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?
A 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!”
Posted by John Woestendiek March 27th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alliances, allies, animals, anthropology, book, books on dogs, dog, dog books, dogs, evolution, human, humans, neanderthal, neanderthals, pat shipman, pets, survival, the invaders, wolves
Bella, the Maltese mix who mysteriously disappeared two weeks ago from a home in Durham, N.C., has been returned to her family — and in an equally mysterious manner.
Bella wandered away from home on March 11, and, minutes later, a neighbor saw the driver of a car stop and pick her up at an intersection.
A day later Scott and Kerry Holmes received a phone call from a person claiming to have found their dog. But when they didn’t specify a reward amount, the caller hung up without supplying any additional information.
The family contacted police, and began putting up “lost dog” flyers.
Near the end of last week, a third party contacted the family in an attempt to arrange the return of Bella. The family later met her at a nearby church and picked the dog up.
But neither the Holmes nor police, who have made an arrest in the case, are saying much more than that.
Scott Holmes, an attorney, said Bella was safely returned home Thursday night. “Our family is so happy she is home. We are celebrating her return. She has slept a lot and seems to be perking up today,” he said.
He declined to offer any specifics about the dog’s return, but did say that his family is collecting reward money for a single mother in Chapel Hill who provided information that led to Bella’s return.
Meanwhile, police arrested Amanda Shanese Bynum, 28, of Carrboro, and charged her with extortion, larceny of a dog and felony conspiracy, according to the Durham Herald-Sun. According to police, Bynum threatened not to return the dog unless she was paid $600.
According to WTVD, Bella traveled at least as far as Charlotte during the time she was missing. A photograph of her at a Charlotte pet supply store, wearing some new dog clothes, appeared on Bynum’s social media page, the Holmes family said.
Holmes said that after being returned Bella was lethargic over the weekend, but that she is bouncing back. He said she appeared to be in good shape physically.
“My wife and Bella are catching up on their sleep and are really, really glad to be reunited,” Holmes said. “They’re very close, and they’re doing really well. There’s been a lot of joy in our house since we got Bella home.”
Posted by John Woestendiek March 26th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, arrest, bella, dogs, durham, home, kidnapped, larceny, maltese, missing, mix, north carolina, pets, ransom, returned, theft
He isn’t exactly adept at catching airborne snacks in his mouth. Does that mean Fritz the Golden retriever should be made a laughingstock?
Probably not, but welcome to the Internet age, in which dogs (and humans) are more likely to become famous not for doing something right, but for doing something wrong — and the more “epic” the fail the better.
This video was posted on YouTube last week, and since has been reposted on major media websites, and broadcast on TV, like yesterday’s Today Show — all but guaranteeing it will go viral.
We hesitated before even posting it, because in a way we see it as laughing “at” Fritz, who, for all we know, might have a vision problem or other disability.
But we admire his persistence, and the look of determination in his eyes. We admire that far more than we admire the owner, and — assuming Fritz is eating everything thrown at him after it lands on the ground — the unhealthy diet he is providing his dog.
Fritz flubs it when he tries to catch, among other food items, a donut, a slice of pizza, a hot dog (on bun, with mustard), a chimichanga and more.
Not until the very end does he manage to catch an item — what appears to be a french fry.
The YouTube post provides few details, so we can only hope this was videotaped over time, as opposed to all in one day — for the sake of Fritz’s stomach, and his owner’s carpeting.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 25th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, catching, dog, dogs, error, fail, food, fritz, funny, golden retriever, humor, internet, miss, missing, pets, snacks, treats, video, videos, youtube
Before you wipe off that next dog kiss — not that too many ohmidog! readers are the sort that do that — you might want to think about this:
Some of those doggy bacteria that dog-disliking alarmists and hand-wringing medical types are always warning us about might actually be good for you.
As with Greek yogurt and kimchee, some of the microbes lurking in a dog’s gut could have a probiotic effect on the owners’ body, aiding in both digestion and overall health.
Researchers at the University of Arizona are now seeking volunteers to take part in a study to prove just that — and here’s the coolest part: Volunteers, if they want, can keep the shelter dog assigned to them when the study is done.
