Let’s talk about dogs. Is there a better animal on this earth? No. And this is why.
Sometimes I stare into my white lab mix’s face while she’s sleeping beside me and lovingly tell her, “you are descended from wolves.”
Abbey, my dog, is the calmest and sweetest creature on the planet (of course I’m not biased), emphasizing to me the irony of her razor sharp canines and causing me to inform her every so often of my incredulity.
Abbey’s useless canines are thanks to the phylogenetic history of her species, and they highlight how similar and yet so different she is from from her evolutionary predecessor, the wolf.
For a long time I failed to appreciate the fact that dogs evolved to be human companions. (As a human, I am incredibly honored.)
Most scientists think the modern dog emerged around 30,000 years ago from “proto-dogs,” ( look them up — they’re both cute and terrifying) the population of which consisted of all the wolves whose fear and aggression levels were low enough to allow them to follow migrating human civilizations and eat their trash. Gross, but an effective domestication strategy.
Ever since, dogs have been integral to the success of the human race. No exaggeration. Dogs likely helped humans hunt their first big animals, such as woolly mammoths. In fact, the effectiveness of hunting dogs may have been the reason humans were able to driveNeanderthals out of Europe roughly around this time same period.
But dogs are more than just a human tool. Dogs and humans share a unique bond, a bond emphasized by pet owners for centuries but just recently proven by science. A 2016 study from the University of Lincoln in England found that dogs can recognize human emotions by looking at pictures of strangers’ faces. They, like people, gravitate towards the left side of the face, which is often more expressive. No such ability was found for dogs and any other animal, including closely related primates.
Though few societies today rely on dogs for hunting food, the species continues to provide humans other ways. Drug sniffing dogs can detect unexploded land-mines in areas with a history of conflict. Dogs are even being trained to smell the early stages of cancer in patients’ pee or notify diabetics when their blood sugar is too low. When was the last time your cat saved your life?
There are not enough words in the English language to describe how grateful I am towards the dog. They are truly an incredible species in both history and ability. I challenge you to name an animal so loyal; so diverse; so helpful and yet so kind. (Frankly, I know dogs with better values than some humans.)
On a slightly different note, dogs are a delightful case of evolution in which cooperation and domesticity were considered fitter than aggression and strength.
I don’t mean to be a cat hater, I swear, but in my mind there is no comparison.