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
When a Labradoodle fell off the side of a 200-foot cliff in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, members of the group she was hiking with all presumed she had died — and held a memorial service right there on the spot.
But Gracie, amazingly, was still alive.
And a rescue team hoisted her to safety.
The dog’s owner, Michelle Simmons, says her Labradoodle was part of a large hiking group. Gracie and another dog were playing on a trail when Gracie went over the side of the cliff.
Her horrified family held a memorial service for the pooch on the cliff.
Afterwards, another hiker heard the dog, contacted authorities, and the Oregon Humane Society sent a 10-person rescue team to the site, on Eagle Creek trail, near Punchbowl Falls.
Bruce Wyse, a member of the team, was lowered down the 200-foot cliff and fitted Gracie with a rescue harness. Team members then hoisted Gracie and Wyse back up the cliff.
She was in fairly good shape, having suffered only bruises and scratches, the Oregonian reported.
The rescue team’s leader., Rene Pizzo, said the incident should be a reminder to other pet owners who hike with their animals to keep their dogs on leashes.
“We strongly urge dog owners to keep their pets on leash all the time in areas such as the Columbia Gorge,” Pizzo said. “Your dog’s leash can save your pet’s life.”
(Photo: Oregon Humane Society)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 8th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alive, animals, cliff, columbia river gorge, dog, dogs, eagle creek trail, fall, gracie, hiking, hiking with dogs, labradoodle, leashes, memorial service, oregon, pets, punchbowl falls, safety, survival, survives
Unable to find any food, Marco Lavoie, 44, killed his dog with a rock and ate him, according to the Canadian news agency QMI.
According to news reports, the first words the hiker uttered, after being found close to death by rescuers last week, were: “I want to get a new dog.”
Lavoie — after a bear destroyed his canoe and food supply — was stranded for three months in the wilderness about 500 miles outside Montreal. After the bear attack, he sprained his ankle and was unable to hunt or find any other source of food, according to reports.
Lavoie, an experienced hiker who often spent weeks in the wilderness by himself, was rescued by helicopter on Wednesday. He’d lost 90 pounds and was suffering from hypothermia. He was listed in critical condition in a hospital in Northern Quebec.
Survival expert Andre Francois Bourbeau told the Toronto Sun that Lavoie’s decision to eat his dog was a good one.
“He survived because he made good decisions. Eating his dog was one of them,” said Borbeau, the author of a survival guide. “You have to be desperate, but there’s no shame in (eating the dog),” said Bourbeau. “Hunger squeezes you so much that you would accept food that’s not normally possible,” said Bourbeau. “You can crave slugs and bugs.”
I’m sure there are many others who hold that view, and who’d point out that man – by virtue of that “dominion” he has over other animals, by virtue of being the superior, more developed being, by virtue of his position atop civilized society – has every right to chow down on his dog when trapped in the wilderness with no other options available.
But we don’t find much virtue at all in his actions.
We see more humanity in the dog, who loyally went along on his master’s silly wilderness trip, scared off a bear to protect him, and — despite any hunger pangs he might have been experiencing, despite his master’s hobbled condition – didn’t make a meal of Lavoie.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 5th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, ate, bear, behavior, being, canada, dog, dogs, dominion, eating, eats, german shepherd, hiker, hiking, human, humanity, humans, man, man eats dog, man eats his dog, marco lavoie, nature, outdoorsmen, pets, saved, starvation, stranded, superior, survival, wilderness
A pit bull shot by police and left for dead in East St. Louis was scooped up by an animal advocate the next day, rushed to the vet and may survive.
Fox 2 News reports that police were called to the 900 block of East Broadway in East St. Louis on Tuesday after an eight-year-old boy was bitten by a black and white dog who witnesses say the boy had been throwing rocks at.
On Wednesday, Jaime Case, the executive director of Gateway Pet Guardians, was driving through the area and saw the dog moving in a field. She and her husband, who feed stray dogs in East St. Louis, loaded the dog in their truck and rushed him to Hillside Animal Hospital in St. Louis.
Why the dog remained in a field nearly 24 hours after police shot him, why no one apparently checked the dog after he was shot, why what was thought to be his lifeless body wasn’t hauled away are questions police haven’t answered. But on the surface it all seems to show a huge lack of respect — both for dogs and the community.
At least one department official wasn’t happy about it. Police returned to the street the next day, after neighbors who had gathered to watch the dog get rescued started expressing anger about how the police had handled the incident the day before. Fox News 2 caught one officer on video, who was wearing a hat reading ‘Asst. Chief’ and shouting into his phone at someone about the incident.
“We should have down something proper. How do we shoot a dog and leave a damn dog in a field?” the officer asked. “And you wonder why these people say the (expletive) they say about us.”
X-rays of the dog, who the rescuers named Colt, reveal he was shot once in the shoulder and once in the head.
But animal rescuer Case said when they arrived at his side he seemed to have some fight left in him.
