"The domestic dog exists precariously in the no-man's-land between the human and nonhuman . . . neither person nor beast."- James Serpell.
The main criticism of dogs is that "Dogs are not people". People that are ignorant about dogs say this. True, they are not people but they are not beasts either.
Some people are not dog lovers. As you will learn, this feeling is not mutual. Dogs have evolved to love and serve humans. The purpose of this column is to help people that don't like dogs deal with their "kick-a-puppy" attitude by broadening their understanding of dog history.
Dogs have an interesting evolutionary past. At some point they were part of a wild pack of wolf-like creatures. One day a smart and fearless dog smelled a barbeque outside the cave of early man. Later that night the crafty pooch snuck into the settlement and found the Neanderthal's garbage heap. Wow! T-Bones, table scraps, and bacon treats were way better than fighting over stinking rotten dinosaur carcasses.
At this point in history the canine family tree branched. The major trait of natural selection passed on in domestic dogs was the ability to eat garbage without fear of man, then bravely enter the cave and throw-up on his new carpet.
The smartest early dogs instinctively knew that these humans were going to make it to the top of the food chain so they decided to throw their lot in with them. Coyotes, Wolves, Foxes, Jackals, Dingoes, and other less intelligent canines refused to go along with this program. Over time their lives have not improved very much while domestic dogs have inherited a fantastic and enjoyable lifestyle. For instance wild dogs never get to ride in the car with their head out the window with their tongues' hanging out barking at everything. Wild dogs do not get to sleep on the bed. Also, virtually no wild canine beasts have names like Fifi, Tootie, Peetie, Deeno, Puggy-Wuggy, or Benji.
Cats were sympathetic with the outlaw wild canine family but they were bitter enemies and refused to join with them. Instead of submitting to humans cats began their own anti-human-rule movement. The now famous slogan was first coined way back in evolutionary history, "Cats rule dogs drool". Now through their clever ways cats get us to feed them but threaten to walk out at the slightest provocation. Dogs have masters while cats have servants.
The dogs that inherited the "no-fear-of-man" genes began to do tricks for the amusement of the primitive hominids like, rolling over, licking themselves, sniffing crotches, and the now classic hump the leg technique. In appreciation for these tricks the smiling cavemen kicked them off their legs and laughed and threw bones for the dogs and the dogs retrieved the bones and laid them playfully at man's feet and wagged their tails as if to say "Again! Pleeezee! Throw again! Yah yah, Yaaay!" This was the start of the throw and fetch relationship that exists to this day. The fake-throw-and-laugh-at-the-dog trick was invented about the same time.
Spaniels, Dachshunds, Terriers, Schnauzers, Boxers, Beagles, and Collies were among the first smart dogs to adopt man (Poodles formed their own weird religious cult and cut their hair in a most bizarre fashion). The new breed of domestic dogs agreed that there would be some work involved in trade for food and treats. So they agreed perform such tasks as homeland security, sniffing out everything, sentry duty, and barking at their archenemy the postman. To this day dogs will put out their paw to shake your hand instinctually affirming this ancient contract.
Dogs benefit man by retrieving stuff, taking you on walks and pointing out the hydrants for your protection in case of fire, pushing their nose into a crack in the door and jerking it open with mighty force, cleaning the floor of all food scraps, licking you in the face when your hands are full just after they lick their butt, and marking your yard by piddling everywhere.
The "man's best friend" reputation comes from the dog's unrestrained unconditional love and affection for their master. They are always happy to see you like you are the greatest person on the planet. You can say anything and they will always agree and look admiringly at you as if you were the most brilliant philosopher that ever existed. The truth is they know you have bacon jerky treats in your magic pocket.
Another thing people complain about is dog poop. Dogs would much rather go in the yard of a person who dislikes dogs. If you are still hanging onto that "kick-a-puppy" attitude after reading this column chances are good that you will find poop in your yard.
On the other hand if you change your attitude about dogs it will open up a whole new happy world. Remember a dog's sacred duty is to protect man from peril. This is why they sometimes block doorways and bark when people come to see the master. Stop and pet the dog behind the ears and carry a treat in your pocket to reward the dog for his life's work. This will make you both feel better. I guarantee it.