COLUMN: The evolution of dogship

This is my Sunday column for the March 4, 2012 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. A version of this piece aired a couple weeks ago on 91.7 KAXE.

The evolution of dogship
By Aaron J. Brown

In a recent Time Magazine cover story, researchers found that friendship endures even among the beasts. That is to say, animals form friendships of mutual benefit even when natural selection wouldn’t obviously reward doing so. It’s like this with the friendships that form between people and animals, that special bond that … hey, quit scooting! Knock it off! Go outside! Outside! No scooting!

Right, so we have these friendships with animals and it doesn’t make any sense. We eat some animals. We give some animals names. Some animals eat people. Some would if they could. And yet, somehow, we weep about Old Yeller. We memorialize our animals with more sincerity than we do some people, and why not? Sometimes the animals are just nicer. Even the ones that want to eat us are somewhat honorable.

We’re fortunate in that our dog Molly is still with us. When we got Molly in 2001 I wrote a constant stream of dog columns, entertaining the mass of dog owners in this community and surely sickening the dogless congregations. Over time, aided by a move to the country and the birth of several children, I wrote less about the dog, prompting the occasional question, “Is Molly … OK?”

Yes, she is! She is over there on the carpet, sleeping. But rest assured, should the smallest engine noise be detected within 1.4 miles she will leap to full alert.

Pets do have a price tag. Molly cost a tidy sum when we bought her. I won’t share that figure with you because it would be disrespectful to my dog/property. But I will say that we have spent an identical amount of money on dog eye cream this month alone. And dog eye surgery. And dog post-op. But she can see the things she likes to bark at now and that’s what really matters.

The process of getting a dog 11 years ago was a winding road. My wife and I both come from families with dog traditions. In her family, dogs enjoy a life of leisure and protection. In mine, dogs usually represent the most enduring relationship a man can have, outlasting marriages and mortgages. Dogs die old, fat and happy, usually from the same cause as do their owners: cheeseburgers and continuous exposure to shop chemicals.

Point is, we always knew we’d get a dog; the question was when.

We entertained all sorts of notions along the way. Fish, of course, and a pair of neurotic birds, one of whom died from some sort of untreated emotional disorder. We were about to get a cat. We actually purchased a book from a store about caring for a cat, even though that is the only thing on earth that could cause actual biological cat laughter. We realized that we were merely working our way through the gateway pets, on our way to a dog.

This spring our Molly Dog turns 11. She started as a crazy, barking terrier fur ball and today holds down the throw pillows much of the day, in between manic episodes. We don’t always understand each other, Molly and I. She burns through a lot of resources. But even though it doesn’t make any sense one of my best friends is a canine. We have a mutual interest in not eating one another. And that’s a situation I would … naturally select.

Aaron J. Brown is a writer and community college instructor from the Iron Range. He is the author of the blog and host of the Great Northern Radio Show on 91.7 KAXE.

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