“He was fighting us to get in the car so he has got some oomph left in him,” she said. “I am hopeful all those things mean he is on his way to recovery.”
Because the dog was found alive, the child who was bitten may be able to avoid a series of five rabies shots.
The dog, who was wandering at the time of the incident, is microchipped, and is registered to a home in Belleville.
If the dog survives, there’s still a good chance he could be put down if he is deemed dangerous.
Posted by John Woestendiek October 10th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: anger, animals, bit, bite, bitten, child, dog, dogs, east st. louis, gateway pet guardians, killed, law enforcement, left for dead, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, police, rescue, rises, rocks, shot, survival, survivor, throwing, undead
Ace remembers the park he used to play in, the places he liked to poop, the street he used to live on, the people who gave him treats. Ace remembers which rowhouse windows cats lived behind, which dogs once snapped at him, where his favorite bar is, who’s a friend, who’s a foe and, most of all, how to get a handout.
Watching him back in the old neighborhood, after a three month absence, I was impressed with just how much he remembered — from the moment we returned to Riverside Park and he ran up to Stan, the biscuit man, recognizing him even though Stan was in a new motorized chair.
When he saw one morning, from across the street, his friend Lori in the park, walking her dogs Chi Chi, Lola and Vinnie Barbarino (a foster), he bolted. Of course, she, too, had been a frequent treat provider — so much so that Ace’s ears would always perk up when he heard Chi Chi barking in the distance.
Nearly all dogs remember where they’ve gotten handouts — that’s pretty much how dogs became dogs in the first place, scavenging the outskirts of villages as wolves, then befriending residents who would throw them some leftovers.
I don’t think a dog’s memory is entirely food-based, or even entirely scent-based. I think dogs tend to recognize a good, kind soul when they meet one, and that somehow they register that information in their memory banks. That said, I think that the largest part of it is food and scent-based, and is instinctual, which is maybe why they remember better than we do, or at least I do.
Pehaps if I ran into an old friend in the park, and was struggling to remember his or her name, I would be better able to do so if I knew a free dinner would be involved. When one’s survival depends on it, one is willing to put more energy into being sociable.
I know that has been the case with me, on this journey. One can’t be a guest in someone’s home and then keep to oneself. One can’t just eat and run. One can’t just sleep and blog. That just wouldn’t be right. As our travels continue later this week, and we start month four, on the road, on a shoestring, after our layover in Baltimore, I would be well-served to keep that in mind — to, once again, be a little more like Ace, who once wandered Baltimore’s streets as a stray.
It’s not feigning love to get a treat (or a meal, or a bed, or an RV); it’s not purely reward-based affection, it’s more a case of loving both the person and the treat. That’s how I like to see it: “I am so happy to see you again, and thrilled just to be petted by you, but if perchance you have a treat in your pocket, that’s good, too.”
Wolves could have gotten their leftovers and ran; instead, they ended up bonding with humans and becoming dogs — not purely because it would mean more treats, but because, I like to think, the two species saw something in each other.
Just as wolves would return to where they’d gotten handouts, Ace made his rounds last week in the old neighborhood. At the park, he’d run up to anyone who had ever given him a treat, poking his nose in their pocket or purse to remind them in case they’d forgotten. Ace paused for a longtime when we passed Bill’s Lighthouse, a restaurant near my former home where a man name Jack — once Ace poked his head in the door and made his presence known — used to always come out and him bring a treat. Across the street, at Leon’s, Ace — as he only rarely does — went into overpower-the-master mode and dragged me inside.
He must have known that Donna, one of the bartenders, was there. Every day, before we left the neighborhood, she would see him coming, take a break and feed him a Slim Jim, unwrapping it, and breaking it into small pieces. I’m not saying eating Slim Jims improve memory, but they sure did in Ace’s case.
Another block down, on my old street, I let go of the leash and let Ace run up to the door of his old house. He stood there waiting to get in, and when that didn’t work he went and stood at the door of the neighbor’s — waiting, waiting and waiting.
He fully remembered which dogs in the park were his friends, and avoided the ones he had always avoided. He remember what games he played with whom — with Cooper, it was biting her back legs; with Darcy, it was biting her front paws and taking her entire head into his mouth.
Walking down the sidewalk, Ace remembered every rowhouse in whose front window he had ever seen a cat, and paused to look inside — again, not because he likes to eat cats, but because he loves them. He can stare at them for hours, he’ll play and cuddle with those who permit it, and just maybe, late at night, when nobody’s looking, he’ll go and eat their food.
We are scavengers at heart, my dog and me.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 16th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, ace does america, animals, baltimore, behavior, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, domestication, evolution, food, handouts, humans, instincts, love, memory, ohmidog!, pets, road trip, scavenging, species, survival, travels with ace, treats, wolves
Route 66 through Tucumcari is like Route 66 through a lot of places — a step back into the past that leaves you wondering if the old road and the motels that line it have much of a future.
Bypassed decades ago by Interstate 40, they fought to survive — and many have managed to do so nicely — but the economic downturn has made that a far fiercer fight.
