A History of Dogs
A little history of the animal we’ve come to know as man's best friend: Did you know that 80% of the breeds we have today did not exist 130 years ago? Humanity's quest for perfection has driven us to embark on the longest running eugenic experiment in history.
It takes roughly 25 years of selective and aggressive breeding to develop a new type of dog. For example, the Dogo Argentino is a breed that was created by two brothers in Argentina in 1928. They wanted a dog that could take down big game, like wild boars, yet come home from a hard days work and be a docile family pet, and they achieved their goal.
No one denies that domesticated dogs came from wolves. It is a universal trait among primitive people to seek out wild animals and keep them as pets. It’s my theory that some kid in ancient Mesopotamia found an abandoned puppy and brought it home, “Mom, look what I found! Can I keep it? Pleeeease… I’ll feed it and clean up after it. You won’t have to do a thing. I promise!” Things haven’t changed much, have they?
Up until 5000 years ago, the domesticated dog was most likely a one-size-fits-all mongrel. Then in ancient Egypt the first evidence of a dog breed appeared in the art of the Pharaohs. The ancestors of this breed are still with us today. They are the fast and sleek hunting dogs known as the Saluki. In the US they are bred for racing.
For thousands of years dogs changed very little and then in 19th century Europe there was an explosion of new breeds. The nouveau riche were obsessed with perfection and design. When they had their fill of improving buildings, gardens, and livestock, it was the dogs turn for improvement. Dogs became a status symbol of upper class society as breeding became a sort of hobby that gave rise to the dog fancier. Pedigrees, kennel clubs, and the dog shows we know of today were born. It was this new science of snobbery that gave birth to the Doberman Pincher, the bulldog, and the bull terrier—just three of the hundreds of breeds that were created during that time.
One interesting and modern dog breed is the Sulimov dog from Russia. In 1975 a breeding program was started specifically for Aeroflot Airport Security. They wanted a dog that was designed to sniff out 12 different components that make up explosives (all of them, completely odorless to humans). Klim Sulimov developed the breed starting with the wild jackal as the base canine. For seven generations he mixed in many different breeds like the reindeer herding hound, the fox terrier and the spitz. What he created was an easily trainable dog that has a superior sense of smell. And unlike other drug-sniffing dogs, like the German shepherd, Sulimov dogs don’t have to be told to work, they are hard wired to work tirelessly for sheer enjoyment. There are only 40 of these dogs in existence today. They are all owned by Aeroflot and are considered the property of Russia.
With the abounding variations achievable through the manipulation of a canine’s DNA, from the Great Dane to the Chihuahua, it's surprising to note that all dogs share 99.8% of their genetic makeup. From the wolf on down, all the differences we see in this amazing animal come from that .2% margin. Research has also uncovered the discovery that the canid is the only mammal with a genome that can accommodate this incredible diversity.
I find it all fascinating. It’s as if the Lord made the wolf with this unique quality just for us to discover. It’s as if He wanted mankind to experience, on a miniscule scale, His attribute as the designer, creator and master of all living things. He created the wolf, which we turned into over 300 different breeds of all shapes and sizes, skill sets and temperaments. The modern dog owes its existence to our ingenuity. A trait which we inherited from our creator who made us in His image.
A dog is not like a wolf. Even a domesticated wolf remains very independent and aloof from humans, but the dog is genetically altered to look to and rely on humans for direction and help. They are hard wired to want to please us and to live in a social bond with us. And that is what intrigues me about this unique relationship.
We have the opportunity to be to this creature what the Lord is to us: creator and master. I always keep this in mind as I work with my dog and seek to better her in a cooperative partnership. Not lording it over her, but leading and guiding her with benevolent authority. I seek to communicate clearly what I want in a way she understands and ask for obedience so that we might enjoy each others company.
The relationship between me and my dog changed my spiritual life. I understood love in a new way—as the master towards a creature I wanted to help, change, care for and train to trust and follow me. And watching her respond to my love in a way that transformed her from being a wild beast to a calm submissive follower gave me a new perspective on the God who loves and wants to change me. "Be holy because I am holy" took on new meaning. God was not saying He would love me when I was finally holy. He was saying that because He loves me He would stop at nothing to make me holy.
When I submit and surrender to the process, I find Him to be a gentle but firm authority I can trust and that I want to obediently follow... right here by His side.