I saw a peculiar thing the other day out in the parking lot of McDonald’s. A man was sitting it his SUV eating while his Cocker Spaniel sat next to him, intently watching the fries travel from the bag to the man’s mouth. Every once in a while the man would feed the dog a fry. Obviously for my crowd, that was not the odd thing. We’ve all seen or have done that, nothing new there. What was odd was when his female companion returned to the car with her bag of burgers, she opened the door, said something I wasn’t privy to and returned to the restaurant’s lobby to eat her lunch. The man was un-phased by her apparent protest and continued to enjoy his burger while he fed his fries, one at a time, to his Cocker Spaniel. In no uncertain terms, the man had made his choice.
Ah, the importance of being with like-minded people. Not everybody fits into a person’s circle. I have personally removed possible mate-dates from my ‘list’ for similar reasons. Example: while out walking my Pyrenees one afternoon, ‘Tim’ pulled up in his truck to inquire about the weekend’s activities. Sebastian jumped up to the open window to say ‘hi’, which made Tim come all unglued at the prospect of his truck being scratched. I apologized, but as we walked away I did tell Sebastian that we were going to have to strike a line through Tim’s name.
Needless to say there were no ‘weekend activities’ for Tim.
These types of interactions remind us all how important our canine friends are in our everyday lives. And we don’t question the ‘why’, we are content to know it exists. For those who need a more scientific base, I have some of that too.
In a recent study conducted by Japanese researchers, they discovered that when a dog looks into the eyes of their person they release large quantities of the hormone oxytocin and so do their human counterparts. It is the same hormone released when a parent looks into the eyes of their child. Oxytocin is the scientific equivalent of love. The longer the eye contact, the more oxytocin was released in both dogs and human partners (regardless of whether the caregiver was female or male) and so a mutual love-fest prevailed.
Most of the readers of this blog don’t need science to tell them the finer points of why we love our dogs so intensely and I know I certainly don’t. It did shed some light on other facts that I did find interesting though.
The same did not hold true when the same test was conducted on wolves( who were very ‘into’ their caregivers who fed and played with them) which concluded that no oxytocin was released when locking eyes with their guardians. Not so surprising when one understands that a stare is a challenge in wild canines. But it peaked my interest because dogs are from wolves, so somewhere dogs chose by evolution to create this symbiotic relationship with humans.
In another study, same terms, they discovered that the longing stare had a domino effect in female dogs. The girls wanted more eye contact as the oxytocin increased in them, which in turn increased the hormone in their guardians, who also wanted to increase their eye contact with their dog. The same did not hold true with the male dogs
The results, in short, explain why it was the dog that chose human companionship and why we chose them. By co-existing and co-evolving we began to make each other feel better. We love each other. When one considers the vast number of species we both were able to choose from in the beginning, the odds of finding each other were fairly immense, but we did manage the task.
I, along with many of my friends, consider dogs one of the like-minded ‘people’ I chose to be around. Which is why poor Tim missed the party and spent the weekend doing whatever it is he did. He was the third man out in a circle of like-minded Spirits. Being with like-minded companions of any species is a simple way to bring joy to everyday life.