits of Palaven – “
“That’s the biggest dog I’ve ever seen.”
Garrus quietly regrets all his choices that led him to this moment, then sighs. “Which one?” he returns.
I have never played a Mass Effect game, yet this was very amusing.