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It's About Dogs

by Ron Kitson

Never in my life have I heard a dog say "bow wow." Wow perhaps but not "bow wow." Dogs have always had a problem with the B sound.

If all our domestic dogs are descendants of the gray wolf, how did they learn to bark? Wolves don't bark, they howl.

Also, how did we get all these various breeds of dogs? The way I see it, you mate a Gray Wolf with another Gray Wolf and you get more Gray Wolves.

Our first family dog that I remember as a child was a small black & white mongrel we called Boots.

It seems the smaller the breed, the bigger the bark. A big Newfoundland goes "whuff" while some of the really small breeds can hit well above high "C" with eight beats to the bar at a decibel reading that's probably illegal.

Wolfs are thought to have evolved from smaller dog-like ancestors about a million years ago, give or take a few weeks but with so many different species and especially so many different breeds, it's is pretty difficult to trace the history of dogs. The gray wolf does however, appear to be a close relative.

They have found dog bones in Neanderthal cave dwellings and probably were a blend of wolf and other variations of the species and once they struck up a relationship with mankind, they were not to be the same again.

Fossil evidence shows domestication began at least 15 thousand years ago, and some say even 20 to 25 thousand years ago with the capture and taming of wolf pups. Perhaps as an early source of protein.

While Fido and Kitty are not often friends by nature, according to Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia, cats and dogs do have a common ancestor.

Professor Coren's research shows the origin of domestic dogs began with Miacis, a 40 million year old ancestor of both dogs and cats. Mia (for short) was not likely the animal you'd want curled up at the foot of your bed but, as I've said before, you gotta start somewhere.

The earliest dog ancestor is thought to be Cynodictis. Cy lived about 12 million years ago, followed by Tomarctus. Tom is said to be the common ancestor of all canids including wolves, coyotes, foxes and various wild dogs.

Just where and when domestic dogs appeared is difficult to say because it didn't happen at one time or place. Our own prehistoric ancestors apparently began domesticating Rover in different parts of the inhabited world playing matchmaker to various wolves and other canids.

Domestication by the way, doesn't just mean getting a wild animal to eat out of your hand, rather it involves selective breeding to develop breeds that satisfy our needs or wishes. Until modern times, dog's were bred to work. They were first used they say, as hunters to help track down and kill other animals for dinner.

Of all the popular breeds known today, my guess is that the German Shepard is the most popular. Not only are they popular as pets, they are used extensively by the military, the police, by security companies, as seeing eye dogs and numerous others. They were first bred in Germany as sheep herders, thus the name.

What's the connection between dogs and Dogwood trees? Well, it seems the bark of the Dogwood has medicinal properties and long ago they found it to be an effective treatment not only for malaria and other illnesses, but to treat mange in dogs. Guess that's why they say the Dogwood is known for its bark.

All domestic dogs from Chihuahuas to Rottweilers, along with wolves and coyotes, are of the same species which means they can all be interbred to produce new variations. Wolf or wolf mixes are not recommended as pets but do share many of the domestic's traits.

While some dogs are bred to be fast runners, skilled hunters or retrievers others are bred to be guard dogs, sled dogs or lap dogs etc. Some are smarter and easier to train than others.

One thing we know about dogs is that, in some ways, they are smarter than we are. Somehow they seem to sense when we are going on vacation and if we'll be taking them with us. They smile with their tails and beg with their eyes. When a dog looks you in the eye, it can see straight into your brain. They know exactly what you're thinking and how you feel.

They don't love you less if you are poor nor more if you are rich. Will Rogers said, "If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they go."

Even our smallest Poodles and Chihuahuas have retained some of their original instincts and may be ready to sink their canines into the ankle of anyone they consider a threat to their master. They are all hunters to a certain extent but for most of them, their only hunting trips are in their dreams and they do dream.

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