Friday, 21 January 2011 00:00
When you stop to think about it, dogs are an amazing animal. Some 60 percent of the households in the United States have a dog as a family pet. Some households have even more than one dog. The result is that there are some 75 million pet dogs in the United States.
Beyond the “watch dog” capabilities, dogs, for most people, are just friendly additions to the family setting. To me, it is amazing how dogs fit into the home environment. And there is no doubt about their loyalty to everyone in the family. One challenge is found in who walks the dog as it fits into the family? In the beginning, everyone in the family volunteers to be the dog walker. After a month or so, even though the dog is the family’s best friend, the walkers tend to dwindle. Most people I know say that the job tends to fall to Mom – even though everyone in the family loves to play with the dog.
One interesting feature about dogs is their intelligence. Many dogs are equivalent in intelligence to a two-year-old toddler! If you doubt that, look at other things dogs can do beyond being the family pet. Handicapped people really depend on dogs. For example, blind people often are led by dogs. Dogs know when to stop for traffic lights and can avoid hazards on sidewalks.
Other handicapped people have dogs, which can do everything from getting phones for their owners to answer and even opening doors and kitchen cabinets.
In a review of the top breeds of family dogs in the United States, I was surprised to find that Border Collies are number one. Next, came one of the friendliest pets I have ever encountered – the Golden Retriever. While the Retriever was initially used for hunting, today it is the number one home pet throughout the United States. Next comes the Labrador Retriever—a dog which I owned years ago. They are loyal and could not be friendlier in the home until a stranger comes to the front door. They are great watch dogs, as well.
Beyond the use of dogs for the handicapped and as pets in our homes, dogs provide the highest level of security in defense of terrorists who would use bombs. Dogs can detect drugs, bomb materials and weapons even though they are concealed. Sniffing dogs are far better than x-ray scans or pat downs. One of the challenges is that dogs used in detecting terrorist materials can only be on the job for two hours before requiring a rest.
But, it is clear that when a threat needs to be detected, dogs are the best answer. That is why you always see them on TV when a suspicious package is found on the street or even at our airports.
“Dogs are man’s best friend” is a saying, which goes back hundreds of years. In fact, humans first befriended dogs some 14 thousand years ago as we emerged from the evolutionary process. And that friendship continues to this day.