During this time of year, it’s so hot where I live that if I’m not working in my home office, chances are good that I’m tucked into a nook somewhere with a fan blowing in my face and a book glued to my hands. My summer reading list has revealed some memorable protagonists, and not all of them are of the two-legged variety. In fact, some of my favorite characters, not surprisingly, happen to be four-legged.
That’s right, in some books dogs play an essential role in the plot progression. Sometimes the entire story centers on the canine, while in other stories he is merely doing what he does best, being a faithful companion and loyal sidekick to his human. Here are a few of my favorite dogs found in literature.
With a list like this, you almost have to start with Buck from Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. This canine was a principal character in this classic 1903 book. Buck was living a leisurely life as a domesticated dog during the Klondike Gold Rush period when, being a St. Bernard-Scotch Collie mix, he was stolen and forced to work as a sled dog. This heroic one-time-pet begins to transform into a more primal, animalistic creature in order to survive at the hands of cruel humans and conditions.
Finally, Buck is rescued by John Thornton and the two forge an incredibly close relationship. Buck gets the chance to repay the debt by rescuing Thornton from a frozen river. But in the end, Buck’s beloved human is killed and he returns to his primal nature by answering the call of the wild. I fell in love with Buck the first time I read his name, and have loved him ever since. As you can probably tell, this book had a profound effect on me as a child.
Where I live, we have short thunderstorms almost every afternoon in the summer. I used to like these storms because they cooled things down a bit, but one of our dogs has recently become a master weatherman, sensing approaching storms long before we see evidence. Unfortunately for him, he dislikes the thunder. And because he senses its approach, his misery is long-lasting. For his sake, I wish he wasn’t so keen to oncoming inclement weather. I also began to wonder, how in the world does he know in advance when a storm is rolling in anyway?
We provide our dogs with love, companionship and shelter, and feed them healthy food like CANIDAE. We spend lots of time with them but even so, sometimes dogs do things that make us wonder. Some dogs dig the carpet before lying down, some herd children, and some even terrorize mailmen. But dogs also do amazing things like saving their humans from fires, protecting their homes and predicting the weather.
While you can’t ask your dog how bad a storm is going to be, if you get to know your pup you will be able to tell when a storm is coming, just by observing their behavior. Dogs know when it’s time to batten down the hatches, and will often herd the family to where they can keep an eye on you while they pace agitatedly. How do dogs know a storm is approaching long before the clouds appear, the rain falls and the thunder rolls?
Cats are amazing creatures. They are graceful, elegant, somewhat moody and hilarious to watch sometimes. If you have any doubt about that, just look up “funny cat videos” on the internet and you’ll be giggling for hours (and yes, I speak from experience).
Have you ever watched a cat race across a yard and then jump halfway up the trunk of a tree before it begins climbing? How about watching a cat easily leap from the ground to the top of a fence? How do they do that? When you see them perform these amazing feats, you begin to understand how closely related your domestic house cat is to a big jungle cat.
Thanks to evolution and the way felines have adapted to their environment over the years, both jungle cats and house cats have extremely strong back legs and a great deal of flexibility. This is because their ancestors mostly lived in trees and had to leap out to catch their prey before climbing back up the tree with their meal. Imagine a leopard carrying an antelope carcass up a tree; he’d need to have really strong hind quarters.
As we get older, our children grow up and begin families of their own. Then the grandchildren grow up and suddenly, visiting the grandparents isn’t as regular as it used to be. Day-to-day life and responsibilities conspire to keep the younger generations from giving the elderly their time and attention. When this time comes, it’s important to make sure that elderly family members have an emotional connection, a source of affection and unconditional love. While a pet can’t take the place of a caring family, there are several amazing ways that pets benefit the lives of elderly humans.
Companionship and Stress Relief
Anyone who has ever lived with a dog or cat knows that even when your pet is sleeping while you go about your day, you are always aware that you have company if you want it. Rumbling purrs, kneading paws, belly rubs and a shadow as you move about your home let you know that you are loved. Elderly folks benefit greatly from having pets for companions. Pets may not be able to talk, but they communicate their love constantly, and having one around is a wonderful way to keep an elderly person from succumbing to loneliness, depression and the feeling of isolation that often sets in as they face physical challenges, health concerns and a lack of time spent with family and friends.
Cortisol and serotonin are chemicals in the body that work opposite each other. Cortisol is a stress hormone, while serotonin is known as the happy hormone. Pets are wonderful for helping lower cortisol and offering the comfort and stress relief that introduces higher levels of serotonin.
The World Canine Organization assembled a list of 339 different dog breeds that are agreed upon and recognized internationally. That’s a lot of dog breeds! But what this comprehensive list doesn’t include are the many different breeds that used to be documented, but are now extinct.
You may wonder how a dog breed becomes extinct. It’s generally at the hands of humans. We have either lost interest in preserving a certain breed or we have selectively bred that particular dog breed into a completely new breed. Here are a few interesting dog breeds that are no longer with us.
A slow and methodical tracker, the Southern Hound was one of the oldest scent and tracking breeds ever documented. This big, plodding dog with long legs and a deep voice dates all the way back to the early 1400s. Known for his ability to track trails that had already gone cold, he was an expert (albeit slow) rabbit and deer hunter. As the Renaissance was coming to an end, hunters began to favor faster prey, so fox hunting rose in popularity. Because the Southern Hound was such a deliberate, steady tracker, he wasn’t the best choice for this fast-moving sport. Looking for a speedier dog, hunters began cross-breeding Southern Hounds with quicker, lighter breeds. The result was the beginnings of modern-day scent hounds including Beagles, Bloodhounds and Foxhounds.
When I walk in our front door, my dogs are happy to see me. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been gone for hours or days. I know they’re happy because they wiggle, dance and squirm. Their tales wag excitedly and they push each other out of the way, trying to get closer to me. They are happy to see me because they love me.
It seems obvious to me that dogs feel emotions similar to humans. In reality, however, the existence of emotions in animals has long been a point of scientific dispute. In fact, 17th-century scientists and philosophers such as René Descartes and Nicholas de Malebranche asserted that dogs were nothing more than living machines that can be programmed to do things. They believed that given the proper stimulus and motivation a dog could be easily programmed, but that they feel nothing and know nothing.
Modern science has evolved from that theory, and come to recognize that animals have a similar chemistry, hormones and even brain structure as those that create emotions in humans. Because a dog’s neurology and chemistry are similar to a human being, it’s sensible to assume that our emotional ranges are similar, but that’s not exactly the case. Yes, it’s true that dogs have emotions which are similar to ours, but not the same as a fully-developed adult human. Research indicates that dogs have the emotional ranges and mental abilities comparable to that of a two to two-and-a-half year old human.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.