Our very best friends

November 1, 2018 | By More

Loyal, intelligent, steadfast, hardworking, devoted: these are characteristics we seek in friends, hope to find in family, and — if we’re lucky — these are characteristics of our work partners. But we can always find these characteristics wrapped in a furry four-legged package. If you can look deeper than wagging tails and perked ears, lolling tongue and slobbery kisses, soulful eyes and glistening noses, the most endearing characteristic of our canine companions is their big heart where all of those virtues we aspire to seem to be built in.

The relationship between dogs and humans traces back to beyond 30,000 years ago when it’s speculated that a few wolves began hanging around our ancestors’ camps searching for scraps and handouts. The decision to form this bond was theirs. The canines chose us.

The genesis of that relationship was noted by Duke University anthropologist Dr. Brian Hare, founder and co-director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center, as “one of the most extraordinary events in human history.”

And the dogs somehow chemically synced their brains with ours. You know that warm gooey feeling you experience when gazing into your dog’s soft chestnut eyes? That’s a release of the hormone oxytocin as it builds and reinforces trust and love with your pooch. Secretion of oxytocin normally happens only between parents and children or romantic partners. Dogs and humans share the only known oxytocin bond between two different species.

Clearly, the designation of dog as “mankind’s best friend” is nowhere close to encompassing the breadth and depth of the relationship. There’s nothing even remotely comparable in the world.

Exactly how we got from there to here is complicated and unknowable. But suffice it to say that two unlikely species, who sometimes found themselves at odds with one another, developed this symbiotic connection based on a pragmatic need for one another. And this incredible, unlikely and precious canine/human friendship evolved over the millennia, growing to encompass so many facets of our human lives from emotional support to companionship to tasks best suited to fleeter legs and sharper noses. And today, many of us couldn’t imagine a life without our dog.

In this issue of ABOUT, we want to take a closer look at a few working-class dogs in the River Valley. They’re varied breeds and trained or in training for varied tasks. But they all share a common job description as sentinels, partners, protectors, and most of all best friends.

Or maybe even our very best friends.

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Category: Editorial

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