My dog sleeps on my bed. Don’t blame me, she started it. Ever since we moved to our new home and I’ve changed a bedspread for a doona my bed’s been her favourite place to rest weary eyes. There goes the structured hierarchy of the family home, carefully laid out over years of training. And intimate moments can now be a problem. With a thirty-two kilo chocolate Labrador lying between you, careful planning is required.

Will man ever get so close to any other animal?

I can see you all shaking your heads. I know I have no-one to blame but myself. If truth be known, I’m probably guilty of encouraging her. Shame on me! Still, there’s something kind of ‘special’ about it. Will man ever get so close to any other animal? I think not. But one thing’s for certain – there was a time when man (and his dog) didn’t have it quite so good.

Hark back to the times when man was a hunter-gatherer and it is little wonder he needed the dog to help him in his endeavours. With a nose like theirs, what man wouldn’t think a dog could gather food more efficiently than he? Some humans I know have trouble smelling anything at all. So man and dog, together, made a good team, bringing back food foraged to the camp, where the female had been, to use a colloquial expression, keeping the home fires burning.

The dog would soon become man's best friend

All this would have occurred around the time of the development of grass, in pre-agricultural times. The assistance of the dog in providing nourishment for the home, cleaning up food scraps, and alerting man to potential and impending danger ‘sealed the deal.’ As man settled down and grazed the land, it stood to reason that the dog would be by his side, graduating from a hunter-gatherer to a herder. The dog would soon become man’s best friend.

Dogs still serve man today in many different ways. They can often be seen in roles as service dogs for therapy, guard dogs for security, guide dogs for the vision-impaired, assistance dogs for government departments in areas such as policing, customs, and so on. It has even been said they assist in reducing the incidence of heart disease and other illnesses, increasing our happiness and prolonging human life.

A story picked up by numerous news outlets and covered widely online is that of Nanook, a chocolate Labrador that saved a man from drowning in Spain. As The Independent tells it;

Nanook began to bark unexpectedly and pull his owner towards the sea wall...Nanook led him to a spot where a man, described as "thin and in his sixties" was flailing in the water...Immediately [the dog’s owner] went for assistance, and the man was rescued by police and port workers.

Stories of dogs helping man out of danger are many and varied, as are stories of man helping dogs – the bond is that great.

My bond with my dog(s) has always been close but I’ve noticed over the past decade or so the expectation of dogs as ‘part of the family’ has been growing. There was a time when my dog would sleep outside in a kennel but not anymore. Oh, no. Amber changed all that.

What next - her own bedroom?

After I’d had Amber for some time and she’d grown accustomed to our home, I bought a kennel. I had it carpeted and carefully placed her name above the door. It was now time for her to try the kennel out. But it was not to be. She stood there in front of the kennel for a while, beautifully placed on the balcony out the back, overlooking the backyard and swimming pool. It seemed like she was considering her options. Finally, she turned her back on the kennel, tail in the air, and walked away. It was from that moment on that she slept inside, on a trampoline bed, covered over with a soft, black, rug, finished off with a pillow inside a pillow-case. She was the happiest dog in the world.

Amber is no longer with us but Kahlua is and she has taken over where Amber left off, even sharing birthdays and pillows. Such is the bond. Yet it seems she’s graduated to my bed, doesn’t it? I can only wonder what next - her own bedroom? 

Published by Owen Tilley