Some, like the Blue Swallow (above) seem to be hanging on, thriving even. For others, the neon has burned out, the windows have been boarded up and weeds rise waist-high in the parking lot.
The Relax Inn, for example, is a ghost motel — and I’ve seen at least a dozen of them in my travels on Route 66 in New Mexico and Arizona: Its outdated sign remains, but glows no more.
Route 66 was established in 1926, originally running from Chicago through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and ending in southern California – 2,448 miles in all.
It served as pathway for migrants moving west during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Mom and pop businesses began popping up along it around then – restaurants, gas stations, motor courts, curio shops and more. Most of those businesses managed to survive the Depression, even prosper from it, catering to those moving west in search of a better life. World War II led to more westward migration, further bolstering businesses along Route 66. By the 1950s, the road served as the main highway for vacationers headed to California, or to see the sights of the West, and Route 66 thrived.
It would become a cultural icon in the decade that followed – featured in songs, TV shows and movies. It was distinctly American – and even today, some of the motels tout, in addition to their color cable TV and Internet connections, their American-ness.
The Tucumcari Inn, for example boasts that it is “American-owned”, but right next door, the sign at The Historic Route 66 Motel — as if casting aspersions on whether its neighbor is true-blue American — reads “Genuine American.” (Apparently, genuine American-ness, is worth an extra $2 a night)
The beginning of what many thought might be the end for Route 66 came in 1956 when President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway Act. Interstate 40 offered a speedier alternative, one in which motorists wouldn’t need to go through or slow down for towns like Tucumcari.
Despite the opposition of business and civic leaders in many of the bypassed towns, I-40 stretched on absorbing some parts of Route 66, sidestepping others.
In 1963, the New Mexico Legislature enacted legislation that banned the construction of interstate bypasses around cities by local request – but that didn’t fly. The federal government threatened to withhold federal highway funds. Instead some towns, Tucumcari included, worked out agreements with the federal government, in hopes that the new Interstate would at least come close to their businesses.
By the late 1960s, most of the rural sections of US 66 had been replaced by I-40 across New Mexico, and in 1981 the section bypassing Tucumcari was completed.
Route 66 would be “decommisioned” in 1985 when the federal government decided it was no longer “relevant” – given the presence of the Interstate Highway System.
Since then, there have been many efforts to preserve Route 66, and the businesses along it. In 1999 the National Route 66 Preservation Bill was signed by President Clinton, which provided $10 million in grants for preserving and restoring its historic features.
Today, Tucumcari, whose billboards attempt to lure travelers off the Interstate and into town — “Tucumcari Tonight,” they urge – has fewer motels, fewer restaurants. It’s down to one bar, and the signs of struggle are apparent in boarded up buildings, bargain rates and beckoning neon.
Some of it, like hope, flickers at times, but it still shines bright. Long may it do so.
(Photos by John Woestendiek)
(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” from the beginning, click here.)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 21st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, animals, arizona, blue swallow, buckaroo motel, bypass, bypassed, clinton, culture, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, economy, eisenhower, historic route 66 motel, history, holbrook, i-40, icon, Interstate 40, interstate highway system, motel, motels, motor courts, neon, new mexico, nostalgia, ohmidog!, pets, popular culture, relax inn, route 66, survival, towns, transportation, travel, tucumcari, tucumcari inn
A team of 40 vets and nurses, working around the clock for over two months, helped reassemble a three-year-old dog named Ruby after she was hit by a car.
After a series of operations at a cost of £11,500, Ruby, who remained cheerful and upbeat throughout the ordeal, is recovering, according to the Daily Mail.
Ruby suffered fractures to her two front legs, sternum and toe, a dislocated knee, ruptured ligaments and internal bleeding when she was struck by the car on January 26.
Because she did not have any head injuries, the vets said if she could live through the next 24 hours she had a good chance.
“Her legs will take about five months to heal totally but in herself she is happy, sweet-natured and an inspiration to the rest of us,” said her owner, Vanessa Gillespie. ”The vet said he had never seen a dog so broken still so happy. Most dogs would not have survived but Ruby is a toughie.’
Ruby was run over in the village of Cambourne in Cambridgeshire.
She spent five weeks at Queen’s Veterinary School Hospital in Cambridge, and had two major operations — first a nine-hour procedure in which her broken legs were repaired using four metal plates and screws, then a seven-hour operation to replace the ruptured knee ligaments, carry out skin grafts and amputate the broken toe. The fractured breastbone and internal bleeding were left to heal naturally.
Gillespie said most of the bill was covered by insurance. “If she had not been insured we would have had to put her down,” she said.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 25th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, broken, car, dislocated, dogs, fractured, healing, hit, injured, insurance, insured, knee, legs, news, ohmidog!, operations, pets, queen's veterinary school hospital, reassembled, recovery, ruby, severely, sternum, surgry, survival, survived, team, vanessa gillespie, veterinarians, veterinary