Who’s Your Daddy?
As a human, if you’ve ever owned a dog or taken the time to observe canine behavior, you may have noticed that the males of our species tend to be ‘absentee fathers.’ We simply “seal the deal” and leave.
When you went out to buy your first pedigreed puppy, in some rare instances the ad might have read, “the father is on premises.” But, in most cases, when you finally got to see your puppy snuggled up to it’s momma, I’ll be willing to bet that the pup’s father wasn’t within miles of the place.
Swans, wolves, eagles and several other species mate for life. But dogs? Not at all. Unless we live in the same house and share the same food bowl, we hang in there for a few minutes, and that’s it. Not as much as a kiss on the cheek; we’re gone!
Have you ever wondered why? Of course not; you have enough problems of your own without worrying about your dog’s sordid one-night stands.
One would think that because we are socialized and considerably more evolved than wolves, we dogs would have the long-term relationship situation down pat. Just the opposite; because we are more socialized than our wolf brethren, we don’t find it necessary to have a mate to hunt with or to protect our back. We have you! You are our ‘alpha figure.’ And we gladly abdicate those responsibilities to you. Granted, we have virtually the same DNA as Mr. Wolf, but the domestication process has essentially bred much of the hunting and survival instinct out of us; thus, our independence from the daily struggle to survive. Because we have more time on our hands, we can be more spontaneous, and we can rise to more new opportunities than the harried wolf can.
Imagine, if you will, a canine who decides that he wants to ‘do the right thing’ and take responsibility for his offspring, help raise and nurture them, and teach them to hunt. I can just hear the pups’ mom scream, “hunt? Are you crazy? Marge puts down our dish of Alpo every morning at 8 a.m. right after Ted drives off to work and the kids head up to the bus stop! What do we need you for, big boy?”
Most dogs on this planet have no idea where their food originally comes from, and unless they are AKC grand champions, they don’t have the foggiest idea who their father is. Ah, the ignominy!
Many of the instincts and life’s lessons are passed from the bitch (in our culture, bitch is a term of endearment) during the six weeks that the pups spend with her prior to weaning. Because many breeders rush this process, many pups are deprived of this valuable time. Also, inbreeding for physical appearance has become so prevalent that most of these natural instincts have disappeared. If males hung around the biggest lessons we males could teach our progeny might be, “never hurt other pets or children in the house, or you’re a goner;” or “scratch at the door when you need to go out, and somebody will always open it for you;” or, “leave the UPS guy alone, or you’ll be in a world of big brown.” Lots of wisdom resonates in these simple life lessons.
The wolf, on the other hand, has a long-term obligation to protect the pups’ mother and the family from the elements, rival wolves, and all other natural predators. He has to hunt, kill and bring home food for his entire family. When the pups finally grow old enough to tag along, papa wolf will then lead the hunting party and teach his young to hunt. Mr. Wolf has, indeed, landed a job for life, and this is only the first of many litters to come. His life is a different one from mine altogether.
So what makes males of the human species remain committed for life? Is it the vows, or the formality of the marriage license? Are there heady pheromones tipping the scales here? Mr. Monogamous doesn’t have to kill to eat, or teach his young to hunt because his mate is wired to shop all by herself. According to Darwin, you folks lost your “pack mentality” millions of years ago, and you rarely have to ‘watch your wife’s back.’ Now, your most important job is to bring home a paycheck, keep the family car running, and become a responsible role model for those kids who seem to materialize out of nowhere. If there’s any time left over, you can fluff up your La-Z-Boy and tune in some Monday night football. Ah, the responsibility!
As for me? Where does old Homer fit into the grand scheme of things? I merely stroll into the kitchen around mealtime, wag my tail expectantly, look excited and appreciative when my bowl is filled, and then chow down like the fine specimen of canine-hood I am. I am just one lucky dog!