The Wolf in the Parlor, Part 2

The Wolf in the Parlor: The Eternal Connection between Humans and DogsThe Wolf in the Parlor: The Eternal Connection between Humans and Dogs by Jon Franklin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I noticed in some other readers’ reviews that they were disappointed that there wasn’t more science to Franklin’s thesis. I disagree with those reviewers. I didn’t ever think this was going to be a straight scientific work, but more of an experiential work drawing on science knowledge as a guide to exploration — science for non-scientists, I guess. What I think is far more important than any science is Franklin’s observations about the relationship between Dog and Man, with his own relationship with his dog Charlie being Exhibit A. (Although I do have to disagree with his characterization of the Welsh corgi.) The science behind the evolution of the domesticated dog from the wild wolf is secondary to the socio-cultural, anthropological, and psychological affects thereof. I know how evolution works and natural selection and adaptation and blah blah blah, but I (and Franklin) want to know WHY you don’t see humans without dogs or dogs without humans, and why when dogs lost their value as working partners to 99% of the human race and we became modern city-dwellers we yet kept our canine companions. I live in a sub-urban beach cottage, I don’t own any cattle or other livestock, so why do I feel it is necessary that I own, care for, and pay for the upkeep of a herding dog? Because she licks me dry from the kneecaps down when I get out of the shower, she tells me when it’s time to stop working and go for a walk, and she sits at the end of the bed when I read a book until my husband comes and gets her to go outside before bedtime and go to bed in her crate. In other words, there is no practical reason for a person like me to have a dog like Amy. And yet, I do.

Reading about Franklin’s experience as a dog owner and a person who thinks about dogs and how we relate to them has helped me look at my new dog-human relationship, and I have since grasped a few important things: I have to be patient. The canine-human symbiote can’t form overnight. I must agree to be the thinker; Amy agrees to be the emotional anchor. If I get stressed, she will get stressed. I have to let her tell me when I am stressed, because half the time I don’t know it, and the other half of the time I just ignore the stress and plow on.

I like Franklin’s style and I think this book has contributed to my life as a thinking person. His theories about the development of the human-dog relationship are clear-headed, even though they are just theories and must necessarily remain so: no archaeological evidence will ever prove (or disprove) his thoughts about the follower wolf, human selection among the follower wolf pack, and the psycho-social development of the dog-human alliance. Sure, science can look at dog brains and wolf brains and see where they differ, and dog genes and wolf genes and find where they branch off, but no amount of hard science can capture prehistoric, pre-literate human culture and say, “Yes, that is how the wolf became the dog.” I’m partial to Franklin’s theory myself and don’t see where a scientist could find a legitimate reason to disagree with it. I think this is a must-read for any animal-loving person, whether they own a dog or not.

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