This is not a proper session post, since it’s too late for me to actually do some serious playing tonight as I write this. But since I did finish up all my playthrough posting, I did want to go ahead and try out whether I could recover Finds-The-Way’s lost Stray Dog!
Answer: yes! And I learned a couple things in the process. This is a post to write that up, for the benefit of any other Skyrim players who may run into a similar issue.
What got me here in the first place
Let’s review, first. Back in the post I put up for Finds’ sessions 19 through 21, where I was running the Interception quest for the Remnants, y’all will remember I found a Stray Dog.
That dog followed me to Purewater Run. But while I was in there, since Finds is an Argonian, I decided to dive deeper into the water in that cave and see what treasure was down there. I saw the Stray Dog trying to follow me down–and that was the last I saw of it, in fact. As I wrote at the time, it completely disappeared on me, and I’d given it up for lost.
Fast-forward to the most recent post I put up for Finds, session 36. Here, I wrote that my newly adopted kid Sofie gushed at me about adopting my dog! The dog which, as I wrote, was not with me at all.
But clearly the game still thought I had a dog. So now the question became, could I recover it?
Mind you, I wanted to do this not because I wanted the dog actively following me again. As of this writing, Finds is at level 48. And most dogs, Stray Dogs included, top out at level 25. Which means that if I had a Stray Dog actually following me again, chances were very high that I’d lose it to the next leveled opponent that came along.
And yet, Sofie did ask me if she could adopt the dog. For values of “the dog” meaning, whatever dog the game still thought I had! So I figured it would be nice, for the roleplay and the sake of the kid, to have an actual dog around Lakeview where I currently have the kids parked.
Plus, I was just curious about whether the dog was recoverable! The Stray Dog page on the UESP wiki, and specifically the Discussion tab on that page, talks about this very problem. And mentioned two possible solutions I wanted to try:
- If you get Meeko as a follower, he apparently overrides any previous pets
- If you are able to get the Stray Dog’s RefID out of your game’s save file, then you can use that in the console to move the dog to you
So I wanted to try both of these things.
And also, specifically for the benefit of any other Steam Deck players, let me also note that:
- I did this in Desktop mode on the Steam Deck, not Game Mode
- I also had my Bluetooth keyboard active, for better ease of working with the console
The Meeko workaround
I did this first, since it was easier, and required only in-game action. I fired up my most recent save. And since I hadn’t actually marked Meeko’s Shack on Finds’ map yet, I fast traveled to Dead Men’s Respite first to get within reasonable range of it.
I had to fight a dragon that showed up, as well as a wolf. But once I did that, it was a short ride over to find Meeko.
And I can now confirm that yes, I was able to recruit Meeko as a follower, even though the game in theory still thought I had a dog. Somewhere.
First attempt at recovering the Stray Dog
Next, even though I had Meeko now actively following me, I wanted to see if I could get the Stray Dog too.
So I followed the procedure described on the Discussion tab of the Stray Dog wiki page, which required me to do these things:
- Open my console
- Make a temporary text version of my game’s most recent save, using this command:
save FindsTheWayTemporary 1
- Search down through that text file for occurrences of “Stray Dog”
- Find the correct RefID (because there are multiple occurrences of “Stray Dog” in the file, you see)
- Use the
pridconsole command on that RefID to make that one the active one for commands
- Then use
moveto playerto bring the dog to me at Lakeview
In the command I used to generate the save file, I chose the filename “FindsTheWayTemporary”. You can put whatever you want there. But be sure to have the 1 after it, because that specifies ‘save this in text format’.
The page warned I would have to search down the file, because the first occurrence of “Stray Dog” would not be the one I wanted it. The page recommended looking for the first RefID for “Stray Dog” that began with “FF”.
Note that I did not actually have to exit Skyrim to search the save file. Since I was already in Desktop mode on the Deck and had my Bluetooth keyboard active, I was able to Alt-Tab to the desktop and see that an editor window automatically opened with the data I needed displayed in it.
