Dogs are a special case among domestic animals. Dogs are the only species that is voluntarily domesticated. Other domestic animals are basically enslaved as a source of food, fiber, or labor; cats aren't really domesticated at all. Cats tolerate us, but they don't need to have humans around in the same way dogs do. (It has been said with some truth that dogs have owners, but cats have employees.)

Some time in the dim past (estimates range from as little as 30,000 to 100,000 years ago) some wild dogs decided that these new-fangled naked apes were pretty good predators, and that perhaps an agreement could be reached by which both parties would benefit. By hanging around the campfires of our ancestors (and probably by having a few really, really cute puppies bouncing around as well) the truly wild dogs of the past wormed their way into the hearts of men, and domestication of the dog was a foregone conclusion. To seal the pact, a simple agreement was reached: the dogs agreed to guard our homes, hearths, and persons; and to find game for us, as well as anything else we wanted them to do. In return for their undying love, loyalty, and self-sacrifce all we were asked to give them was a place to sleep and the scraps of food we didn't want. Believe, we humans got the best of that bargain.

Wherever humans have gone, dogs have come along: not as an afterthought, but as a necessity. Stone Age wanderers crossing the land bridge from Siberia to North America brought along their dogs; ancient Polynesian explorers voyaging into the wastes of the Pacific and colonizing islands and the contnent of Australia brought dogs. When humans finally venture into outer space for real, and start colonizing other planets, we will bring dogs along. Not because we want to, but because we have to. The very first animal in orbit was the mongrel dog Laika, whose life was sacrificed to human exploration. Some countries have had the respect to put her picture on postage stamps as a way to honor her memory.

We can't live without dogs and they can't live without us anymore: the two species have been associated so long we are very close to being symbiotic. Of course there are still truly wild dogs: but "feral" dogs—strays—aren't the same thing. Wild dogs avoid men and eat mice and small animals; feral dogs of necessity hang around human habitat and scavenge garbage.

And all dogs are the same species: a wolf, a domestic dog, a coyote, all of them. They will interbreed and produce fertile offspring. In time with continued association with Man, the offspring become indistinguishable from domesticated dogs in their behavior.

Anyone who has lived with a dog, and loved a dog, and been loved in return, will understand what I'm saying here. So meet some of dogs, both living and dead, who over the years I have been privileged to love and in return by whom I was even more privileged to be loved.


A Moving Essay By Warren Eastland
December 20, 2015

Dogs I Have Known and Loved

| Gordo | Penny| Dante | Toby | Tucker | Meg | Tessa | Tycho | Lucy | Tehya|

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