Second Chance: Origin of Dog

Second Chance: Origin of Dog

A January article in the New York Times, “The Big Search to Find out Where Dogs Came From” discusses the longstanding debate by scientists on the length of time that humans and dogs have had an interdependent relationship. Additionally the article discusses theories regarding the true origin of dog and mentions the fact new research may finally allow for clearer answers about the canine mystery. After providing some precursory information on this whole fascinating story, I will offer my input below…



Long before humans interacted with any other animal (cows, pigs, sheep, etc.), invented agriculture, or developed a written language, they had dogs. But just how long really? And how did humans domesticate dog?  New research out of University of Oxford is changing what people thought they knew on the subject.

Part of the challenges to understanding dog origins is that, according to Oxford biologist Gregor Larson, most breeds today originated in the 19th century during the “giant whirlwind blender of European crazy Victorian dog-breeding frenzy.”  To  further complicate matters, keep in mind that dogs also breed on their own and have interbred with wolves at many points along the evolutionary cycle, and the results are essentially a “tomato soup of dog genes” in which it is difficult to isolate the ingredients.

To find more definitive answers a broad globe-spanning collaborative project (not a common feat in the competitive world of researh) is underway, with $2.5 million in funding from the Natural Environment Research Council in England and Europe to analyze the DNA of ancient dog bones from collections across the globe.

The results of all the unprecedented international cooperative efforts will hopefully shed light upon the current debate as to whether dog has been human’s best friend for 15,000 years or over 30,000 and when dog became not a wolf. Why so much effort to solve this particular mystery? Larson believes that it highlights a critical period in human evolution, when man began to respond to and interact with the environment.

Exciting stuff. My name is Dolly, an 8-year-old “Shepherd mix” with DNA linking me back to Joan of Arc’s faithful companion. As a dog I really don’t care much about when it was that my ancestors formed a bond with your ancestors, but I do think it was a very good idea for both species to help each other out over so many years.  It clearly was a relationship that worked and has withstood centuries of change and challenge to make us the two most interconnected species on the planet. I think that is pretty cool.

So in honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s keep our crush on one another going, people. I am gentle and chill – and looking for love. I, in fact, even prefer humans to dogs, and it is not just because people feed me. It is just another mystery that makes the human-animal bond so unique among inter-species relationships…

Editor’s note: It’s no secret. The Telluride region is dog heaven. Well, pet heaven. Unless you are one of our furry friends who gets caught in the maw of neglect and abuse. Then heaven is on hold until Second Chance Humane Society comes to the rescue. Second Chance is the region’s nonprofit dedicated to saving animals’ lives and promoting responsible pet parenting and human-animal bond. In her weekly blog, executive director Kelly Goodin profiles at least one, generally two of the many animals now living at the no-kill shelter, Angel Ridge Shelter, a dog and a cat, hoping to find them loving permanent homes. The column is sponsored by Ted Hoff of Cottonwood Ranch & Kennel, who from time to time exercises his skills as a dog whisperer, partnering with Kelly and her staff to help train a particularly challenging animal.

Ted Hoff & Mae

Ted Hoff &  Magnificent Mae

By the by, there is no better place to park your pup than Cottonwood whenever you head out of town (for locals) or are heading to town and staying somewhere that does not allow pets. Consider joining Ted’s Very Important Dog (VID) Club for added benies. (Details on Ted’s website.)

Second Chance Humane Society Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shop are both located in Ridgway, but service San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties. Call the SCHS Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter, Volunteer, Feral Cat, or other Programs. View the shelter pets and services online:

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