The Wolf In My Dog, My Dogs Ancestors

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The earth trembled.

A great rift appeared separating the first man from the rest of the animal kingdom.

As the chasm widened, all of the other animals returned to the forests, where they lived in

paradise.

But the dog leaped the chasm.

His love for humanity was greater than his bond to other creatures.

He willingly forfeited his place in paradise to prove it.

---Ojibwa Legend: Told by Native Americans in the Great Lakes region

Embedded in paradise as tightly as the gem in a treasured ring, the gray wolf torses her

body to bite and chew at her side. Her breaths come in short gasps: “hut, hut, hut.” She stumbles,

initially dragging one rear leg, then the other. Finally toppling over, she forces her backbone

against the packed dirt. She must free her body of the pups she carries, or they will bind her up

internally, and she will die a slow, tormented death.

The wolf begins open-mouthed breathing, forcing oxygen into straining lungs and

muscles. The litter is larger than she has ever carried, and is complicated by the breech

presentation of the puppy with the odd-shaped head. Rippling contractions of her uterus become

uncoordinated, and the impatient life within is tossed back and forth like a lifeboat in a sea at

storm. The precious cargo in this wolf is of greater than usual importance because the

odd-shaped puppy is an immature dog. Bearing an un-wolf-like short snout and wide palate, this

puppy is waiting for her encounter with man.

“Ya-woo,” bleats the mother, seeking to find a position to ease her agony. Then with a

rush of fluids and a final yelp, the little creature is delivered tail end first. The mother reaches to

clean the pup, and others come out in a rush. Her male companion and other members of the

pack will provide her and the pups with food, as none of the other females will accept a mate this

season.

She nurses them all, even the odd one, whose eyelids and ears eventually open the same

way as the wolf puppies. The pup stays with her mother until she is strong enough to walk

through paradise on her own power, seek her own mate and reproduce.

Then the life cycle repeats itself.

Reproduce.

Feed and protect young.

In each generation of nine to twelve months, there appear small changes to the boney

structure of the face, the mandible, the teeth. Not involving every pup in the litter, but enough

puppies that overall a new set of beings comes to life.

Dogs.

Something like this could happen. Something like this did happen.

Time passes.

Millennia pass.

Many generations later, the wolf turns up again. This time, it is in a boneyard. A gigantic

gravesite in Czechoslovakia with over four thousand skeletons of canids: wolves, foxes, and

dogs. Where did they come from?

The history of the dog cannot be told independently of the history of man. In addition to

this unprecedented finding of fossilized wolves and dogs, there are human skeletons. Some thirty

thousand years ago, a tiny community of people banded together and left their mark on the earth.

It is very likely that this is the first grouping of people who involved themselves with wolves and

dogs.

Life is raw for this clan of seventy to one hundred human beings.

They live a heartbeat away from nature.

Their environment is shared with fantastical beasts. Woolly mammoths with twelve foot

tusks, thick pelts, and pearlescent toenails dominate the land. Only slightly shorter in stature,

another creature with impressive ivory shares their territory. The woolly rhino stands six feet tall

at the shoulder and can easily grow to fourteen feet in length.

More familiar beasts also populate the landscape: reindeer, rabbits and bear.

And dogs.

Though these canines are not as large as a full grown human being, they nevertheless

weigh in at nearly eighty pounds. With a squashed backbone and bowed legs, it is easy to

surmise that they carry heavy burdens for the tribe. Considering the number of mammoth bones

lying around--the remains of well over a thousand animals--many scientists believe that dogs

acted as pack animals to carry the bulk of the mammoth parts and pieces from the hunting

grounds back home.

The typical dog eats well. Her wide set jaws with unique molar teeth are able to bring

down a reindeer. These jaws and short snout have come under intense scrutiny in the present day

because they are part of scant proof that she is not a wolf either of the present or the past. Her

teeth are worn and cracked. There is a good chance she suffers daily pain due to exposed roots in

her mouth, but like Fido of the twenty-first century, she has to eat and will do so no matter the

pain. And she lives to a ripe old age--somewhere between four and eight years.

This animal’s parents and grandparents are surely dogs, but earlier than this time period,

her heritage is hazy. Recent predecessors are definitely not wolves, but she can breed with a male

wolf if she so desires. From the number of wolf skeletons in the graveyard, there appear to be

many opportunities. What differentiates her from other canids is this: she serves man willingly.

The civilization she supports is brilliant. At a time when the contemporaries of this clan

are wandering the earth, pulling up plants for nutrition and finding the occasional hare to eat,

these prehistoric people are reaping the benefits of personalized hunting techniques.

Furthermore, they protect themselves from winter blizzards that frequent this region, unlike the

hunter-gatherers. Tribal members fashion thick-walled boney enclosures made from the

skeletons of mammoths and rhinoceroses.

Toolmakers already exist at this point in time, and are in demand for finely splitting the

flint rocks which will be fashioned into brutish knives or the business end of a harpoon. From the

carcass, they extricate and clean towering pelvis and rib bones, anchor them in the ground, and

elevate them skyward to provide a scaffolding for homes. Families dry rescued skins in the sun

and wind, stretched out on a frame of bones to deter shrinkage. Stripped meat is made into

lengths appropriate to be placed in the sun and dried for later meals. Everything is saved for later

use.

Seamstresses are also highly valued. Bone needles are found which were apparently used

to make sufficient holes in the dried skins so that, much like present day sewing, someone could

pull a string of dried intestine or fine strip of meat through both layers and thereby knit the skins

together. The skins could be wrapped like a second skin over the bone shelter and be tight

protection against the weather.

A further function of properly dried and prepared bones is to utilize them in bonfires to

ward off intruders, human or otherwise. Smaller domestic fires are used to warm the family hut

so that kin can move about without their bulky clothing.

Unbelievable as it may seem, neighboring clans of this time period produce some of the

oldest pottery on the planet. Lumps of clay are fashioned into animal bodies, then scoured with

ground-up bone and fired. Twentieth century explorers discover reindeer, hares, rhinos,

mammoths, wolves and other creatures from these leavings. Scientists find kiln remnants.

Though undoubtedly the kiln fired at a low temperature, it fulfilled the remarkable purpose of

sustaining the pieces from the thrashing forces of nature.

The most famous piece is the diminutive ‘Black Venus’ with pendulous breasts, wide

hips and etched markings along her back representing her backbone. Current thinking is that she

is a fertility symbol, but it’s also conceivable that she oversaw the hunt.

Tribal people go after prey like hungry people do--with overabundant numbers of men to

assure success. No one knows whether this tribe used dogs to hunt mammoths. It is a fact,

however, that instinct drives packs of dogs to surround beasts much larger than themselves,

confound the senses, and then strike from multiple angles. Fighting dogs are expert at locking

their jaws around a tender part of their prey, and holding on while being thrashed about by a

much larger adversary.

Locating and trapping the mammoth is the duty of the males of the tribe. To ensure

success, a group of men starts out to look for fresh tracks and tufts of fur from the woolly

behemoth. Once located, they propel the mammoth herd sometimes for miles into a valley with

steep sides, surrounding the beasts from above. They choose a member of the herd that seems

fragile, perhaps a straggler or elderly animal. All attention is focused on that one mammoth.

In the Company of Dogs
By Jeannette Barnes