Friday, November 18, 2005

The Canine Covenant

Imagine a primitive human village in East Asia, about 100,000 years ago, during a cold and hard winter. A hungry and weak omega wolf, banished by it’s own pack, takes interest in the smells of food coming from that village. The villagers, driven by empathy, or perhaps fear, throw food scraps out to the emaciated wolf. The wolf comes closer each day, eating the scraps, and one day the wolf wanders freely though the village. For once man does not fear the wolf, and the wolf does not fear the man. The wolf eats and drinks, and becomes strong again.

The wolf and the man, now comfortable with each other’s presence, accompany each other on a hunt. The wolf, master hunter, demonstrates its remarkable tracking skills. With its powerful sense of smell, and highly acute hearing, the wolf effortlessly locates the prey. Man, with his long-range spear weapon easily brings down the prey. A strange partnership demonstrates itself to both the wolf and the man – a partnership that immediately benefits both parties.

Happy with the hunt the humans and the wolf eagerly share the bounty of the kill. First they share hunting, and food. Then, the wolf spends time in the human village, then dwelling -- sharing the warmth and safety. Now the wolf’s instinctual desire to protect its territory comes into play, and with a fearful snarl and a show of sharp teeth the wolf protect the human family from trespassers.

Appreciation for the food, protection, joyous play, and shelter create a sincere emotional bond, and the wolf and the man become brothers. There is affection between them, and, in time, the humans have a new partner – the wolf

A remarkable symbiotic relationship never before seen in nature has begun.

The villagers enjoy their new wolf friends, but the relationship was far from perfect. The wolves were indeed wild animals, whether they were accustomed to human contact or not. The wolves came and went as they pleased. They had thick wiry coats that were not soft to the touch. They marked their territory, including the huts, with copious amounts of urine. The wolves’ great strength and love of chewing made them adept at chewing up and tearing apart any man-made items with ease, and their propensity to dig deep burrows was not always appreciated.

At this point, in an effort to “improve” the wolves, man began to selectively breed them. The domestication process began – the process of training and adapting the wolves to live in a human environment and to be “of use” to humans.

The wolf’s long thick protective coat gives way to a short soft coat. The wolves large sharp teeth give way to smaller blunt teeth. The wolves’ wandering was reduced by a process of pedomorphosis—the retention of juvenile characteristics in the adult. The domesticated wolf literally never grew up, and treated the human as the parent. The domesticated wolf was always to be a infant -- needing the human to feed it, to shelter it, and to care for it.

Whether man was conscious of it or not, the moment man took away the wolf’s ability to live on it’s own and fend for itself, a covenant was made. A formal agreement from man to wolf that said:

I, man, have bred away your wildness – you can’t hunt or survive in the wild anymore. Instead you will live with humans, and you will keep us warm, you will help us hunt, you will protect us and our territory, and you will be our unconditional companions. You will be subordinate to us – a helpless child forever. In exchange for this I promise to feed you, shelter you, exercise you, play with you, heal you when you’re sick, and care for you when you’re old.

Man’s selective domestication of the wolf created a new animal, and animal we call a dog. Man’s success with domestication of wolf to dog was not enough. “Dog” could be further improved to do more for man. Over thousands of years dog was bred into the current 300 separate breeds. Now with 300 types of dog, there are dogs that hunt rats, pull carts, protect property, retrieve birds, track prey, herd sheep, or simply provide companionship.

So now we find ourselves in the modern world. Few people need dogs that hunt rats, herd sheep, or retrieve prey. It seems we need them less than our primitive ancestors, yet we still have dogs.

Modern dogs have adapted to modern human needs. Seeing Eye dogs guide the blind. Drug sniffing dogs and Police Dogs fight crime. Rescue dogs find survivors under tons of rubble. Therapy dogs give the elderly the love and attention they don’t get from their own human family. This is evidence that dogs continue to honor their end of the Canine Covenant.

Do humans honor their end of the Canine Covenant?

Shelters are packed full of abandoned and unwanted dogs. Organizations like Delta Rescue devote full-time to rescuing dogs that owners abandon in the wilderness in the terribly mistaken notion that dogs can “survive on their own”. Other, less fortunate dogs are abused, given illegal drugs, neglected, tortured, or brutalized and killed by humans.

What are the rationales that humans use to violate their agreement?

“Well, now that we have our baby, we’ll have to find a new home for Rover.”

“Who has time to walk a dog? I have such a busy life!”

“Our dog is very destructive, so we’re taking him to the pound”

“Our dog is getting old, and caring for him is a burden. We’re going to have him put to sleep.”

“We’re moving, so we have to give Rover up for adoption”

“We need to evacuate this area, and they won’t let us take our dog, so we’ll just have to leave him here.”

“I just don’t have time to groom Rover”

Humans can choose to get a dog, or to not get a dog in the first place. If a human has any doubt that they won’t be able to care for a dog under all circumstances for the dog’s entire life, then that person simply shouldn’t get a dog!

Anybody who already has a dog, MUST make it their personal responsibility to PERSONALLY find a good home for the dog. Most dogs that end up in shelters end up being put to sleep.

Getting a dog you can’t care for, neglecting a dog, or failing to care for a dog for its entire life is a violation of the human side of the Canine Covenant.

DOGS HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO HONOR THEIR END OF THE CANINE COVENANT. Without humans to care for them, dogs will die.


Please, honor the Canine Covenant. Share the Canine Covenant with your friends. Adopt a dog from a shelter instead of buying one from a breeder or pet-store. Have your dog fixed. Give your dog love, care, food, water, medicine and care for him or her for the rest of their life.

All your dog has is love. And all you need to do is find some love in you to give to your dog.


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