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Tag: humans

If not for dogs, we’d all be Neanderthals

evolution

There’s no question humans played a major — you could even say heavy-handed — role in the evolution of dogs.

But might dogs and their predecessors have played an equally significant role in our’s?

invadersA new book by Pennsylvania State University anthropologist Pat Shipman, “The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction,” suggests that having wolves/dogs on our side allowed humans to survive while Neanderthals went extinct.

(Well, maybe not totally extinct; I know at least two.)

In reality, most humans today — thanks to long-ago couplings between humans and Neanderthals — have anywhere from one to four percent of Neanderthal genes in their systems. (Those genes, I suspect, are responsible for making us tailgate, become bodybuilders and cut in line.) 

Neanderthals lived, evolved and pretty much ruled for about 250,000 years. After humans came along, about 40,000 years ago, the numbers of Neanderthals declined, then vanished, falling victim, some think, to the superior intellect, skills and weapons of early humans.

Shipman agrees with that theory, but argues humans having wolves on their side was a critical factor.

Neanderthals, the author says, never buddied up with the wolf, while humans would go on to form an alliance with them, tame them, breed them and assign them the kind of tasks that helped with survival — like hunting, guarding and chasing away enemies.

Given dogs were once thought to have been domesticated only 10,000 to 15,000 years ago — long after Neanderthals and humans had it out — little attention was paid to what, if any role, they might have played in the conflict.

But newer evidence, suggesting the domestication of dog goes back 25,000, 35,000, or even more than 100,000 years ago, lends credence to the conclusion dogs were a factor in the survival of our species.

It’s all pretty fascinating stuff — from whence we came, from whence dog came, and how, when and why we seemingly became allies.

But, other than the fact that knowing how our species has managed to survive this long might help it continue to do so, I’m not sure how relevant it is to modern times — unless, as one writer semi-playfully suggests in a piece for WBUR, Boston’s NPR station, how much an individual likes or dislikes dogs is related to the amount of Neanderthal within.

“Depending on the individual, you might just wonder if dog loving might be an indicator of the ratio of Neanderthal genes you’ve got,” Vicki Croke wrote on the WBUR blog, “The Wild Life.” She quotes Lauren Slater, author of  “The $60,000 Dog:”

“What this may mean: all those ‘not dog’ people, the ones who push away the paws and straighten their skirts after being sniffed, well, they may have one foot in the chromosomally compromised Neanderthal pool,” Slater wrote, while dog lovers “may be displaying not idiocy or short-sighted sentimentality, as our critics would call it, but a sign of our superior genetic lineage.”

So the next time some small foreheaded, prim and proper, club-carrying type asks that you keep your dog away from them, by all means comply, but feel free to mutter under your breath as you walk away:

“What a Neanderthal!”

Homeless man finds shelter — for his dog

oreo2

Disliking all the rules that come with staying in a homeless shelter — especially the ones that prohibit dogs — Bernard Holland chose homelessness over doglessness.

He’d arrived in indianapolis a few weeks before Thanksgiving, stayed with family until that turned sour, then — as temperatures plummeted — pitched a tent in what’s known as The Jungle, a homeless camp just east of downtown.

That’s where a social worker ran into him and his two-year-old mutt, Oreo, on a night temperatures were dropping below zero.

Now, one of them, at least, is staying warm.

oreoIf you guessed the dog, you’re right.

When Ben Bierlein, owner of Wigglebutt Doghouse, heard of the pair’s plight, he offered to take Oreo in and foster her at the daycare and boarding facility.

“To us, the real story here is about a man, although down on his luck and living in a tent, who would not give up on his dog,” Bierlein explained to the Indianapolis Star.

“The fact that he was willing to gut it out in sub-zero temperatures because he didn’t want to leave his dog — that’s pretty powerful. With the myriad of reasons people surrender their dogs to shelters, Bernard would have had a very valid reason, but he loves Oreo; she means the world to him.”

Bierlein, after being contacted by the social worker who came across Holland and Oreo — Melissa Burgess of  Horizon House – offered to care for Oreo during the cold snap. He also paid to get Oreo up to date on shots and to be spayed.

Normally, that would allow Holland to get a slot at a homeless shelter. But he’s still living outside — at least partly by choice.

Holland says he’ll continue to make his home in a tent, unless the nights get too unbearably cold. He says he’s put off by the early curfew and other rules of homeless shelters, and considers them a last resort.

He has enrolled in Opportunity Knocks classes through Horizon House, and he hopes to find a job as a painter or janitor. Horizon House is also trying to help him find affordable housing where Oreo, who he has had since she was four months old, would be welcome.

Holland, 53, said he once operated his own drywall business in Chicago, but in 1992 he was shot at random by two teens as part of their gang initiation and had to undergo multiple surgeries.

Now, he says, he just wants to “get Oreo back, have a roof over my head and have a job and do the right thing in life. I’m not looking to be rich, just live a happy life.”

