Dogs descended from wolves through artificial selection (humans choosing for certain traits) of wolf genes by select breedings. It is important to realize that the overwhelming variety of traits we see in dogs today were present in their wolf ancestors. In other words, we did not create new genes to produce dogs, rather selected from those present in wolves. Our ancestors did this to enhance certain physical and behavioral traits. These protodogs and
our ancestors altered each others genetics forever when wolves and humans entered into our deal that led to domestication of wolves to dogs.
The original signatories of our deal were likely just tolerant of the other, but with time, the benefits of our deal became clear. Wolves that were by chance and circumstance more inclined to spend time near us some 10 or 12 thousand years ago were those affected by the deal. Likewise, on the human side, those that happened to be inclined to interact with wolves that were certainly ever present at our kill sites to pick our scraps were the ones to benefit from our deal.
Today the wild wolves of the northern hemisphere still roam but their numbers and influence is limited compared to those whose ancestors took the road less traveled. Dogs have spread right round the globe at the side of humans and their numbers grew to a whopping 525 million on our planet. In the US we spend over 40 billion dollars per year just to feed our wolves.
My wolf Charlie is one of a good number of wolves to have graced my presence and she is a gem. Her ancestry is unknown but morphology indicates significant influence of dachshund. Her coat is long and flowing and she stands 11″ at the shoulder, she’s 36″ long and weighs 14 pounds.
Many characteristics of course are still shared between Charlie and her deal-making ancestors, 12,000 years not being long enough to effect too drastic a change. But Charlie looks more like the cross between a fox and an otter than gray wolf. Despite these differences she upholds her end of the deal in many ways.
For humans, the deal provided the vigilance of a wolf for our security and the ferocity of these animals for defense (or offense) and protection. At 14 pounds, Charlie’s strength is vigilance. They helped our ancestors hunt and were rewarded with a portion of the kill.
But our bond with dogs is more than a simple give and take of resources. We have become codependent in ways I’m not sure we have the ability to explain. Dogs decrease our stress and increase our life expectancy so in their absence we seem to function below our maximum abilities.
Charlie girl no doubt upholds her end of the deal more as a companion and counselor then as defender. That said, I’ve seen her jump over me from a dead sleep, with no hesitation, to attack a perceived threat! Jessie was just telling me it was time to film but I have no doubt had that not been the case, my wolf was ready to protect me and uphold her end of the deal. On my end, I’ll love, care and protect her with all I have. A deal, after all, is a deal.