By Scott Hunt
The Dog Grumbler
MY dog knows things — all kinds of things, especially things about me and things that affect me and I’m not alone here; your dog knows things too — right?
We talk about magic, ESP or a sixth sense as we continue to expand our knowledge of this singular creature while maintaining a belief that we created it.
We didn’t. I don’t believe we can take credit for the dog. We created an environment and it responded. It domesticated itself.
I believe the dog showed humans the potential for domestication of other creatures.
We learn about someone buried with a dog maybe 15,000 years ago and think that’s the start of the story, but it isn’t — it’s just the latest chapter.
We learn that our own canis familiaris is most closely related to the grey wolf — more closely related than to the dingo for example, despite physical similarities.
The science is unsure, but I like to think that dingoes came from another proto-wolf that responded to the new environment humans had created just as our modern dogs’ ancestors did.
That environment changed for dingoes that reached what we call Australia.
They left behind nomads or farmers and found people who occupied vast areas and rarely stood still. Vast areas occupied by tasty little marsupials and no apex predator.
Back on the farm, the village dog who could best read the humans was the best survivor.
She descended, like the dingo from proto-wolves who adapted to the new environment by learning to find and study and second-guess these creatures who cooked meat and left the best part for those who followed.
A very important difference between dogs and dingoes is this: dingoes can survive without humans — dogs can’t.
Dingoes can and have interacted with, accompanied and worked for First Nations people since they met.
But they can take us or leave us — dogs can’t.
Humans didn’t tame or domesticate a wolf; they were befriended by a dog —a creature who had evolved to please them in return for human leftovers.
A creature who already could not exist or survive without humans.
A creature whose senses evolved specifically to read our faces, the timbre of our voices, the smell of our sweat and our hormones. And whose mind kept pace.
We know now that in a controlled environment we can duplicate aspects of this pretty quickly.
In Siberia, they selectively breed foxes and get something that looks like a dog or dingo in just a few generations, but nature took longer.
And nature tuned the dog’s perceptions: its eyes, its ears, its nose, its very mind evolved to enable it to better befriend and serve and read us.
And in the end, we noticed — and we continue to take the credit.
Your dog probably doesn’t think much about this stuff, but it understands the relationship better than most of us.
And it understands you in ways no human can.
It never stops working you out, so don’t stop expanding your dog’s life experience or its role in your life and never underestimate its perception.
My dog knows when someone important is coming home.
It’s not a regular thing, not something that happens at a certain time. It’s not about a sound or a smell or some tell-tale action on my part.
This happens when I don’t expect an arrival.
I have spent a good portion of my life studying dogs. I know about her specially-tuned senses and I’m at a loss to find a conventional explanation for this ability.
She comes and sits in front of me and if I don’t notice her she touches me with her paw.
She looks into my right eye as only canis familiaris can and a voice in my head says, “Mom’s coming home.”
And she’s right; if I get up, open the door, walk out and open the gate, my wife will soon turn into the driveway.
Go figure. Who cares?
Nature gave my dog the ability to detect this along with the understanding that it was important, the desire to share the information and a means to do so.
I will keep studying but I’m in no hurry to understand it all — nature is doing fine without my input.
My dog knows things — it rocks.