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Dogs - A Gift for Humanity

by Sudhir Devapalan

posted in Pets

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Pets have become an integral part of life for many people. The reason: companionship. It's always nice to have someone with us and to love us unconditionally. And who else can do it better than 'man's best friend'! Not everyone has had the experience of raising a dog but if you have, then I am sure that you would be able to relate to the things I have to say. And as for those who haven't had a dog as a pet I am sure that this might just kindle that interest in you. I myself am the happy owner of a black Labrador 'Shadow' who has taught me what true love and affection really is.
Dogs were the first thing that humans domesticated. Even before cultivating any plant or taming any other animal. Some believe that dogs were selectively bred from wolves by humans around 15,000 - 30,000 years ago. Only the litter with the intended characteristics were bred over several generations leading to the domestication of the wolves. Others argue that the process was mutual and that some of the wolves accepted the human hunter's symbiotic relationship for a free meal from a hunt. Either way it was love at first sight. Dogs have been an integral part of humans ever since. Although dogs were initially used mostly as hunting partners, the roles of the dogs have changed over the years.
So why was it that the dog was domesticated first? Well, during man's early period he lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. For which the wolves were ideally suited as an assisting animal. Since the wolves were pack animals, they were highly protective of their pack members. So if they recognized humans to be their pack, then they could give the humans the much needed protection from other wild animals and also they could easily round up animals for hunting. These kinds of roles are still performed by dogs right now. The guard dog role is one of the most wanted qualities of these canines. They protect our home from intruders and keep us safe. The mere presence of a dog is enough to keep burglars at bay. Since they are so loyal and protective of their owners this is no problem. Secondly, the dogs are also an excellent hunting animal. They are used by hunters to track and flush out game animals. Their excellent sense of smell can be used to great effect to locate prey. They can also be used for retrieving hunted animals and birds from areas which could be inaccessible to humans.
Apart from this, dogs have various roles in the modern world. Dogs are trained in the police force to be used as "attack dogs". They are used on the field to take down armed criminals. They are fearless and trained to disarm the criminals efficiently. Some canines are trained in the art of sniffing bombs and smuggled drugs. The keen sense of smell of a dog cannot be matched by humans. Their sense of smell is 1,000 times better than ours. And bomb detecting squads rely on this ability to trace the location of the bombs. Some dogs are used as guiding animals for the blind and disabled. They are capable of guiding their owners through simple commands.
But leaving all these roles aside, we all love dogs as pets. Just to keep them in our home and hug them all day long. The love and affection that a dog expresses cannot be compared to anything else. For a dog you are its entire world. He will do anything and everything for you. One thing that I observe from my dog is that whenever I leave my home for work he walks up to the gate and just sits there with a puppy dog look in his eyes. If by chance I happen to notice that, it really breaks my heart to leave him. It seems to be one of his most powerful tricks. But an even greater surprise is when I return home. I might have been gone for only half a day but when I get back home, the welcome I get from my dog is like as if I had been gone for years! And this happens every day. And if anyone from my family doesn't get home by nightfall, he gets so worried and waits for them by the gate. He will not sleep unless they get home or if we reassure him that they will not be coming home that day. It really shows how much love he has for us and his concern for our safety. It's not surprising that dogs are used as therapy animals to help people recover from mental stress. Who wouldn't be touched by this?
The one distinctive characteristic that a dog has is his "loyalty". A dog will remain loyal to his master throughout his life. Wherever his master goes, he goes. Whatever his master does, he does. A dog would even follow his master to the grave. Literally! I was really moved by watching the movie "Hachiko" and I highly recommend watching it. It is based on a true story of the dog Hachiko who was an Akita dog born near the city of Odate, Japan. In 1924, Hidesabura Ueno, a professor took Hachiko as a pet. During his owner's life, Hachiko greeted him at the end of each day at the nearby Shibuya Station. This continued daily until May 1925, when Professor Ueno did not return as he had died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Each day for the next nine years, nine months and fifteen days, Hachiko waited in the same spot appearing precisely when the train was due at the station. Hachiko waited for his master until his death on March 8th 1935. A bronze statue of Hachiko is placed in front of the Shibuya train station Tokyo in honor of his memory. This is enough to prove the loyalty that a dog shows us.
A dog is a lot different from any other pet. They are grateful to be with us and cherish every moment that they spend with us and crave for complete attention. If you treat cats with love and affection, this is what goes in their mind: "The humans care for me a lot. I must be God then!" However if we show the same affection to a dog, this is probably what he will think: "How much my master cares for me! To show this much love and affection he definitely must be God!" This is just an imaginative suggestion but I am sure that most of you will agree with me. I can go on and on explaining about the adorable characteristics of dogs as they have so many good qualities in them. Every person likes dogs for some reason. A dog can be a partner at work, a companion and savior in time of need or even a cuddly toy to hug our sorrows away and the people who have not had them as a pet are certainly missing out on one of the most amazing things in life!
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