The “Dogs as Probiotics” study will focus specifically on the effect dogs have on the health of older people — in terms of physical well-being, mental well-being and cognitive functioning.
“We already know that dogs make us happier and in some ways healthier. The main point of this study is to try and understand whether or not there is an actual biological component behind this,” Kim Kelly, a UA doctoral student in medical anthropology, and one of the study’s primary investigators,
told the Arizona Daily Star.
“This has the potential to change the field in terms of how we understand, think about and use microbes to improve our health,” she said.
The study team is recruiting adults over the age of 50 and asking them to live with a dog from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona for three months.
Both the human and canine subjects will undergo tests of an non-invasive sort during the study to determine whether or not the positive microbes in the humans increase, and whether it correlates with improved immune measures in older adults.
Probiotics are often referred as “good” or “helpful” bacteria. They can help keep the intestines healthy, assist in digesting food, and are believed to help the immune system.
Kelly, along with researchers at the University of San Diego and the University of Colorado, will explore whether living with a dog encourages the growth of positive micro organisms in the human gut.
“We essentially want to find out, is a dog acting like yogurt in having a probiotic effect,” she said.
In addition, researchers will monitor participants for any changes in the mental health and emotional well-being.
Once the scientists are done, human participants will have the option of keeping the dog they kept in their home during the study.
We’re guessing that — whether their digestion has improved or not — most of them will.
Who wouldn’t want someone who has been kissing them for three months to hang around?
(Video: Attendees at the SPCA of Maryland’s March for the Animals, 2009, receiving some free probiotics from my dog Ace; photo: Kim Kelly and her cocker spaniel Katie, courtesy of Kim Kelly)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 24th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: ace, animals, bacteria, benefits, cognition, digestion, digestive, dog, dogs, dogs as probiotics, germs, good bacteria, health, health benefits, humane society of southern arizona, kim kelly, kisses, kissing, licking, licks, mental health, microbes, pets, probiotics, study, university of arizona, volunteers
In hopes that potential adopters will find a “Chiratoodle” or a “golden Chinscher” more appealing than a plain old mutt or “Chihuahua mix,” an animal shelter in California has begun DNA testing some of its dogs to determine their breeds and market them under more exotic names.
The Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA in Burlingame, south of San Francisco, says initial results show the DNA tested dogs are getting adopted twice as fast.
Not too surprising in a world that prefers labels over mysteries — at least when it comes to what we bring into our homes.
DNA testing is not widely practiced by America’s animal shelters, mainly because of its expense. As a result, most people who adopt a dog from a shelter leave with a mystery mutt, or one whose heritage has been guessed at by shelter staff.
My dog Ace, for instance, when he was adopted nearly 10 years ago, was listed as a “hound mix” on his shelter paperwork, referred to as a “shepherd mix” by shelter staff and listed on Petfinder.com as a “Labrador mix.”
When DNA tests came on the market in 2007, I purchased one, swabbed his cheek and learned he was Rottweiler and Chow. In the next few years, as the tests became capable of identifying more than the original 38 breeds, I tested him two more times. The second test determined he was Rottweiler, Chow and Akita. The third test showed him to be all of those, and a little bit pit bull.
The tests allowed me to answer the question I was asked at least once a day: “What kind of dog is that?” It wasn’t so much that I had to know. All three tests were done mostly as research, for the purpose of writing about them. And once I learned the breeds he was made up of, I kind of missed the mystery.
I don’t think the information is all that vital, but I can understand how a purchaser, or adopter, of a dog might like to know what’s in his or her mix.
In California, the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA conducted the tests in an attempt to increase the adoptions of Chihuahua mixes, which make up nearly a quarter the dogs in its shelter.
The campaign, conducted under the slogan “Who’s Your Daddy?” is aimed at “finding great homes for dogs at risk of being overlooked,” said Scott Delucchi, the shelter’s senior vice president.
“People love mutts. Still, we’re betting shelter dogs with DNA results included, for free, will be quite fetching,” he says in a commercial for the campaign.
The shelter picks up the cost of the $50 tests, which they say can help owners identify what breed-specific traits the dogs might exhibit. The tests also allow the shelter to have some fun coming up with clever breed names — like “Chorgi” (Chiuahua-corgi), “golden Chinscher” (golden retriever-miniature pinscher-Chihuahua) and “Chiratoodle” (Chihuahua-rat terrier-poodle).
