I realize not everyone likes dogs. Some people prefer cats, some birds. Some get along with plants while others keep fish. I get it, or at least intellectually I accept it. But really, a dog…
A dog is an exceptional creature. We think we are so smart and yet behold the dog who chose us after all, not the other way around.
First up, let’s just get the science straight: before we had cats, birds, or house plants we had dogs. “Before humans milked cows, herded goats or raised hogs, before they invented agriculture, or written language, before they had permanent homes, and most certainly before they had cats, they had dogs. Or dogs had them, depending on how you view the human-canine arrangement.” (James Gorman, New York Times, 1/18/2016)
Smart people who relentlessly search canine DNA are trying to find out the very time and place dogs were domesticated or people were “canine-icated.” We may never know but it was somewhere between twenty and thirty thousand years ago. Just to de-mythologize your puppy-faced pooch, there are one billion dogs in the world but only twenty-five percent of them are domesticated. The rest are marauders in and around villages, cities, and countrysides grabbing scraps, handouts, and easy kills. Dumps and garbage pits are wonderful places for dogs. We think they need our fancy dog food but living on the edge of human encampments and feasting off our trash is how dogs separated themselves from wolves.
No one yet knows just how this happened but some who study the DNA don’t think it was humans who figured out how to mate wolves for domestication — no self-respecting wolf would agree to that. But rather, some of those ancient wolves realized what a good gig humans are when the alternative was chasing deer and elk and getting a hoof in the face. All they had to do was follow humans around and feast off the bones and meat we left behind. Keto enthusiasts aside, our ancient ancestors were able to process fat much better than they could tolerate meat, while wolves could not tolerate fat but loved meat. It was a perfect symbiotic relationship that met over a carcass.
Whether or not dogs actually have emotions and feelings of mutuality is up for debate. But just like a baby learns to smile by seeing the reaction to it from the adults all around him or her — “Oh look! Henry smiled! Smile Henry, smile! — dogs are not dumb. Cute looks, a wagging tail, a gentle lean, a raised paw all evoke human affection, treats, and real food. It is an easy life if you have the right humans.
All of which brings me to us — humans. I want to know what would happen to you if it was discovered you had been poisoning your neighborhood dogs? In your defense, you could assure neighbors, the ones who love dogs, that you will reduce the amount of poisoning by forty percent by the end of 2025. How do you think that would go over? That’s what Greenidge Generation asked the DEC for — the opportunity to continue poisoning the environment forty percent less for three more years. For some reason the state needs three months to make a decision about it?