Thursday, 19 May 2011

Mankind's Greatest Creation

When I first started this blog, I didn't necessarily intend for it to be relentless political and social commentary. That's more a side effect of my own obsessions than an actual intent.

So today I would like to rant and ramble about something else: Mankind's greatest and most lasting achievement. Our finest creation, and one that is as important and valuable today as it was when we first began crafting it.

I speak of course of the Dog.

Nowhere on this Earth will you find a more loyal, loving, hard-working and reliable companion than Canis lupus familiaris.

Whenever I start to doubt my own worth and contribution to the world, I never have to look further than the eyes of my dog, Jasper (well, his full name is Jasper Tobias Friendly-Bear, he was named by committee). The love and faith he puts in his human family surpasses anything I have ever seen in my fellow man. If I have earned his approval, I cannot be so vile as all that.

Dogs are our greatest creation for a simple reason: they genuinely love us. Dogs can live without humans, but without us they are never quite complete. We took wolves and we made them just a little human. They have all the best of both worlds, and that makes them special and precious.

History is rife with stories of the loyalty and unswerving devotion of Dogs, even in spite of our own failings. We do not give them the credit they deserve, but Dogs have followed us through the rise of civilization and even today they work tirelessly for us. There are breeds of dog that were created JUST to save human lives (like the Newfoundland or the Saint Bernard). They work alongside their masters at a thousand different tasks, happy just for the chance to be useful, asking only for approval.

We are not always the most loyal of masters, we do not always deserve the credit our Canine companions offer us, but to me that makes their steadfast adoration so much more genuine. Dogs love us because of what they are, and because of who we made them.

All they want of us is to be one of the group. Some food (and maybe a snicket or two of whatever delicious thing we're having, hmm? ohpleaseohpleaaaaaasssseeeee...) and a warm spot to curl up at night are perks but I think they would be satisfied just to be given a place beside us.

If there is any lasting good that Humans have achieved, I think it lies in Dogs. Our first attempt at playing God, and the only one that seems to have paid constant, positive dividends for all of us. Buildings and inventions crumble, knowledge is forgotten (if it's ever listened to) and empires collapse but through it all Dogs have followed us and will continue to. Loyal to the very end.

The reason for this post is simple: I was just watching my dog, Jasper, chasing off a red squirrel from the bird feeders. I'm out at my parents' home in the country, and the red squirrels are a pleasant change from the large (and aggressive) black variety we get in the city.

When he was younger, Jasper and I had a game: I would sit down in a chair on the lawn, with him laying down beside me, and we would wait while one of those awful black squirrels climbed down the trunk of the maple tree beside the driveway. Jasper would tense up as soon as he saw it, but I trained him to wait until I gave the word. Once the squirrel was a few feet from the tree, just far enough to give both of them a sporting chance, I would tell Jasper to "go get him" and Jasper would take off like a black, furry guided missile, barking all the way.

He never caught a squirrel, but that was never the point. I would check him before he did in any case. The point was chasing off a small furry thing that was on our territory, because that's just not allowed, is it? Well, then there's the barking and running. Jasper does love the running and barking.

I should point out that both of Jasper's parents were foundlings. He is as purebred a mongrel as it is possible to get. There's some terrier in there, somewhere, and quite possibly some coyote as well from the way he howls and whines, but his ancestry is and always will be a mystery. What Jasper IS, is the most Dog dog I have ever known: chasing squirrels, chasing cats, burying everything, digging up the yard, chasing his tail, fetching sticks/balls/anything you care to toss and any other classically "Dog" behaviour you can think of. He's not perfect (well, I think so) in that he's a mooch, and he's often quite excitable and protective of my family when strangers are around, but he is as much my brother as my brother is. I would not change him in any way, except to give him the same long lifespan that humans enjoy.

Well, and possibly heat vision, just for an afternoon. That would surprise the hell out of those black squirrels that keep disturbing the birds and red squirrels at the feeders. Not to mention the mailman back in the city.

Suffice to say that my family has had several dogs over the course of my life and all of them have been special. Most importantly, though, they have been parts of the family rather than simple pets. I adore Dogs, and not just because they are floppy, loyal companions.

I can never look into a Dog's eyes without seeing echoes of all the generations of Dogs that came before, and feeling an obligation to repay some of that loyalty and love that we have been paid by our four-legged companions.

2 comments:

900ft Jesus said...

what a nice post. I spend a lot of time just watching the dogs I live with. I never tire of it and you're right. They think we humans - their humans, at least - are terrific. Makes me want to be at least half that.

No matter how bad my day has been, having Demon and The Evil Puppy greet me with enthusiasm when I get home just makes my world alright.

They're always so excited with the dawn of each day, don't you think? So excited, as though the day offers infinite possibilities.

Uncommoner said...

They really are. Dave Barry wrote something to that effect, once (I'm paraphrasing, it was yonks ago): you can say absolutely anything to a dog, anything at all, and they'll look at you as if to say "My God, I never thought of that before. That's amazing!"

And then there's the constant sense of expectant wonder at the way we seem to conjure the most delicious foods out of nowhere.

Franny, a midnight black Shih-Tzu/Cocker Spaniel cross with white beard and tail-tip, who passed away some time ago, taught Jasper much of what he knows. I'm glad she had gotten a little older and wiser before we got Jasper, because she was a hellion when she was younger.

I once caught her opening the refrigerator in the house I grew up in. She lay on her side, pawed at the door until it opened and then climbed inside and began eating an entire Kolbasa sausage that was on the second shelf.

Suffice to say that Dogs are, to my mind, the best companions anyone could ask for. There are other animals that make fine pets, but with a Dog you don't just get a pet, you get a sidekick and a henchhound too.