Daryl Dixon's (Norman Reedus) dogged determination to find the missing Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) brings him a new four-legged friend as The Walking Dead reveals Dog's origin story in Sunday's episode 1018, "Find Me." When Daryl and Carol go hunting with Dog, they come across an old cabin that triggers memories of the years Daryl left the group after Rick's disappearance. Two years after Rick's presumed death — Daryl watched him blow up a bridge to save his family and friends from a walker horde, not knowing Rick survived and vanished aboard a Civic Republic Military helicopter — Daryl meets Dog.
In a flashback to five years before the events of "Find Me," Daryl's two-year search for Rick's body brings him to the river where he comes across a lone puppy Dog. A year after that, four years before "Find Me," Daryl follows a bigger Dog to the cabin where he meets a woman (Lynn Collins).
"I didn't come here looking for any trouble," Daryl says, staring down the barrel of the woman's 12-gauge shotgun. "Your dog found me."
Six months after the woman lets him go, Daryl and Dog meet again. Back at the cabin, the nameless woman tells Daryl her dog likes him.
"He's just a dog. He doesn't know any better," Daryl says. "Since you won't tell me your name, what about his?"
"Dog," the woman says.
"Dog? That's it? Just Dog?"
Asked if he's got something better, Daryl answers, "Naw. At least you won't forget what he is."
Another eight months later, the woman finally reveals her name: Leah. Three months after that, a freezing winter's night brings Daryl and Leah together under the same roof.
She had a son, Leah tells Daryl through tears, named Matthew. The boy wasn't hers by blood, but he was hers. Opening up about her past, Leah reveals it was her son's death and the loss of found family that brought her out into the middle of nowhere:
"I held Matthew tight. Dog's momma was next to me. She was pregnant. The dead came from all sides, there was… screaming and just so much blood. I got separated from my family, and I ran. I felt like I ran forever, and I ended up here. And I saw my boy was bit. I said goodbye to him the same day Dog was born. I haven't seen another soul out here since. Not until you came along."
Ten months after an intimate encounter between Daryl and Leah, she gives him an ultimatum: choose where you belong. It's either out on the river looking for Rick or here with her, but it's one or the other.
Back at his camp, Daryl studies a map marked with Xs of all the spots he's looked for Rick. The search continues. When he returns to the cabin, he finds it empty except for the Dog still inside. Gone is the photo of Leah and Matthew that once adorned a picture frame left behind.
Scribbling a note he secures away under the floorboards of the empty cabin — "I belong with you Find me" — Daryl leaves with Dog and tells his new canine companion, "We're gonna get her back."
"Find Me" reveals a story first teased by showrunner Angela Kang back in 2018, when Kang explained why a six-year time jump in Season 9 gave Daryl a dog:
"So we were talking about, how can we show the state that Daryl's in? And I thought that it would be great that he's been off for a while after Rick's presumed death. Daryl just went off," Kang told Entertainment Weekly at the time. "And Daryl is somebody who hunts and goes about and does things, and it seemed like a dog is a good companion. It shows that there's still a desire for him to have a connection somehow. And so the dog is his faithful companion. In my mind, there's also a story behind where that dog came from. And so that's how we ended up with a dog."