In February, the shelter conducted tests that determined the breed make up of 11 small dogs. All found homes within two weeks — twice as fast as any 11 untested small, brown dogs in the previous months, according to an Associated Press story.
Twelve more dogs have been tested since then and once they are all placed in homes the shelter plans to test 24 more.
Chihuahuas have replaced pit bulls as the most prevalent breed in the shelter, largely due to the “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” movies, and the breed’s popularity among celebrities.
While some visitors to the shelter are seeking Chihuahuas, others are looking for mutts — small dogs who, thanks to another breed being in the mix, might have a less nervous dispositions.
While shelter officials have proclaimed the new program a success, they note that it’s going to take more than a gimmick to reduce the “alarming” number of Chihuahua mixes coming in.
“Another part is making spay-neuter low-cost or free to the community,” Delucchi said. The shelter also exports some of its smaller dogs to shelters in Florida, New York and other states where they are in shorter supply.
(Photo: Lynn and Tony Mazzola, with Lily, their newly adopted ”Chorkie;” by Eric Risberg / AP)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 23rd, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoptions, animals, breed tests, breeds, burlingame, california, chihuahuas, chiratoodle, dna, dogs, golden chinscher, mutts, mystery, peninsula humane society, pets, rescues, shelters, testing
We love dogs. We love depictions of interspecies harmony. And danged if we don’t love Roger Miller.
So even though its cast is made up of various members of the animal kingdom — not just the dogs we normally feature in our “Woof in Advertising” pieces — we’re pretty crazy about this recent ad for Android phones.
We especially like the tagline: “Be Together. Not the Same.”
The ad doesn’t make me want to buy an Android phone.
But it does make me happy.
How can such scenes of interspecies friendship not make you joyful, especially when you throw in the phrase “Ooda Lalley?
(According to Urban Dictionary, it’s a term popularized in the 1950s, meaning yay or yippee.)
Now all we have to do is figure out what “Do-Wacka-Do” means, and whether it’s possible that — with enough interspecies harmony — we CAN roller skate in a buffalo herd.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 20th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: advertisement, advertising, android, animals, be together not the same, commercial, dogs, friendship, harmony, interspecies, marketing, ooda lalley, orangutan, pets, phone, relationship, robin hood and little john, roger miller, roscoe, song, suryia, woof in advertising
Then the family got a phone call that indicated otherwise.
The caller, who claimed to have picked up their lost dog at a Durham, N.C., intersection, asked if there was a reward, and hung up when the answer didn’t please her.
The phone call was made six days ago, and the woman hasn’t called back since, according to the owners of Bella.
“She said she had the dog and asked about money and if we had a reward,” recalled Caroline Wilgen. “I said yes, but we hadn’t decided how much and she hung up.”
Bella, a white Maltese-poodle mix, wandered off last Wednesday as her owner unloaded groceries. She made it to the intersection of Cornwallis and Pickett Road.
“Several cars stopped when she tried to cross the road and the person who was closest to the dog scooped it up and then tried to put it in her car,” Wilgen told WTVD.
The next day Bella’s family received the phone call from a woman who said she had found the owner’s contact information on the dog’s collar.
“We received a call Thursday, around 8:00 pm, from the young woman who picked Bella up,” Wilgen’s husband wrote on his blog. “She said that Bella got into her car voluntarily. She sounded a little worried she may be in trouble. … We have hoped she would call back, but so far, nothing.
“We really hope she calls. We are not trying to get her in trouble, we just want Bella home. Maybe a neighbor or friend will recognize Bella and encourage her to do the right thing.”
Wilgen adopted Bella two years ago, driving seven hours to pick the dog up from a shelter in Tennessee, where she’d been dropped off with matted fur and rotting teeth.
Now Bella needs to be rescued again.
“She’s already been through a lot so if we could bring her home, that’d be great,” Wilgen said.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 19th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bella, car, dog, dognapped, dogs, durham, kidnapped, lost, maltese, missing, mix, n.c., north carolina, pets, phone call, picked up, poodle, ransom, reward, wandered