Dogs: setting the bar for humans for 30,000 years

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” ~ Josh Billings

Recently I saw a tweet by MRA Dan Perrins. It contained a video he made of his new dog, Charger. Dan and Charger were visiting the grave of Jeb, Dan’s longtime canine companion who passed away a year ago last week. I had the pleasure of going to Dan’s home and meeting Jeb. The bond between them was obvious and absolute, eclipsing, as it often does with dogs, the visible connection between most human beings. And when he died, Dan was devastated.

I am no stranger to the bond, or to the pain. I have had dogs most of my life and suppose that I will till it is my turn to leave the land of the living. In each of them I have found a friend, and an example of what humanity should look like, but usually doesn’t.

Back in April of 2013, I had the task of saying farewell to Rocky, a faithful mate of 11 all-too-short years.

All of this, remembering Dan’s loss, enjoying the fact that he has a new companion, thinking about Rocky and my other canine friends, past and present, reminds me of just how important dogs can be to mental health, and yes, especially for men. As the coined phrases go, diamonds are a girl’s best friend. For men, its dogs.

No doubt, we got the better deal.

That fact is something so well known, so universal, that it is difficult to talk about it without resorting to cliché. The reputation of the dog as fiercely loyal and unconditionally loving has been woven directly and indelibly into the human story. There are some different theories on how and when this bond came to be. In fact, there are scholars as we speak engaged in a dogfight with each other over whether there were two geographically separated incidences of domestication in our history that eventually merged, or just one.

Whatever is revealed when and if that dust settles, some things about our history with dogs are generally agreed upon. A long time ago, some 20 or 30 thousand years, a small number of gray wolves found humans willing to share scraps of food from their animal kills. These wolves, which were genetically less predisposed to being fearful and nervous than others in their pack, came to see humans as a food source. That magic spark of a moment, when a wolf stepped forward bravely to take food from the hand of a human, triggered a watershed moment in human history, and in what would become the history of dogs.

From that point forward our futures were irrevocably bound together. We fed and cared for them, they protected our homes and our lives and became our partners in hunting. In exchange for our scraps, they remained at our side,  tirelessly alert for food or danger. Dogs were the first animal domesticated by humans. They preceded cats and livestock by a long shot. They were guarding our homes even before we cultivated crops like rice.

And, as the wolves who formed an alliance with humans flourished, the process of evolution took over. The wolves began to change, both physically and in disposition.  They became more docile and less threatening. Their fangs shortened and their paws got smaller. They quit hunting in packs and adapted to humans being their providers of nutrition.

Something else happened that is quite remarkable. Their external features changed drastically. Their snouts became shorter and their coats more varied in color. Their eyes became more rounded and larger. Their fangs shortened. Larger eyes, more symmetric, less intimidating features. In other words, dogs got cuter. And they found, as one would predict, that the more appealing they were physically, the more prone we were to taking care of them.

We have another word for this that comes up in the men’s mental health movement on occasion. Neoteny. As the features of dogs became more neotenic, more childlike, we became more attracted to them, just as we are with human females. So, in short, we take care of dogs driven by the same fundamental instinct that drives us to take care of women.

Unlike a lot of women, though, dogs are much more predictably prone to take care of us. One of the skill sets that emerged in dogs that is not present in other species, including other primates, is the ability to read complexities on the human face, to judge our emotional state. To, in a sense, even judge human character.

For example, when humans study each other’s faces, our eyes tend to wander left, to the right-hand side of the face of the person we are studying. This is called a “left gaze bias,” with the theory being that the right side of the human face is more likely to convey the emotional state of the subject.

And we don’t demonstrate left gaze bias when looking at anything other than human faces. It is reserved strictly for assessing the psychological and emotional state of other people. It is no doubt a tool in assessing potential threats. No other species on earth exhibits this left gaze bias…. except dogs. They have evolved not just to recognize us as a food source, but to know how we are feeling, to respond to us on an emotional level.

And this is where it becomes difficult to assess dogs as a mental health asset without devolving into a schmaltzy, taster’s choice moment commentary about man’s best friend. Like I said, I have dogs, have nearly always had dogs, and will always have them. I can’t imagine life without them. But rather than gush aimlessly about my love of all things canine, let me share with you some scientific information that points empirically to one inescapable fact.

Dogs are good for you.

Research shows that when you pet a dog, your blood pressure goes down. So does the dog’s, by the way. So yes, you are good for your canine friend, too. Your pulse will lower just from talking to your dog. When you make physical contact with your dog, oxytocin, a bonding hormone that also assists with weight loss, is released. It not only lowers your blood pressure and decreases stress, but it combats depression and boosts immunities. Research shows that even making eye contact with your dog releases oxytocin. Dog owners are likely to get more exercise, which reduces the probability of heart disease.

All that is reason enough to consider a four-legged comrade as a part of better mental and physical health. There are other factors that make dogs, especially for red-pill men, a lifestyle winner. Some of the side effects of a red pill awakening are less than appealing. There is the isolation of living in a world where 99 out of 100 people, to be generous, will think ill of you and judge you harshly, if you dare to say what you really think or feel.

There is the fickleness, caprice and hypergamy of women, which you will likely avoid commensurate with your dosage of red pills. And that isolation occurs with other men as well. It is risky and largely unappealing to connect with white knights and gynocentric clones once you establish how brainwashed they are and how untrustworthy they are as friends. There is nothing more off-putting to red pill men than blue pill men who will sell their brothers out at the drop of a skirt.

While dogs can’t make the whole world magically change into a better place, they can really make your corner of it a lot more tolerable. Why? Because dogs can reliably provide something in painfully short supply for men. Actual loyalty and unconditional acceptance. They don’t care what your ex or your boss thinks of you, and for that matter, they could really give a flip about the rest of the world.

For a daily feeding and a few pats on the head, they will display superhuman loyalty and will literally face death to protect you. Some food and your companionship are literally all they will ever expect of you. In return, they will teach you pretty much all you need to know about your own humanity, reminding you constantly of your capacity to love. Find me a human like that and I will change my views on marriage.

I have recently been trading messages back and forth with Dan Perrins, who is now preparing for his next walk for mental health week in Canada. He makes a 38-mile trek from Hamilton to Toronto to raise awareness of male suicide and other men’s mental health issues. Walking alongside him won’t be another human being, but his dog, Charger. Just like the last time Dan took this walk, with his buddy Jeb. Together they will form the classic duo, man and dog, a combination stretching back some thirty thousand years. How fitting is that for a men’s mental health awareness initiative?

I have to wonder just how many people will get it.



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