These words probably sum up the way most people feel about their dogs. Dogs are not merely pets, neither are they child substitutes. Dogs have crossed the boundaries of species and culture to become our very soul mates.
A Long Lasting Relationship with Dogs
Of course many people arrogantly believe that the species Canis familiaris was created by man somehow genetically modifying the wolf. Nothing is further from the truth and the dog evolved long before man played a part. This particular species of wolf is one of the most genetically adaptable of all animals allowing it to adapt to its environment. This pleomorphism is the feature which accounts for such diversity in the dog world. If Homo sapiens can be described as the “Naked Ape” then surely Canis familiaris must be the “Plastic Wolf”. The dog’s niche-filling opportunism would have explained the attraction to human settlements and, once humans and dogs began to share their lives, it was the start of a love affair which has lasted for thousands of years.
The Pack Culture
The wild dog lives in a highly ordered society taking its place in the hierarchy of the pack. Humans too live in social groups. Both receive benefits from the pack culture but, whereas the dog takes its place instinctively, man does so in a more calculating way.
Dog Breed Types
Selective breeding of our plastic wolf quickly brought about the changes we desired, both physically and temperamentally and today dogs come in all shapes and sizes. What has not changed however is the fact that our dogs still share the wolf’s seventy eight chromosomes and, if mankind disappeared tomorrow, the dog would live on and continue to evolve. When looking into the eyes of our beloved dog, it is hard to believe that he is not just descended from a wolf. He is a wolf!
Different but Alike
Man is a feeble animal, an ape with no claws or teeth for attack or defence. He survives by using his wits. The dog on the other hand is a ferocious carnivore with the teeth, claws, speed and strength to easily kill its prey. It seems strange that two apparently opposite species should live together in such harmony. The secret seems to be not in the differences but in the similarities between the species. Firstly the sense of fun and enjoyment of play. Dogs never really grow up and enjoy play way past their puppyhood. Humans also enjoy fun and games.
Dogs: Love and Affection
Both man and dog are comforted by physical contact and studies have shown that the simple act of stroking a dog aids relaxation and results in a drop in blood pressure. The reason for this is that such contact causes the brain to produce endorphins, our body’s own feel good “love drug”. The amazing thing is that this is a two-way process. Stroking produces exactly the same endorphin release in the dog and so when you say, “I love my dog and my dog loves me,” you are probably right!
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