Back to Nature (Published on - Jan. 19, 2006)
2006 – Year of the Dog
Photo by Karen Mitchell Tremmel
Eileen LoSasso and her faithful friend enjoy our good weather while playing in the park together.
The squirrels in my garden have learned without a doubt that hanging out in our garden guarantees that there will be scraps of bread and cake, nuts and raisins offered, and there are feeders overwhelmed with seed.

The rabbits have learned that we never throw out potato peelings, carrots or romaine, but use the leftovers to mulch around needy plants.

As for the raccoons they devise clever new schemes to pry the lids up on the garbage bins as quickly as we put deterrents in place.

It is my experience that some animals have learned that living next to and near humans can be lucrative.

Dolphins and sea birds chase fishing boats, pelicans hang out on fishing piers, mice invade granaries, and then there are all those pigeons in the parks. Then why is it so difficult for scientists to agree on at least one thing: That the ancestors of dogs sought the advantages of living close to humans?

Thousands of years later and thousands of dollars spent, the origins of dogs is still being debated. One fact most scientists agree upon is that dogs originated in the Orient, most probably China. Second fact: Dogs were mobile and traveled on their own or alongside humans to uncharted territories. Most scientists also agree that one of the ancestors of dogs is the wolf.

That’s about the extent of what is agreed upon. It is conjectured that dogs first became domesticated between 135,000 years ago to 3,500 years ago. These studies are based on DNA remains of dogs compared to DNA of present day dogs. What then accounts for this enormous discrepancy? Wolf and dog behavior seems to be at the center of the debate. Some believe that wolves with immature personalities, less fearful, ever-more-docile animals, or perhaps not as aware or alert to danger, accepted the first offerings or leftovers from humans as a trade off for living in close proximity with a potential enemy.

Over time the wolf dog became protective of this ready supply of food, going into defensive battle. Humans quickly realized that this benefited their needs and began taming the wolf dogs, feeding them and providing them with shelter and warmth from a fire.

On the flip side of this argument some scientists propose that the dog must have many ancestors: Jackals, wolves, and possibly an extinct wolf. This would explain the vast variety of dogs today. The argument is partially based on the fact that wolf puppies of today do not readily show or take on the same personality traits of domestication as does the dog, even when the wolf pups are hand reared by humans.

However and whenever dogs became domesticated we all agree that a synergist relationship emerged. That relationship would continue to span thousands of years with love, faithfulness and companionship.

Jan. 29, 2006 is the first day of the Chinese New Year. 2006 (as well as 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994) is known as the Year of the Dog.

If your birth date falls within one of these years, it is said that you are a faithful and most honest person. You also can be a little stubborn, selfish and eccentric at times but you are tenacious, gregarious and willing to try and solve the problems around you with a smile.

Even if you are not a “dog person,” everyone must give credit that dogs have touched our lives and worked beside us with loving loyalty. They have assisted us through wars, defended us against invaders, walked with us upon beaches and hiked with us in the wildest woods. They share many of our homes; guiding us, saving us, assisting us and always loving us. In 2006, let’s celebrate our faithful friend, the dog, back to nature.

Karen can be reached at

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