Pollyanna and the Random Weirdness of Humans, Canine Edition

Lyda here. As promised, more about dogs and the random weirdness of humans.

1) In the new Will Smith movie, “I Am Legend,” one of the main characters is a German Shepherd – a canine, not a herder from Germany. This movie – no plot spoilers here – got me to thinking about the relationship of humans and dogs.

Thus, this Weekly Random Weirdness of Humans post, Canine Edition.

Yes, I know it’s been more than a week since the last Random Weirdness post. Trying to re-establish normality, “as soon as we can determine what is normal anyway.” Heh. Name that quote. But I digress…

On with the human weirdness about canines.

2) TV and movie dogs include Rin Tin Tin , Lassie, and Asta of the Thin Man movies, of course. There are a gazillion others. Dogs steal the show.

3) Dogs were the first earth beings to go into space and come back alive. Even when exploring “the last frontier,” dogs went first.

4) Maybe because we’ve always counted on dogs to scout ahead. We’ve relied on their talents and companionship since prehistory. Dogs have been sleeping next to our fires since… well, since we’ve had fires.

5) Scientists believe that humans cannot take credit for domesticating dogs. This PBS NOVA program discusses the idea suggested by Raymond Coppinger, professor of biology at Hampshire College and coauthor of Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution, that “wolves themselves chose domestication because of the easy pickings in Stone Age refuse dumps, where those animals that weren’t scared off by people had a better chance of finding food and surviving.”

Hanging around the humans was and is a successful survival strategy. Lucky for us humans.

6) That NOVA program also explores other traits – barking, floppy ears, curved tails – that scientists believe are linked to the trait of being more tolerant of human presence, less skittish, less aggressive. When a scientist bred foxes based on their tolerance of humans, in a few generations the foxes became… dog-like. Barking, floppy ears, curved tails, even changes in coloration.

Barking can be a big asset to humans. Barking warns of approaching enemies and predators. Unfortunately, dogs don’t always understand the difference between invading Mongol hordes and the mail carrier. And they sometimes get confused about who’s the alpha of the pack. Faulty training by humans, not the dog’s fault.

7) Prehistoric human groups with dogs could have been safer, more successful in the hunt, and more able to hold territory. As humans thrived and spread, we took dogs with us.

8.) Dogs are a brilliant evolutionary success. Maybe 50 million owned dogs in the U.S. alone. And they are remarkable in their plasticity – they alone of earth’s creatures come in so many shapes and sizes. Why? No one knows yet.

9) Seeing dogs as the social parasites they are, this scientist says, does not detract from their beauty nor diminish the love between the species. Seeing dogs clearly, instead of as furry humans, is better for us, and much better and healthier for dogs. Read this excerpt from Chapter 1: “The Irredeemable Weirdness of the Dog: An Introduction”, from The Truth About Dogs: An Inquiry Into the Ancestry, Social Conventions, Mental Habits, and Moral Fiber of Canis Familiaris by Stephen Budiansky.

10) There are dogs that work for a living. Here’s a slide show of dogs at work. But most dogs are pets, and spend their time loving their humans and waiting for us to play with them.

Dogs are such good companions – or such good social parasites – that people often forget that they are dogs, and treat them as furry people.

This is a disservice to the dogs.

They are better than that.

And unlike cats, they don’t rub our faces in their superiority.

No wonder we love them.

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2 thoughts on “Pollyanna and the Random Weirdness of Humans, Canine Edition

  1. Jane

    Hey Lyda,
    I hope you are feeling better and that you have a wonderful Christmas! My children are all home – so I am quite happy. I will try to get back to blogging soon.
    Jane

    Reply

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