Also note, since Finds’ playthrough is in German, I had to search for the word “Streunender” instead of “Stray”. But the overall procedure was still the same.
Since the wiki advised using the second occurrence I found of “Stray Dog” in the file, that’s what I did. That got me a RefID of FF001629. Note also that this ID will differ in every game, so you to actually search your save file to get whatever RefID is relevant for your own playthrough!
And I was able to get a Stray Dog right there in front of me! But there was a problem.
Because the Stray Dog was hostile.
After a couple of seconds, it and Meeko started barking at each other and fighting. And one of the kids threw off a line about “why are they fighting?!” Finally, the Stray Dog started attacking me, at which point Rayya ran over to take it out.
So that was no damn good.
Second attempt at recovering the Stray Dog
I tried again, rolling back to the last official save I’d done with this character, and not trying to get Meeko this time. I thought maybe having Meeko around might have pissed off the Stray Dog somehow?
But no joy. Again, I was able to get the Stray Dog, but it showed up hostile, startled the kids, and made Rayya attack it.
No damn good, round two.
Third attempt at recovering the Stray Dog
Then it occurred to me: was I using the correct instance of the Stray Dog? An important question here is, since Stray Dogs can spawn multiple times in the same game, how many did I actually have in my save file?
So I went back again to my last official save, and tried once more.
This time, instead of taking the second instance of “Streunender Hund” in my file, I took the third one. That got me a RefID of FF000DE8.
When I tried to bring that one to me at Lakeview’s front door, I saw no obvious result. So I then tried the wiki procedure’s next suggestion: using
resurrect in the console.
And that worked.
The dog appeared, and more importantly, seemed to be the correct dog. It was acting friendly, had the expected (albeit in German) conversational prompts on it, and was still actively following me! And I was able to dismiss it so it would stay at the house. So now the dog that Sofie asked me if she could adopt is actually with Sofie. Which is what I wanted to accomplish!
Since I did actually have to resurrect the Stray Dog, it seems like it must indeed have been killed by the slaughterfish in Purewater Run as I originally suspected. But for whatever reason, the game didn’t properly clean up after that event. So it was dead, but still technically somehow able to get Sofie to trigger the “OMG YOU HAVE A DOG” conversation.
I shall take the liberty of assuming for Finds’ narrative that Streunender Hund did in fact survive Purewater Run, and has been helping Rayya and Lydia guard Lakeview all this time. ;D Because seriously y’all, there’s a necromancer right down the hill and bandits in the other direction! Lakeview needs a good guard dog!
Overall, the procedure described on the Stray Dog page’s Discussion thread seems to work. The one thing I will add to this is to be mindful that you may need to repeat the attempt a couple of times, if the first RefID you try is not the specific Stray Dog you’re looking for. Now that I’ve personally tried this solution, though, I can confirm that it worked for me.
And also, again specifically for Steam Deck players, if you need to try this then do it with a Bluetooth keyboard if you can, just to make it easier for you to work with the console.
If you’re playing Skyrim on a device or console that doesn’t give you access to the debug console (Nintendo Switch, I’m looking straight at you), I can also confirm that the Meeko workaround did not actually solve the problem of recovering the specific Stray Dog I’d lost. But it did work in the sense of my being able to recruit Meeko at all. So if the problem you want to solve is just resetting your pet follower slot, you might try this too.
Also, now I know how to create a temporary save file in text format in Skyrim, and search it for useful information! So that was fun to learn about. And it won’t surprise me in the slightest if I need to use this knowledge again in a future playthrough!
Once I got the dog successfully recovered, I made a proper new save–to be ready for the next actual play!
As noted in my last official playthrough post for Finds, I want to send her off to Solstheim soon. But I think I’ll need to visit the Throat of the World first and get Clear Skies, and also run The Cause so that I can get the Conjure Daedric Horse spell!