Ellen spends Saturday at Hillcrest, a retirement community in La Verne, California, as part of her Master of Gerontology studies. Every week, she meets with the same resident, let’s call her Joan; and, every week, Ellen re-introduces herself to her buddy.
Joan lives in the memory care unit and has dementia; so, she never remembers Ellen from one week to the next. Joan doesn’t remember her husband either; but, she likes watching sports and this nice man comes to watch the games with her.
This week, Ellen took Millie to meet Joan and the other memory care residents. You can see the joy in Joan’s photo – something Joan has too little of in her life these days, which makes her a little cantankerous at times. Who are you?! Why are you here?! I don’t know you!
Yesterday, Millie brought the True Value of Comfort and smiles of joy with her to Hillcrest as, one by one, the residents held and petted or, if they couldn’t remember how, patted her.
Millie is a Toxirn (half Cairn Terrier – half Chihuahua). She has the calm, even-keeled disposition of a Cairn without the jitteriness and fear-aggression of a Chihuahua.
One resident who couldn’t remember how to pet a dog (perhaps he never had one), just held Mille and patted her – a little hard for a love pat – but, she seemed to know that this stranger didn’t mean her any harm. No growling or snapping or barking. Millie sat in his arms and let him love her as best he could.
Ellen took Millie’s Halloween dress off, so the residents could run their fingers through her fur and pet (or pat) her without a fabric barrier. That’s when some began to talk about the dogs they’d grown up with or had when their children were young.
They’ve long since forgotten the names of those children, even the ones who visit regularly; but, they still remember the names of their childhood four-legged companions. They remember things they did together as children with their furry friends. They remembered what it was to be young and carefree and loved by their dogs – as only dogs can love.
And, while they held Millie on their laps, they related those stories and re-lived those happy times of younger days.
As Ellen shared her and Millie’s experience with the residents of Hillcrest, it struck me just how much comfort dogs can be to the old, the ill, the infirm, those struggling to find normalcy in a world that, for whatever reason, has been turned on its head.
What is the True Value of Dogs? One value, without a doubt, is Comfort.
When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
That’s the True Value of Companionship
I didn’t look anywhere near as sick as I was the week of 23 January 2017. Two of my doctors said no one survives what happened to me and I should be dead.
Being separated from my dogs while I was hospitalized was hell; so, you can imagine the pure joy I felt when this therapy Puggle walked into my room.
I don’t know how much, if any, impact this pup had on my recovery; but, I can tell you that he lifted my spirits up to the clouds! Now that I think about it, I met Millie for the first time months later, the same week I was released to return to work.
About a bazillion years ago, Mog the Mighty was returning home after a successful cave bear hunt to present a certain cavegirl cutie with a new bear-claw necklace. Even in prehistoric times, women loved jewelry; and, well, sabre tooth tiger-claw necklaces were so last season.
Anyway, hearing a rustling in the underbrush and deciding to investigate, Mighty Mog found three frantic dire wolf pups trying to wake their mother who, unfortunately, had died.
Mog scooped the pups into his bag, thinking that between a dinner of puppy stew and the bear-claw necklace, that cute cavegirl would soon turn his lonely cave into home sweet home.
As the wolf pups squirmed inside the bag on his shoulder, Mog was thinking about the perils of a lone hunter facing the ferocious cave bear. While his people usually hunted together in groups, like dire wolves, today had been different because of the necklace.
Suddenly, Mog had a radical thought: What if, instead of hunting alone today, I had some wolves to help track, corner, and take the cave bear? I’ll bet I could raise these pups and train them to hunt with me! And, they could protect the cave and my cave wife while I’m out working my caveman job!
And, that’s how humans domesticated wolves, which became dogs, which became breeds as diverse as Saint Bernards and Teacup Chihuahuas.
The Canine-Human Value Proposition
Of course, we can theorize about how dogs came to be man’s best friend; but, we may never be 100% certain of all the whys and hows. For instance, which species took the first step that got the whole ball rolling – canines or humans?
Even our ideas as to when and where humans and wolves, which later became dogs, started interacting together is still subject to debate. What we do know is this: We raised puppies well before we raised kittens or chickens; before we herded cows, goats, pigs, and sheep; before we planted rice, wheat, barley, and corn; before we remade the world.
What is a value proposition, anyway? It basically means that I’m offering something that you want or need. Whether I’m providing a product (food) or providing a service (security), you believe there’s value or benefit in having whatever it is I’m offering.
So, you’re a wolf. Unfortunately, you’re not the wolfiest wolf and the other wolves out-wolf you for the best food and the best wolf babes to snuggle with on cold nights. Or, maybe you got hurt and can’t fight or hunt or run very well anymore.
You notice that humans throw away some pretty tasty stuff and crunchy bones and always have a warm fire going on cold nights. And, it’s safer, too, ‘cause you don’t have to fight or run so much anymore. So, you start hanging around where there’s people and, pretty soon, you’re a regular old cave dog.
So, What’s In It For Me?
The other half of our value proposition is that, if humans offered things that wolves needed or wanted, what did wolves have to offer in return?
Assuming they didn’t get kicked out for pooping in the cave, domesticated wolves may have helped their humans hunt.
They were also likely the first pack animals used by humans for energy intensive labor – in other words, they carried the heavy stuff. And, you couldn’t ask for a better early warning system than a half-wild wolf-dog. Or, better protection. Not to mention companionship, warmth, toy for the cave kids, garbage disposal, and if times got lean, Fido steaks.
So that’s a little bit about how we got from these mighty hunters:
to this one:
Show your dogs some love today. Remember, you’re the whole world to them.
Hey, if you’re writing a paper for Mr. Stewart’s fifth period History class; or, if you’re just interested in reading something I didn’t write, here’s where I got some of the info for this blog post:
Opinion: We Didn’t Domesticate Dogs. They Domesticated Us. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/03/130302-dog-domestic-evolution-science-wolf-wolves-human/
Origin of the Domestic Dog. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_the_domestic_dog
Yong, Ed. A New Origin Story for Dogs: When, Where, and How Many Times Were They Domesticated. The Atlantic, June 2, 1016. Located online at: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/06/the-origin-of-dogs/484976/
Value Proposition. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_proposition
Humanity’s Best Friend: How Dogs May Have Helped Humans Beat the Neanderthals. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/05/humanitys-best-friend-how-dogs-may-have-helped-humans-beat-the-neanderthals/257145/
Michael J Pieropan. Essay 1: Relationship Between Early Humans and Their Environment. Incentives for Domestication. February 6, 2006. Located online at: http://fubini.swarthmore.edu/~ENVS2/S2006/mpierop1/Essay1.html