Where do dogs come from and why do they like us?

Jan. 26, 2013 @ 04:58 PM

Happy new year! It’s human nature to celebrate beginnings and search for origins. We want to know how things started — even to the point of arguing about chickens and eggs. There’s no argument about dogs; the scientific community does agree that the dog was the first domesticated animal. However, scientists disagree on the exact timing of this truly extraordinary occurrence — exactly when the human-dog symbiotic relationship formed. Some say as recently as 10,000 years ago. Others cite evidence pointing to 50,000 years ago or more.

There is also discussion on just how this domestication might have happened. Tales of children carrying home wolf cubs to be raised at the home campfire are charming, but don’t stand up to ethnological scrutiny. One idea that holds greater merit is offered in Ray and Lorna Coppinger’s book, DOGS: A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF CANINE ORIGIN, BEHAVIOR AND EVOLUTION. The authors hypothesize that those wild canids who were naturally less fearful of humans tended to hang around campsites more than their “wilder” brethren. Those who hung around found food scraps to supplement their diets. Those who were better fed mated among themselves producing more pups who were not only less fearful but more likely to survive to maturity. Although that recap simplifies the premise considerably, it could be said that the dog is the one animal most likely to have domesticated itself.

What we know for certain is that humankind has cherished dogs, abused dogs, worshiped dogs, even eaten dogs. We’ve asked dogs to go places and do things impossible for any person to accomplish. They, in turn, have endured all our foibles, fads and fierceness. So, hat’s off to all our dogs — the species that self-domesticated! Frankly, I think this lovely old story from who knows where paints a pretty picture that actually “fits” the self-domesticating hypothesis ...

 And so it was in the time of the Grandmothers of your Grandfather that the Spirit of All Things made the decision to separate Humankind from all Others. For what reason no one really remembers, but The People were to stand apart. Away from the Finned. Away from the Feathered. Away from the Furred. Humankind was to stand all alone.

So it happened that the Spirit of All Things drew a line across the face of the earth. On one side of this line stood Mankind. On the other side of the line of the Spirit were all Others. All that swam were apart. All the Winged ones were apart. All the Furred, all the Hoofed stood apart from Mankind.

The People were all alone. The line drawn by the Spirit of All Things began to open on the face of the earth. At first the line was only a tiny crack, but it began to open larger and deeper. The Grandfathers of your Grandmother could see that soon they would be forever separated from all Others. And The People wept at this thought.

Suddenly one among the Furred four-footeds heard the cries of the The People and leapt across the canyon of the Spirit at the last possible moment to stand beside the Grandfathers of your Grandfather. All the Others remained apart. And so it is, my children. Remember this always. Only this One, only Dog chooses to stand with Humankind.

 ... may we remain worthy of that choice. It’s a bond I personally hope will be maintained for many more new years to come, for the grandchildren of our grandchildren.

Maggie Blutreich, CPDT-KA www.BravoMinoan.net