Love is a many splendor thing. Especially when it’s between a human and a dog. Why, when you gaze into your pup’s eyes and you give them a slow blink, do they return that loving gaze and blink right back in some sort of quiet affirmation? Although you never took a class on dog-speak, you know the difference in their canine voice; the “I’m hungry” whine versus the “I’m irritated” snub and huff and everything in between. They know when we’re upset, feeling down, stressed, or joyful. They have instinctive and inherent abilities to comfort us, encourage us, and make us remember that we’re not alone in this world. It’s love in its most pure form: No judgment, no resentment, and no expectations.
Where does the loyalty and that good, old-fashioned adoration come from and why? How old is the relationship between man (meaning human) and their dog? And, perhaps most importantly, what makes us love each other so darn much? This bond has been researched over and again, in various areas of academia and the sciences, and yes, the love is real. Like, really real.
To understand the connection between we humans and our dogs, and why this connection is so unlike any other of our bonds with most species of the animal kingdom, we need to go back in history. Way back. Consider the first bit of evidence of man and dog duos from the Late Glacial Maximum, which pre-dates iPhones and lucidium pens by about 20,000 years in Siberia. (Perri, et al., 2021) Fast forward to the Neolithic Age (ca. 10,000 BCE) and these brilliant animals were the traveling, hunting and farming companions of the first humans to traverse into the Americas.  (Ollivier, Tresset, Frantz, Brehard, & Balasescu, 2018)
In fact, these Stone Age travelers weren’t just buddies, but critical partners in farming and agriculture leading to the development of food, farms, society, and, one can assume, lots of love and friendship. Not much has changed. Despite global climate changes, technology, political and social conflicts, wars, peace, and economic ups and downs, the one thing that has been constant through the millennia has been our love, if not need, for and of our dogs, and the undying love and loyalty they give us in return. It’s consistent, unwavering, and as true as love can get.
Jeffrey Kluger, Editor at Large for TIME magazine, wrote, “When humans ourselves left the state of nature, our alliance with dogs might well have been dissolved. If you didn’t need a working dog—and fewer and fewer people did—the ledger went out of balance. We kept paying dogs their food-and-shelter salary, but we got little that was tangible in return. Never mind, though; by then we were smitten.” (Kluger, 2018)
 “Here, by comparing population genetic results of humans and dogs from Siberia, Beringia, and North America, we show that there is a close correlation in the movement and divergences of their respective lineages. This evidence places constraints on when and where dog domestication took place. Most significantly, it suggests that dogs were domesticated in Siberia by ∼23,000 y ago, possibly while both people and wolves were isolated during the harsh climate of the Last Glacial Maximum.” https://www.pnas.org/content/118/6/e2010083118
 “Overall, the evidence presented here suggests that, like domestic ungulates, cereals and pulses [24,25], mtDNA dog lineages indigenous to Near East were brought to Europe during the Neolithic from the beginning of the ninth millennium BP before later spreading west and north.” https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsbl.2018.0286
One could argue, however, that the ledger was balanced, and then tilted, by the intangibles: Mental health, physical wellness, loyalty, companionship are just some examples of how much value dogs bring to the human table. The benefits studied have been ten-thousandfold in the bank deposit accounts for humans. Dogs are just natural, unselfish givers of adoration and friendship. Humans are the lucky beneficiaries.
We dress them up and take them out. We walk them, and sometimes, they walk us. They skateboard, surf, hunt, fish, swim and rescue humans in distress. They greet us with wet, sloppy kisses after the worst day at the office, and rest their heads on our knees when we’re faced with unbearable stress. They are our military and police partners, our pals, and often, our reminder that the world is a good place with good beings. If we really take into account all the benefits we receive from these furry, ancient sidekicks, we may just find that the “ledger” is out of balance, indeed.
Dogs give an unrequited, unconditional love of which the value is infinite.
Kluger, J. (2018, July 20). Why Dogs and Humans Love Each Other More Than Anyone Else. TIME How Dogs Think: Inside the Canine Mind.
Ollivier, M., Tresset, A., Frantz, L., Brehard, S., & Balasescu, A. (2018). Dogs accompanied humans during the Neolithic expansion into Europe. Biology Letters, 14(10). doi:https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2018.0286
Perri, A., Feuerborn, T., Frantz, L., Larson, G., Malhi, R., Meltzer, D., & Witt, K. (2021, 01 25). Dog domestication and the dual dispersal of people and dogs into the Americas. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(6), 1-4. Retrieved from https://www.pnas.org/content/118/6/e2010083118