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The dog, “man’s best friend,” didn’t necessarily start out that way. Although it is probable that the dog was the first animal to be domesticated — most likely around 15,000 years ago — it was descended from the wolf, which appeared in Europe about one million years ago and in the Americas some 700,000 years later. The dog has developed into hundreds of varied breeds, with height ranging from a few inches in the Chihuahua to a few feet in the Irish Wolfhound; color varying in a wide variation of patterns; coats short to long, straight or curly.

In addition to natural evolution, dogs have been selectively bred through the centuries for special purposes, particularly to track and retrieve game, for use as draft animals, and as guides for the blind and the disabled. Their acute sense of smell makes the dog especially useful in hunting and tracking, but it also has been effectively put to work in law enforcement, such as in the detection of drugs and explosives in luggage and packages.

And then, of course, there’s always Fido’s best gig: being the ideal pet and most loyal companion. Because smooches from pooches are always unconditional.

About Gordon Hauptfleisch