The Coolest Animal on the Planet
I was having trouble coming up with a topic for this month when my editor threw me a bone: Write about three of the most unique traits in dogs that you can think of, “…really, really neat things that most people have never heard of.” This got the wheels turning…
I wanted to impress. I needed to find those rare bits of canine minutia that few had ever heard of. I asked a couple colleagues, searched my memory banks and even did a little online searching, which I confess is cheating. None of these methods produced anything of substance, but after a little more thinking, I realized I have the answers:
The Amazing: Years ago, I dropped my two Dobermans off at “boot camp” training. It was a strict regimen of obedience and behavior training, three times a day for four weeks with absolutely no owner contact. When I returned to pick them up, I was to be given a preview of what they had learned. Before I could see them, I was put in a small room with a window that overlooked a field about 100 yards away. Prior to the demonstration, the trainer had stood with me in the little room and had carried my scent with him way out into the field. My little girl started wagging her tail and twirling in circles. She was overjoyed! The trainer told me “Oops, Dad, she knows you’re here.” It is common knowledge that dogs have an acute sense of smell but it goes way beyond that. I was awestruck!
The average human has about 5 million smell receptors. The average dog exceeds 250 million receptors with the bloodhound topping 300 million. This gives them the ability to smell 100,000 times better than us! Let me put this into perspective for you and compare it to vision. Let’s say you’re on a flight from LA to New York. While passing over Denver you look down at the city. The average person sees nothing but a big grid, blurry lines and faded colors. You, on the other hand, recognize an old coworker walking down the street. Not only can you make out the pattern and color of his tie, you can read the print on his newspaper. If one of us had this type of gift we would be wearing spandex tights and a cape, It’s that kind of amazing. In fact, human medicine is beginning to harness this power. Dogs are now used to detect lung and breast cancer in people by simply smelling their breath. They are greater than 90% accurate…more accurate than an x-ray. They can smell autism (if you can believe that) as well as an object buried four stories beneath the ground. It is fair to say that they can literally smell fear.
The Interesting: Did you know that the popular English Bulldog might not exist today if it weren’t for c-sections? They have been bred over decades specifically for a larger head size. This, in turn, makes it very difficult for the mothers to have a normal delivery but this ‘inbreeding” extends even further. Dogs in general are the most diverse mammal species on the planet. No other mammal can claim such a variance in color, shape, size and intelligence. If you didn’t know better, would it ever occur to you that a Pekinese and a Saint Bernard are the same animal? Once again, people get credit for this manipulated evolution. Instead of natural selection as Darwin popularized; its artificial selection. Since man began domesticating dogs some 10,000 years ago we have bred them for aggression, friendliness, hunting prowess and courage in addition to countless diverse physical attributes. Man can certainly claim credit as “co-creator” of Man’s Best Friend.
The Heartbreaking: Let me ask you a question. How many puppies and kittens are born every day in the U.S.? Comparatively, how many babies are born every 24 hours in the U.S.? I know I harp on this, but as a shelter vet it is my responsibility. I see countless number of these beautiful creatures euthanized because of our negligence. We claim to be an educated and compassionate society, yet the thing that so many of us value most is destroyed in the millions using tax payer dollars. It is a completely ridiculous notion. An estimated 1 million dogs in the U.S. have been named the primary beneficiary in their owner’s will! You would think that would translate to better collective attitudes about our prized pet in this country.
The number I want you to remember and the answer to the above question is 70,000 puppies & kittens and 11,000 babies, respectively. Seventy thousand! To believe somehow we can adopt or find suitable homes for this many animals is senseless. We need to start with prevention. People must spay and neuter their pets. It’s a phrase that has lost its punch over the years, but it is the only solution. Backyard breeding should be viewed like someone not strapping their child into a seatbelt. When someone mentions to me that their dog isn’t fixed. I look them squarely in the eye and say “You should be embarrassed.”
Catch up on past Pet Care Articles here!