I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.
As the companion of two affectionate and smart Labrador Retrievers, I was happy to run across Clive D. L. Wynne’s fascinating story of dogs and their relationship to humans. Professor Wynne is the founding director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University. He has published a number of articles, and he has appeared on National Geographic Explorer, PBS, and the BBC. He lives in Tempe, Arizona. Dog is Love is his first full length book.
Clive Wynne began as a professor of animal psychology. His initial focus was on rats and pigeons, the most common of all species in experiments. He writes, “In time, I realized I wasn’t interested in animal behaviors in isolation. Rather, I was drawn to the relationship between people and animals. And, of all the thousands of animal species on this planet, none shares a stronger and more interesting bond with our own than do our dogs” (4). He continues, “dogs and humans go way back. Indeed, there is no animals with whom people have had a longer or deeper relationship. // People and dogs have been living side by side for more than fifteen thousand years” (5).
Clive notes, “dogs have a unique form of intelligence. Scientists theorized that, over the thousands of years that dogs have lived in close proximity to humans, they evolved unique ways of understanding people’s intentions, allowing for rich and subtle communication between our two species” (5). Later, he writes, “When they are with their special humans, dogs also experience neurological changes—including spikes in brain chemicals such as oxytocin—that mirror changes we humans experience when we feel love” (8).
Early studies of dogs included those of Ivan Petrovich Pavlov. Clive writes, “From 1914 until his death in 1936, Pavlov’s most important collaborator was Maria Kapitonovna Petrov. She started out as a student but in time became […] closely involved in a lot of the research on conditioning that assured Pavlov’s fame. […] in 1946, she won the Stalin Prize for Science” (51).
Clive tells an interesting story: “One of the earliest scientists to think and write about the relationship between dogs and humanity was Charles Darwin. Like many of us, Darwin loved being near his dogs and was seldom far from one of them” (74). Clive mentions a story by Emma Townshend recounts in her fascinating Darwin’s Dogs, [of] “the five years he spent on his famous circumnavigation of the glob, on board a boat named fortuitously, the Beagle. (As if its name weren’t enough, HMS Beagle was a sailing ship classified by the navy as a—wait for it—bark)” (76).
One final story involved the “oldest canine remains […] dating back to 14,223 years ago (give or take 58 years).” The remains included a skeleton of a dog cuddling the remains of a woman with her arm draped over her beloved pet (132). If you love dogs as much as I do, Clive Wynne’s Dog is Love is filled with wonderful insights into the relationship between men and women and their dogs. 5 Stars.
Likely Stories is a production of KWBU. I’m Jim McKeown. Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!