Alison Laurie-Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets.
Some of us have had more time at home during this lockdown period. Precious time, time to pause, time to think and be thankful, and time to appreciate our homes and all that we still have safely around us.
I am lucky and very grateful to have a garden and I have had some time now to fully appreciate it this Springtime. The seasons continue, despite all that is sadly happening in the world.
Spring is a wonderful season, bringing with it new growth and hope. Fresh green buds and leaves on the bare trees and pristine new flowers offering a plethora of colour. Fledglings chirping hungrily in the hedges and Blackbirds perfecting their unique song. Honeybees sip carefully and patiently from each wide-open flower and Butterflies flit and dance coyly, adding intermittent, rich colour to the scene.
I have had time now to appreciate all this natural beauty around me with my dog ‘Fern’ constantly by my side, assisting me in the garden. Dropping her ball into my weed bucket and foraging busily for leaves and twigs placing them proudly in a neat pile at my feet. She always makes me smile.
On a day like this I started to think about the human-canine bond and its origins.
The Dog: ‘Canis Lupus Familiaris’, the most abundant carnivore on land and the first animal species to be tamed by man.
The human-canine bond goes back over 15,000 years. Experts agree that dogs started to separate from Wolves some 16,000 years ago in South Eastern Asia. Around 15,000 years ago it is known now that dogs were moved along with humans out of Asia and were then dispersed all around Europe following humans as they migrated across Europe and from there around the world. The first dog remains found buried along with two human remains was discovered over 14,200 years ago in a family grave. Research has proven that around 12,000 years ago in Europe, Hunting camps were home to dogs that had different genetic features to the original wolf types of Asia. The genomes of our modern dogs most closely resemble these canid species. The modern-day Dog’s ancestors were primarily hunting dogs used primarily for hunting, tracking, and retrieving wounded game as their Humans settled into Europe during the last Ice Age. Used originally in this way to assist nomadic hunter-gatherers in hunting prey for food, studies have reported that dog domestication was then heavily influenced by the dawn of agriculture some 11,000 years ago.
Dogs then developed further skills such as herding and guarding. Some dogs were better at hunting than herding and so over time different breed types slowly developed from their specific breed traits of speed, scenting, intelligence, and patience. The Ancestors of the modern-day dog enjoyed all the benefits of living around humans. They had shelter, safety, food and water, stability and ultimately companionship. Dogs also were useful for cleaning up left over food and they also gave warmth, huddling up next to their humans providing comfort at night. With such close proximity dogs formed an emotional bond with humans, while recognising them as pack leaders and showing loyalty and obedience.
Dogs and humans continue to share a unique bond today. Dogs evolved to meet humans’ specific needs and they now fill an extremely important role in our society as working and assistance dogs, or as pets kept purely for their loyal companionship.
Dogs have come a long way from scavenging around early human nomadic tribes. They are grateful and respectful and keen to please us, and they are so good for our mental wellbeing. They make us smile and laugh and have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. They offer loyalty and unconditional affection and love, and they give us some focus and purpose in our lives.
They can help and teach us humans so much.