Dogs: Now and Zen

Bella RevAnimals had a spiritual role in ancient times, not just as practical and useful animals. A three-headed hound called Cerberus guarded the underworld in Greek mythology, while ancient Egyptian embalmers took the jackal-headed god, Anibus, as their patron. Dogs were believed to lead the dead to the afterlife in Mayan folklore. In Nepal, a festival in autumn called Tihar sets aside a day to honor dogs with flower garlands and food. Dogs are very remarkable animals because they are uniquely sensitive to the customs and cultural attributes of the people with whom they live. Dogs are not only a product of culture, but they also participate in the cultures of humans. Specifically, dogs were the first animals to take up residence with people and the only animals found in human societies throughout the world. Because of their popularity across cultural boundaries, dogs have been so commonplace that their history seemed to heed little consideration. Yet, for the past twelve thousand years dogs have played an integral part in human lives. What is most remarkable about dogs is their adaptability to their environment, including the peoples within it. Dogs have proved themselves amazingly useful and flexible beings all over the world.


Dogs migrated with people from Northeast Asia to the Western Hemisphere. People spread and settled in every region, climates, altitudes, and topographies of the Americas. They established their own cultural identities, language, traditions and beliefs. Their common origins united them, but they remained isolated from events in Europe and everywhere else. Societies in the Americas were largely untouched before Columbus and 1742 by outside influences and unlike the early societies, on which Western culture is based, did not possess domesticated goats, sheep, cattle, pigs, or horses. Dogs were the only domestic animals present in the majority of Native American groups, the only animal allied with humans.


We do not know that much about dogs in the Native American society. The dogs brought by the Spanish, however, were much different in character and breeding from those already present. How did these non-European animals interact with humans in everyday life? How did they function in the symbolic realm? What were their roles across cultural boundaries? These are all questions that the answers to can help our understanding of the American dog.


There are a few themes that emerge from the details of the dogs of America. First and foremost, the dog is an ambiguous animal. Native Americans understood that even though dogs lived in the human camp they had a close connection with coyotes and wolves. Because of these tight relationships, dogs operated on several levels. They connected the wild; the tame and they joined nature and culture. Even though dogs were seen as almost human, they were also known to be carnivores and were linked not only to wolves, coyotes, and foxes but also to bears and jaguars. On the one hand, dogs were revered as companions, hunters, and guards. Yet, they were associated with promiscuity and filth. Amid some groups, eating dogs was strictly taboo, while other groups ate them with great ceremony. Many cultures relied on dogs for transportation and hauling while others found them to be of no use at all. Dogs played key roles in the myths of some people while in other myths dogs were not mentioned. Also, the numbers of dogs and their physical appearance varied widely from locality to locality and through time.


Nowadays, canines are most likely seen as pets than religious figures or utilitarian work animals. People are still crazy about canines. According to a survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association in 2009-2010, 39 percent of American households have at least one dog for a total of over 77 million pet dogs in American homes. In a recent survey, 80 percent of dog owners reported interacting with their dogs for more than two hours a day; many of which reported viewing their pets as their children. Man’s best friend may even get you more human friends. A 2000 study from The British Psychological Society found that walking with a dog at least tripled the number of social interactions a person had. So owning a dog has so many benefits in so many different categories of life, and it has for such a long time.


Your dog is your best friend, and they have been so through the history of man. You will love spending that time with your partner and will be able to keep him healthy and happy.



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