article image

Love Me, Love My Leftovers

The Caninologist

Scientists found a 16,500-year-old human footprint in Chile not too long ago. Could the New World’s oldest doggie poop bag be far behind?

Nobody knows how long dogs may have been hanging around the edges of our campfires. Every new archeological discovery seems to push the time further back. We took in dogs long before we took in pigs, goats, or chickens. It wasn’t that dogs were a tasty game animal. One theory: Dogs helped in the hunt.

There is DNA evidence to suggest humans began breeding dogs from gray wolves as early as 40,000 years ago. We eat them, too. A piece of canine bone was discovered in fossilized human excrement dated 9,400 years ago.

Wolves and the earliest domestic dogs must have snacked on the carcasses early humans left behind. Bad teeth seem to have been pretty common way back when, before humans domesticated dental floss. It stands to reason people left a fair amount of meat on the bones we picked after a kill. Dogs act like they love us. They love our leftovers better.

No other large predator has so wormed its way into the human family. That’s OK. Imagine the knickknack breakage if descendants of sabretooth tigers roamed around living rooms today.

Even the big, bad wolves that slink around so many camping-trip-from-hell movies have a sweetie-pie side. A wolf came out of the woods near Juneau one day and started playing with the local doggies like some long-lost uncle. You have to wonder if the puppy nose count might have started drifting downward, but evidently the wolf was never caught in the act.

What other species with the capacity to tear your throat out gets to cuddle up with your 6-year-old?

Things do sometimes go wrong. Thirty-six people were reported killed by dog bite in the United States last year. That’s 36 too many, but consider the fact that 90 million dogs are now said to be living in U.S. households.

Dogs will do nearly anything for the tiniest bribe. If you start to run low on treats, you can break them down into tinier and tinier treats and the dog won’t even notice.

There is the unfortunate matter of dog doo-doo, especially bothersome around my neighborhood, where a lot of people don’t seem to get the whole doggie poop bag thing. But that’s a small price to pay for a creature that can warn off burglars, herd sheep, star in action movies, dance a jig while wearing a top hat, find missing persons, and, in the case of our dog Trixie, smile at you like Stevie Wonder when you come home.

Dogs live completely in the moment. No matter how cold and rainy it may be, the dog will always be glad to run around naked outside. That’s talent. The cat, by contrast, does what it wants, when it wants, if it wants to do anything at all, which is rare.

Carl T. Hall is a longtime union organizer in San Francisco who is now a co-owner of Word. A Café, a dog friendly coffee shop now open for business in the Bayview Neighborhood. Readers can pick up copies of Bay Woof there, too.

Main article photo by: Photo