Column: A Dog's Tale

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Cabbage Patch

Historians and anthropologists say that our relationship with humans started 15,000 years ago when, with the development of agriculture, your forebears became more sedentary.

There is evidence that the wolf was our ancestor and genetic tests have confirmed that we evolved (yes the dreaded "evolution") from Asian wolves who chose to live near humans. Because we are sociable and gregarious as you are it proved advantageous to both to start living in close proximity to one another.

Wolves found the area around human campsites to be fruitful habitat. In time these wolves helped and protected the tribe establishing themselves as the first pet dogs. Their instinct allowed them to fit in with the human family group assisting in the hunt for larger animals and becoming the best sentinels by alerting its human pack to outside dangers.

Since then we have been playing many roles for you. For some people we are child substitutes, guard, herding and rescue dogs, companions, best friends, guide dogs, hearing dogs, mobility dogs, seizure alert/response dogs, psychiatric service dogs, and autism dogs.

The list is endless.

We even have our own Elite Corps, the K-9 unit. Many of us have made it to the White House. The relationship you enjoy with us is likely to be one of the most intense, honest and trusting you will ever have with a living thing. We are interested in you simply because you are you.

We are not racist, we are not homophobes, we never vote Republican. Sometimes we sleep all day but we are always there to lick the tears off your face, we inspire you, we make you laugh and we rescue you from the loneliness of being human.

We are always there to defend you from strangers, we can play a never ending game of fetch, and even when you leave us home alone for hours we will jump up and down, wagging our tails, upon your return. No questions asked. No nagging. That's unconditional love with a huge dose of devotion. And if you are honest you know very well the same cannot be said of friends, associates or family.

The emergence of confident urban gay couples is creating a new sector of dog owners who acknowledge that we add glue to their relationships, a common bond, something that both partners can embrace and care for. More often than not professional married couples choose a dog over a baby. What can soothe existential unrest the way a dog can? For all we provide social, psychological and emotional rewards and delighted to do so.

We are also grateful to PETA for all they do but I have to say that sometimes they go overboard. Some fringes of the animal rights movement feel that dog ownership is a form of slavery and should be abolished. What? Really? But exactly who is the slave here? We just have to bark and we get your attention often rewarded with a treat. We get fed, we get chauffeured to the park to run, smell and frolic with other dogs. You take us for rides in your cars to let us enjoy the wind on our noses. You follow us with your pooper-scooper. You take us to the beauty parlor to be groomed. You give us comfortable homes and let us free to roam every room as if we owned them. You don't even get mad when we chew your Prada shoes or make confetti out of your daily paper. And when the leash is on I am not sure who is walking who.

Church scholars insist that people have souls, and the evidence they give for this is the fact that humans have consciousness and feelings; animals might have the same mechanical systems, they argue, but they do not have a divine spark and, therefore, do not have the ability to experience “true” feelings. Since much of the old day’s science was sponsored by church-related schools and universities, it is not surprising to find that the researchers would not assert the existence of higher levels of mental functioning such as emotions in animals.

To do so might have caused the church authorities to feel that the scientists were suggesting that an animal such as a dog might have a soul and consciousness, and flying in the face of church doctrine could lead to a lot of problems. You have now come to understand that dogs possess all of the same brain structures that produce emotions in humans.

Dogs have the same hormones and undergo the same chemical changes that humans do during emotional states. Dogs even have the hormone oxytocin, which, in humans, is involved with feeling love and affection for others. With the same neurology and chemistry that people have, it seems reasonable to suggest that dogs also have emotions that are similar to yours.

The good news is that you can feel free to dress us up in that silly costume for a party or a photo shoot. We feel no shame, regardless of how ridiculous we look. As long as YOU are happy, because we feel love for you and derive contentment from your company, and that’s really the crux of the matter, isn’t it? It is easy love, it's love without anxiety. The anxiety for the people you love more often than not comes from fear, fear of their reactions.

You are afraid they will hurt you, disappoint you, come short of your expectations, that your emotional investment will crash. With us it cannot happen. We will always be loyal. We will not judge you or leave you one day because we are tired of you. We teach you that joy, happiness and the capacity to love it's not the exclusivity of human beings but of all living things.

And when the end is near you treat us even better than your fellow men. You allow us to die with dignity thru euthanasia. For that we are immensely grateful.

Woof Woof.


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