Monday, June 15, 2020

Dogs Domesticated Mankind

Friends of the Pacific Electric Trail

Since the domestication of the wolf, people and dogs have been drawn to each other.  Dogs have helped us by alerting us to danger, with hunting, protecting us, etc. It has been proven that without the early warning system of a nearby pack of wolves/dogs alerting mankind to imminent danger, clusters of human populations would not have survived to pass on life to our ancestors. In modern times, dogs have been trained to serve in the military and law enforcement, assisted the disabled, and faithfully remained our loyal companions. We gladly care for them and provide them with a good quality of life in return for love and companionship. Companionship is perhaps the most obvious thing that dogs give us, but this is only the beginning. Scientific evidence has proven that many health benefits come along with pet ownership. 
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Our dogs help us relax, lower our blood pressure, keep us active, bring us joy and more. They are for many of us, a vital member of our family! By far, America is leading the pack in lavishing care and comfort for our dogs. This year Americans will spend $72 billion on our pets. On average, we spend $126.00 per month on our dogs. We celebrate them on social media, many have their own hashtag audience, they have been in many books, fairy tales, films and TV shows dedicated to dogs, and some have their paw prints featured on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph depicting what is believed to be an ...

The evolution of the dog can be traced back millions of years. The transition of some wolves into dogs probably began around 100,000 years ago, but the domesticated dog likely dates back anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000 years. Dogs have been in our lives, even since before recorded history, probably sharing the fire with our cave dwelling ancestors.  Before the written word was devised, history was recorded through pictures – cave drawings to begin with, and later in paintings and mosaics created by ancient civilizations. There is much evidence of dogs as companions throughout history. Ancient myth says that the city of Rome was founded by the twins “Romulus and Remus” who were suckled by a “she-wolf” after they were abandoned and left to die in the elements.
Romulus and Remus - The Roman Kings - HistoryWiz Exhibit
Throughout the ancient world, people were very much bound to their dogs. The ancient Greeks valued dogs, seeing them as fellow learners and philosophers, and believing that there was much value in emulating the way dogs live their lives.

At Home Scouts, BSA Activities
Mankind has even fashioned some parts of our society after wolves / dogs. The Boy Scouts are organized into Wolf packs, starting with “Cubs”. Many businesses refer to the top sales performer or executive as the “top dog”. Throughout my life, I have often, in times of great happiness said that “my tail is wagging.”
Consistently, dogs have been our protectors, our friends, and loyal companions, and this is revealed in ancient art and writings. Historically, the dog has always been man’s best friend, and that has continued into modern times. The Inuit-Eskimos found them to be the best mode of transportation in the frozen tundra. Through selective breeding, man has molded canines to fit specific tasks. Dogs have been bred to tunnel underground, to hunt large game, travel into water to retrieve game, and we have successfully sent dogs into space to test its safety for man to journey to the stars.
Today, the role of the dog in our culture is to continue providing us with protection, and to help us hunt, but overwhelmingly, the dog’s function is more in the nature of companionship. We love our dogs. In fact, you have probably often heard people say things like “My dog is my child” or my “Furr-baby”. While I would respectfully suggest that a dog is not a child substitute – in fact, many people prefer dogs to children – I understand the sentiment.  Certainly, we treat our dogs in much the same way we would a child, making sure that they are properly nourished, teaching them good manners, ensuring that they are protected from excessive heat and cold, looking after their medical needs, playing with them, snuggling with them, and generally letting them know that they mean the world to us. They enhance our quality of life, and we enhance theirs.
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It has been proven that dogs can reduce human stress levels, which is why they are frequently trained and employed as therapy animals in hospices, hospitals, and nursing homes. Exercising with a dog can improve our overall health, too. Dogs have also been shown to significantly help people with autism and other disorders that have increased stress levels.
Often, people do not get enough social interaction, and dogs can play a vital role in alleviating loneliness. People who live alone or do not have many opportunities to socialize, can derive a sense of purpose from caring for a dog. Often, too, the presence of a dog can help a person to get through the loss of a loved one, whether due to death or the deterioration of a relationship.  Service animals can open a whole new world for people with disabilities.
Animal companions make it possible for disabled persons to work, and to live
Independently. They help with  daily tasks that most of us complete with little thought but can be very frustrating for people who do not have full use of their body. And they are entertaining! We all celebrate when they master a new trick or skill, thinking that we are the masters who succeeded in their education. The truth is that they are eager to learn, interact with us and fulfill their role as part of the pack. The best dog trainers know that while food as a reward and consistent repetition are vital to the process, the true key is to interpret the dog’s personality and understand how to work with it. All you need do is to look at social media to see that dogs can be clowns!
Thanks to their extremely sensitive noses, search and rescue dogs can navigate in particularly challenging environments. Search and rescue dogs have a long history of finding lost and/or injured people where human efforts are far less effective.  Most people find that they feel safer with their dogs. A large dog can be your best friend if you are out walking at night and can be protection against intruders in your home. Even a small dog can alert you to something that seems “foreign,” or to a stranger that is approaching.  Dogs are also used in public places by security personnel to ensure public safety. And of course, they are used in airports to detect explosives, thus ensuring our safety when flying. Dogs have been trained to “smell” illness in humans, and there are experiments currently underway to see if some dogs can be trained to detect the Coronavirus. 
Children who are raised in the company of dogs become more empathetic and respectful of other living things.  Dogs have been our companions for eons, living with us, protecting us, and comforting us. Canines are our best friends for many reasons, but the most important reason is unconditional love and affection.  We all need to be told, “Good Boy!” or “Good Girl!” on a regular basis.  When I am having a bad day, an unconditional hug helps make it better. Codependency is OK if one of you has four legs. Faithfulness is a basic ingredient of a loving relationship.  They will sing off-key with us, stick by our side when we are sick and suffering, and leap for joy at each day’s end when we return from work. They vie for our attention, as it is as important to them as food and water. Looking at today’s dogs we can see a reflection of ourselves, they are loyal, loving and eager to help. At the end of the day my best friend loves it when I tell him a story. What story do you have to tell about your best friend, share it with us in the comment section below.
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Friends of the Pacific Electric Trail

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