He plans to hop on the bus and visit Oreo regularly until they are reunited.

Meanwhile, ”Oreo is putting smiles on all of the faces here,” the owner of Wigglebutt said. “She is adorable, the biggest sweetheart — and she has made lots of new four-legged friends. She’s very dog-social. If you could watch her during the day, you’d think she’s been coming to doggie day care for years.”

(Photo: Mike Fender / The Star)

Homeless man who surrendered his dog to shelter still walks him every day

buster

Out of work and out of money, Pete Buchmann could no longer pay his rent. So the Claymont, Del., man and his dog Buster moved to the back yard of a vacant home nearby and pitched a tent.

Even during the warmth of July, the novelty of that wore off pretty quick — perhaps quicker for Buster, who is nine and arthritic, than Pete, who is 54 and able-bodied.

“It was kind of fun for about a week,” Buchmann said, “but it wasn’t good for Buster.”

Buchmann moved to Delaware less than two years ago from Long Island, where he cared for an ailing mother and sister until their deaths. He got by on part-time jobs, but when even those ran out he was forced to sell his car, then give up his $800-a-month pet-friendly apartment.

Realizing life in a tent wasn’t going to be good for him or his dog, Buchmann asked police for the name of animal shelter where he could take Buster — and maybe get him back once he was on his feet and employed again.

He was given contact information for Faithful Friends Animal Society in Wilmington.

After leaving a couple of phone messages, and details on where he and Buster could be found, Buchmann received a visit from a shelter official.

“We drove out and found them,” Lou Henderson, manager of the shelter’s dog department told the  Wilmington News Journal. ”We also took Pete a goodie bag with some food and things in it to help him.”

Buchmann said his goodbyes and Buster, a Rottweiler-boxer mix, was taken to the shelter.

But neither the story, nor Pete and Buster’s relationship, ended there.

buster2Buster, who was very attached to Pete and not especially social with other dogs, now has his own room at the shelter.

While Buster is enjoying the hospitality of Faithful Friends, Buchmann is now residing (though not in a private room) at the Sunday Breakfast Mission.

And every day, he walks five miles to visit with and walk Buster.

He helps out with the shelter’s other dogs, too

“I am just amazed at his attitude,” Executive Director Jane Pierantozzi said. “He walks two-and-a-half miles each way every day to see Buster, and then he spends two or three hours helping us walk the dogs. Most people in his situation would be depressed and angry, but he isn’t.”

Pierantozzi says she has been so impressed with Buchmann, she’d hire him if the non-profit shelter had the money. Instead, she’s reaching out to her contacts in hopes of finding him a full-time job.

buster3“Pete has been so resilient through all his trials,” she said. “It’s bad enough to lose your home, but to not know what’s going to happen to your pet is horrible. I just hope there are people out there that can help.”

While the organization commonly helps find new homes for pets surrendered by financially-pinched owners, Buster wasn’t adoption material.

“He’s old, he has arthritis, and he’s protective of and attached to Pete. Dogs like that can go down fast in a shelter. We knew if he went to a kill shelter he wouldn’t survive.”

Meanwhile, at the Sunday Breakfast Mission, Buchmann has been getting to know his fellow shelter dwellers — many of whom, like him, don’t fit the homeless person stereotype

“I don’t drink, and I don’t do drugs. There are a lot of very smart people living at the mission who are just down on their luck,” he said.

Buchmann said he’s grateful to be able to visit his dog, and looking forward to living together with him again.

“He’s my buddy; he’s been with me through everything,” he said. “He seems content here, and he knows now that I’m coming back, that he hasn’t been deserted.”

(Photos:  Jennifer Corbett / The News Journal)

Diary of a sad dog

Ten million viewers have listened to the astute ramblings of these “sad dogs” since they were posted on YouTube a year and a half ago by someone calling himself Ze Frank.

“Sad Dog Diary” is the sequel to Sad Cat Diary, and while it’s laden with poop and pee references, it offers some hilarious insights into how dogs might see the world — were they as logical and unexcitable as the moderator who provides their voice.

Creepy: California man accused of killing ex’s dog, and feeding it to her dinner

mugshot

We’re not sure who gave Ryan Eddy Watenpaugh the minor shiner he sports in this mug shot.

But, assuming Watenpaugh really did what he is accused of doing, he deserves much worse, and — once he goes to trial, and if he gets convicted, of course — we hope he gets it.

The Shasta County, California, man is in custody for killing his girlfriend’s dog, then cooking the dog and feeding his girlfriend part of the remains — telling her it was a pork dish initially, then texting her that what she’d really eaten was her dog.

Police in Redding say Watenpaugh’s live-in girlfriend left him after a fight in August, leaving her Pomeranian, Bear, behind.

When she returned, in what appeared to be a reconciliation, Watenpaugh told her the dog had disappeared.

As a show of what appeared good faith, he made her dinner, then informed her — through text messages — that she had eaten her dog.

