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Companion Animals and Their Unique Place in Society--Part 2
A brief history of the domestication of dogs.
Fossil remains suggest that five distinct types of dogs existed by 4500 B.C. Illustrations of dogs, dating from the Bronze Age, have been found on walls, tombs, and scrolls throughout the Middle East, Europe, and North America. Often the dogs are pictured hunting alongside their human companions. In ancient Egypt, dogs—like cats—were pampered and revered, and only royalty was allowed to own purebred dogs.
It is theorized that humans and canines discovered a potential partnership when dogs would scavenge near humans’ campsites, and the humans learned that the dogs offered protection, as well as help in hunting, in exchange for a share in the humans’ food.
Through the ages, dogs have been bred and trained to help people with hunting, herding, sporting, and countless types of work—not to mention companionship.
More modern is the development of programs to teach dogs to perform an incredible variety of services to humans. While guide dogs for the blind are not a new thing—a blind Germanic king supposedly had one in 100 B.C., and a wall painting in Pompeii depicts a blind man being led by a dog—it was not until after World War I that a systematic school for guide dogs was established. Now we have hearing dogs for the deaf and service dogs who assist disabled people by turning lights on and off, retrieving dropped items, helping them into wheelchairs, and anticipating seizures. As with the nursing home visitors, the animals used in these programs often are rescuees from shelters.
Dogs locate people lost in the wilderness and buried in the rubble of wrecked buildings. They sniff cargo for drugs, guns, bombs, and stowaway snakes. There are innumerable stories of dogs who have rescued their people from fire, flood, and human perpetrators of evil. I even read a story in which a dog rescued the family cat from a fire.