Why, Overall, Dogs Are The Best People I've Ever Known

Rocky, the hero who dove into the frigid North Saskatchewan River and saved a little girl when his human asked him to.

Adam Shaw and his best friend Rocky are being hailed as heroes after jumping into the icy water of the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton Sunday to rescue two young girls, aged 9 and 10, who'd fallen through the ice at the river's edge while tobogganing. The . Fort Saskatchewan oil worker credits adrenalin and his trusting dog for saving their lives. Rocky's been a fictional hero for decades, but in Edmonton, Alberta, today there's a four legged 8 year old hero named Rocky who is definitely real.

It'd be the feel good story of the year except that everyday somewhere numerous dogs rise to the moment in the selfless service of their human pack. A few days ago it was an eight-year-old Chilliwack girl named Jenna Desrochers who's life was saved by her tiny chihuahua Honey who came to the rescue when Jenna was attacked by a pit bull 10 times Honey's size. The chihuahua raced in barking causing pit bull to let go of the little girl and refocus its attach on Honey long enough for Jenna to reach safety. Jenna's mom Leslie said the two have “always been buddies.” Later Jenna said she wasn’t surprised that help came from her tiny companion. “I thought that she would help me and she did,” she said.

Honey and his buddy Jenna who's life he saved.

Our best friends have shared their lives with our lives since long before we became 'modern' humans. A scientific analysis of the DNA evidence points to a very remote break between wolves and dogs, certainly no later than a hundred thousand years ago, around the time of the out-migration of Homo Sapiens from Africa. The earliest archaeological evidence about dogs and humans is in the Chauvet cave, in southern France: a set of twinned footprints, twenty-six thousand years old, of an eight-year-old child walking side by side, deep into the cave, with some kind of hound. Evidently our Neanderthal cousins shared their fires and food with them too.

Nobody can actually know exactly how our two species first teamed up. Humans almost always turn out to be the star.of their own story, so too for this one. Our behavioral scientists believe it's most likely that the in earliest encounters our best friend's ancestors figured out it was easier to get a meal from us than by hunting for themselves so they hung around our fires. They speculate that as time went by the cavemen adopted a cute, perhaps abandoned, pup or two and that the acute senses of the dogs served the cavemen well as early warning of impending trouble from other predators.

It's a feasible story from a totally anthropocentric point of view. We can't yet enter a dog's mind but perhaps one day we'll learn a different version from our best friends that's been handed down from mother to pup, a far different caninopocentric story. Perhaps we'll learn that the earliest dogs stumbled upon a group of stinking half starved savages huddled and choking in a smoke filled cave and decieded to take pity on them. Then taught them how to hunt successfully as a team, taught them the value of community and by their actions showed our ancestors the value of empathy. Perhaps it was the dogs that taught us how to be noble and civilized us.

This scenario is at least as feasible as the other especially considering the fact that i've witnessed, all these thousands of years later, my best friends as they've risen to the occasion so often through the decades it's impossible to remember them all. They've faced down huge bears, defended my wife against an attack from a group of drunken teens, chased off coyotes...taught me how be and showed me the meaning of unconditional love.