“It set all of us back when we read the text messages about the incident,” said a police sergeant. “The suspect asked her how Bear tasted … obviously referencing the meal he prepared for her.”

Police are still investigating, but they say a package Watenpaugh left for his ex last week lends credence to the claims he made in his messages. On Tuesday, the victim said Watenpaugh left a bag at her front door — inside of which were the paws of what she believed to be her dog, Action News reported.

Watenpaugh, 34, was arrested Thursday evening, booked into the Shasta County Jail and is being charged with domestic violence, stalking, animal cruelty and imprisonment.

“It’s sad, that if indeed the dog was killed as part of this incident, because dogs are innocent. All they want is affection and love,” Redding Police Sgt. Todd Cogle told NBC News on Friday. “For someone to take advantage of that innocence is obviously sad and depressing.”

Watenpaugh admitted to leaving Bear’s paws in front of his ex-girlfriend’s home, but denied anything to do with the dog’s apparent death, police said.

No other remains of the dog have been found.

Shut up and pet me: Study says dogs prefer petting over anything you might have to say

SONY DSCLess talk, more petting — that’s what your dog wants, according to a new study.

Based on tests with dozens of dogs — some from homes, some from shelters — researchers found that, when it comes to interacting with humans, dogs seems to prefer physical contact to anything you might have to say, praise included.

One possible exception — verbal pronouncements that dinner, or treats, are about to be served.

Two scientists from the University of Florida, who in a previous study determined dogs prefer eating food to being petted, have published the results of another research project, showing dogs prefer physical contact over verbal praise.

Neither conclusion seems that surprising to me, but one has to bear in mind that scientists prefer having their work published to having their bellies rubbed, dinner at a five-star restaurant or even verbal praise: “Good scientist. Yes! Yes! You’re a very good scientist.”

“I spend half my day talking to my dog,” study co-author Dr. Clive Wynne, who is now professor and director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, told The Huffington Post. “She always looks like it’s valuable to her. It’s quite a shock to discover that what we say to dogs doesn’t seem to be rewarding to them after all.”

For one part of the study researchers observed 42 dogs as they interacted one at a time with two people in a room. One person petted the dog, while the other praised the dog verbally. The researchers measured how much time the dog chose to spend interacting with each person.

Next,  72 dogs were, one at a time, placed in a room with just one person and their behavior was observed as the person spent time petting or praising the dog, or not interacting at all.

Dogs showed the most interest in people who were petting them, while they seemed to show no more interest in spoken praise than in having no interaction with the human at all, according to the study, published in the journal Behavioural Processes.

“I was surprised that when only one alternative was available, dogs still did not engage with the human for vocal praise,” said study co-author Dr. Erica Feuerbacher, now assistant professor of anthrozoology at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. She conducted the research while earning her doctorate degree at the University of Florida.

The scientists say dogs never seem to tire of getting petted, and they note that previous studies have shown a dog being stroked, like the human who is stroking him, reaps some health benefits, including a lowering of heart rate and blood pressure.

We won’t go so far as to suggest dogs realize that petting is a more honest form of interaction; that words can be less sincere, or even deceptive; or that words can even be annoying — like when they go on too long, are ridiculously repetitious, or they’re uttered in that high-pitched baby talk tone some of us use when talking to our pets.

But we won’t rule it out, either.

For his part, researcher Wynne says that, even if his own dog doesn’t fully appreciate all he verbally passes on to her, he’ll probably keep talking to her anyway.  ”I just recognize better that I’m doing it more for my benefit than for hers,” he said.

(Photo: Ace seeking some physical contact in Kanab, Utah / by John Woestendiek) 

Let’s limit the ice bucket challenge to the species that came up with it — humans

This boneheaded bloke decided his dog should take the Ice Bucket Challenge, and now the RSPCA is investigating.

Here’s hoping they track him down and file charges (and that he gets a taste of the prison cell challenge).

I have no problem with humans dumping buckets of ice water on their own heads to raise money for ALS research. But let’s not force it on our dogs.

This video shows a teenage boy in London tossing  his dog, head first, into a bucket of freezing water.

“‘Here’s my dog and she’s doing the ice bucket challenge,” he says. “She wants to nominate all the other dogs here and all the cats as well, yeah.”

The RSPCA is concerned others — given the Ice Bucket Challenge’s viral nature and the lemming-like behavior of many humans — might try to copy the asinine stunt.

“It is likely that the puppy in the footage could have been caused distress, if not harm, and we are very concerned that others would think this is appropriate,” a spokesperson said. “Causing unnecessary suffering to an animal is an offence under law and we would strongly urge people not to copy this video.”

Most of the videos I’ve seen of dogs having the Ice Bucket Challenge inflicted upon them have been cute and harmless, involving cups and only small amounts of water.

But there will always be jackasses who want to take things to greater extremes. If they want to try the ice block challenge, or the anvil from a rooftop challenge, they should have at it — but only as long as they use their own heads.

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