For the Love of Dog

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For the Love of Dog

My daughter and I were at the Dog Park with our German Short-haired pointer, Zia. It was Bow-Wow Beach, where dogs can swim in a small lake, surrounded by chain-link fence. I watched Zia do a belly-flop into the lake to retrieve a ball Lydia had thrown. I said, “Zia is my favorite dog.”

Lydia replied, “You say that about every dog we have.”

And it’s true. Every dog we have ever had was my favorite while the dog was with our family. It’s not that one dog is better than the others. It’s just that I love my dog. Truly.

The bond between dogs and humans is ancient, and not totally understood. The bond has been in existence at least 26,000 years. The oldest-known human foot print in Chauvet Cave in southern France includes the paw print of a large canine right next to it. The canine was not quite what we know now as a dog, but it’s an ancestor.

Some anthropologists have come to the conclusion that, without dogs, human would not have survived in some areas of the world, most notably in the cold areas, where dogs are valuable hunting companions during the day and warm bed-fellow at night.

There are several theories about how wild canine, such as wolves, became domesticated. One theory is that humans adopted wolf pups and raised them to be companions. This is an explanation that is confirmed by current adoptions of wild fox. According to an article I read in National Geographic, a fox who is domesticated is never quite domesticated. However, the next generation of fox bred in captivity will have ears that flop a little. By the third generation, the ears are entirely floppy, and the fox wags its tail at the sight of humans.

The other theory is that wolfs learned that human encampments meant edible food. In this theory, the wild canine domesticated themselves, coming closer and closer to the humans for easy food.

It was probably a combination of these theories that led to our current dogs.

And why do dogs make such good companions for humans? The main reason is that both humans and canine are “pack” animals. Neither can survive alone. Thus, dogs are instinctive cooperators and communicators.

There are two Shawnee stories I love, which explain the origins of “Dog.”  In one story, Kokumthena (Grandmother), who is part of the Shawnee “trinity,” wants to bring all the humans “home.” So, she weaves a basket to scoop up all the people, and thus end the world. She finishes all but 2 rows of the basket before getting tired and going to bed. In the night, her silly dog unravels the basket. This happens every day. Because Kokumthena loves her silly dog so much, she never punishes it. And the story ends, “And that is why we always ahvae one more day. Because of Kokumthena’s dog."

In another story, the creative part of the Shawnee trinity, Kisamalukahan, is creating animals by dreaming them up. The trickster Nanabusho wants to make the same animals, but every attempt creates a smaller, trickier version of Kisamalukahan’s creation. So, Kisamalukahan creates bear, and Nanabusho creates rat coon. Kisamalukahan creates beaver, and Nanabusho creates chipmunk. Kisamalukahan creates deer, and Nanabusho creates muskrat. Kisamalukahan creates Eagle, and Nanabusho creates mosquito. It goes this way all day, until Kisamalukahan creates human beings. Nanabusho realizes human beings look a lot like him. So, he really, really wants to make some human beings. He tries harder than he has tried in the past, and the result is dog. The story ends, “And that is why they are always together.” Indeed, dog is a bit of a trickster, so it is appropriate that a trickster creates dog, who ends up being the companion of humans.

I wrote a short story called “Dog Stories.” It is published in my collection of stories, Messiah Complex and Other
Stories. If you would like to read the story, you can use this link. The publisher used “Dog Stories” as a promotional sample of the collection.

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Michael Olin-Hitt is a writer and Oracle.

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