Warning: America is going straight to the dogs. Propelling this downward spiral is Americans’ love for dogs. Consumer Affairs reported a survey of 2,000 pet owners where 63 percent said, if they had to choose, they’d choose their pet over a significant other. One guy explained that “dogs don’t judge, they just love.”
Evidence is piling up that dogs love us back. One MRI study of dogs’ brains concluded that when dogs are presented with smells of their owners, their reward centers light up like Christmas trees.
Another study found that dogs and humans possess the “love drug” chemical oxytocin, brain juices that spike when dogs and humans gaze into each other’s eyes, exactly like when human lovers cross-gaze. Dog scientists also say dogs are the only other species that seek eye-contact with their owners, and run to them for comfort when frightened or anxious.
Michael Schaffer’s “One Nation Under Dog” says dogs are no longer just dogs; they’re family, and dog owners are no longer just dog owners, they’re dog parents. Those little canines have co-opted what began as humans owning dogs but now trends in the other direction.
Common understanding is that dogs became woman’s best friend in Europe about 10,000 years ago. Professor Peter Savolainen of Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology says it ain’t so. Savolainen’s DNA analysis of dogs in Southeast Asia indicates that humans and “self-domesticated” wolves began hanging together 30-some-thousand years back.
But did wolves deliberately domesticate themselves or were they deliberately domesticated? Naturalist Mark Derr says it was symbiotic. Our lazy — and cunning — ancestors may have followed wolves on the hunt. And the laziest — and smartest — wolves may have followed bipedal hunters, then scrounged scraps, a cooler way to chow-down.
Pups of the best socializer wolves may have ingratiated themselves, endearing small wolf-critters becoming pets, large ones pulling duty as hunters and protectors. Twenty-six-thousand-year-old footprints of a child and a dog discovered in a cave in France support the pet theory.
Discovery of the world’s oldest known dog points to their utility. An international team of scientists has excavated remains of the first true dog from a Belgium cave. It resembled an extra-large Siberian husky, had great big teeth, and lived large eating horse, musk ox, and reindeer.
The dogs were used for tracking, hunting, transporting game, and for fur, and as a source of food. Chinese have consumed dog meat for thousands of years. Today, China slaughters up to 20 million dogs annually for food.
So wolves became dogs, dogs came to own Americans and began taking us for walks, and conning us into buying them dog stuff. Pets snookered Americans into spending $72.13 billion on them in 2018. Pet food companies got 60+ percent of what we spent. Not just any kind of grub, increasingly, dogs demand gourmet and organic fare. It’s Orwellian.
The tech industry is claiming a growing chunk of bucks for pets. Pawbo pet cam enables you to play with your pet with your smartphone. An app for you, plus a high-tech Gobone for your pup and you can play games with your dog from afar, “providing the dog both physical and mental stimulation.”
Inupathy collar measures your dog’s emotional state. If not all that sanguine, there are dog antidepressants (think Prozac pups), dog counselors, even dog therapists. For dog hotels and spas, there’s PoochHotel.com. There are TV channels for dogs — and only for dogs. See what’s on DogTV at Rover.com.
If this seems over-the-top, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Sybaritic Puppywire.com has the latest in real diamond dog collars and assures that “each collar is custom fit, and while the process can take up to eight weeks, we’re sure you’ll find that it’s worth the $150,000 price tag.”
In the end, well, really, though there are dog cemeteries, crematoria, and other dog burial services, there no longer has to be an end. For $50,000, you can have your dog cloned.
But what happens to your pups if you die first? Put ‘em in your will. Everplans.com will do that for you. Everplans reports on folks like Oprah Winfrey who has set aside a cool $30 million to take care of her five dogs.
Probably best known for dog generosity is Leona Helmsley. Remember the “Queen of Mean”? The one that famously said, “only the little people pay taxes”? (True or not, it was bad politic. Leona did time in the pokey for that unfortunate quip, after the feds poked into her tax peccadilloes.) Anyway, she left $12 million of her estate to her aptly named pup, Trouble. Leona’s will was challenged and the judge reduced Trouble’s take to $2 million — still enough to get by for 10 years longer than Leona.
You can’t say I didn’t warn you that America is going to the dogs.
Michael Smith is a Southern Pines resident.