Story, first published: Astounding Science Fiction, Sep. 1944
In ... "Census", Simak introduces the talking dog. Sixty-six years after Jerome Webster's failure, Richard Grant, a government agent taking the first census in three-hundred years, meets Nathaniel, a talking dog, while he is prowling the Webster estates. To palliate the guilt felt by the Websters over the loss of Juwain, Bruce Webster, Jerome's grandson, has been experimenting with dogs, granting the dogs the gift of speech in the hope that two intelligent but dissimilar races working together might improve the human condition. Jerome's son, Grandfather Thomas, is still alive at eighty-six. He designed the first starship, now on its way to Alpha Centauri with his son Allen aboard. Thomas had help from the mysterious, long-lived mutants, descendants of squatters and farmers, who are hiding out in the hills.
Grant is also searching for the mutants in the hope that they might be able to interpret Juwain's remaining notes - his real mission, not the census. After leaving the Websters, Grant encounters the mutant Joe, who helped Thomas Webster build the starship. With a growing apprehension for the future of humankind, Grant realizes that the mutants have no need of human approval and certainly no desire to preserve the human race. For his own amusement, Joe has hastened the evolution of a colony of ants by enclosing their anthill with a glass dome. (The ants have already learned how to smelt ore.) Joe looks at Juwain's papers, but refuses to share his insights with Grant. When Grant threatens him, Joe knocks Grant out and teals the Juwain notes. In the final scene of the story, Grant charges the dogs to carry on the dream of progress.
Ewald, Robert J.: When the Fires Burn High and the Wind is from the North, p.41-42