Blogue Dog

Why Humans And Dogs Love Each Other So Much

You speak dog much better than you think. You can’t speak it fluently because it would require being a dog, But if you lived in a world reserved for dogs, you would understand what they say. You can tell a nervous yap from a threatening grunt, a bark that means hello from a bark that asks you to leave it alone. You can read body language that says he’s happy, sad, tired or shows that he’s scared, begging you or asking you to play with him immediately!

Don’t you think that means anything specific? So tell me… what does a happy bird look like? A sad lion? You don’t know? But yet you know it when it comes to the dog and even more so when that dog is yours. And as with your human mother tongue, you didn’t have to force yourself to learn to speak it. You grew up in a world where dogs are ubiquitous and you just understood.

This reveals a lot about the bond between humans and dogs. We live with cats, we work with horses, we rent cows for their milk and hens for their eggs – unless we kill them and eat them as we need.

With dogs, things are different. Our world and their world swirled long ago like two shades of paint. Once you get the orange color, you never go back to red and yellow.

But why? It is not enough to affirm that the relationship is symbiotic, that dogs hunt for us and that they consider us their flock while we keep them warm and fed in return. Sharks and remnant fish have signed a similar agreement: the remnants remove parasites from the shark’s skin and are returned to the remains of the shark’s dead fish. This underwater agreement is entirely transactional; love plays no role. Humans and dogs, on the other hand, worship each other.

The relationship started -- well, no one knows exactly when it started. The oldest remains of humans and dogs buried together date back 14,000 years, but some unconfirmed discoveries seem to be twice as old. The most important point lies in the significance of the discoveries: we lived with dogs and then chose to be buried with them. Imagine that.

Our ancestors did not know what genes were millennia ago, but they did know that from time to time, one or two medium-sized scavengers with a long muzzle would come snooping around their campfires, looking at them with some attention. a certain need for love, and that it was terribly difficult for them to resist it. So they took them in to shelter them from the cold and started calling them dogs, while some of their close relatives who didn’t have this “good gene” – the ones we would eventually call wolves, Jackals, coyotes or dingoes would be left to fend for themselves, to make their way through the wilderness where they were born.

When humans left nature themselves, our alliance with dogs could have been dissolved. If you didn’t need a working dog—and more and more people did—then there was an imbalance. We continued to pay dogs their wages in food and shelter, but we received little in return. Never mind that! At that time, we were already in love.

Our language reflected how far we had come in love: the word “puppy” would have been adapted from the French word “doll” – an object to which we lavish irrational affection. Our folk stories were full of dogs; Africans spoke of Rukuba, the dog that gave us fire; Welsh told the story of the faithful dog Gelert, who saved a prince’s baby from the clutches of a wolf. Aristocrats began to include the family dog in family portraits. Rich eccentrics have begun to include dogs in their wills.

Today, at least in areas populated by human beings, the dog is the most abundant terrestrial carnivore on the planet. There are about 900 million of them in the world. The only domestic dog – Canis lupus familiaris – has been subdivided into hundreds of breeds, selected for their size, temperament, colour or fineness.

The average dog owner spends over $2,000 a year on food, toys, medical care, etc., and some people would be willing to pay a much higher price. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, so many people refused to evacuate without their dogs that Congress passed a law requiring disaster preparedness plans to house pets.

What began as a contract of mutual services between two very different species has become something much more akin to love. It doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t have to be. Love rarely touches the parts of the brain responsible for reasoning. It touches the dreamy parts, the dedicated parts – it touches the parts that we sometimes call the heart. For thousands of years, this is where our dogs have lived, and for many others, this is where they will continue to live!