I imagine a fire eons ago. You can’t stare at a fire—even a fake one in an electric fireplace—for long without going back to those fires before history when we as a species made our bargain with the wolves. I wonder what it must have been like to hear those other social hunters out there in the night. To know how much they were like us.
When did that first wolf wander into some human encampment? Perhaps he said, if you give me a place by that fire and a share of what you kill with those nice fancy spears, knives, bows, rifles and ICBMs, I’ll help you track and hunt. I’ll warn you of danger at night. Someday I’ll rescue you from rubble and sit down when I smell cancer in your bodies. Mostly, though, I’ll stick with you even when you least deserve it.
Over time, Wolf traded in some wildness and size, domesticated himself just as we were doing the exact same thing. I read once that a key difference between Homo sapiens and our Neanderthal cousins was that they didn’t domesticate the wolf. That they somehow passed on this alliance with an animal that would be protector, partner, ally and friend.
We evolved together, us and the dogs, and that’s a large part of why it seems so right to live with dogs and so unnatural (to me anyway) not to have dogs around. But then dogs are wolves at heart, and bargaining with wolves can be a tricky thing. The wolf is likely to win, and he’ll make you not mind losing. For instance, my wife and I go to work every morning to earn the bread to put the beast into their bowls, and they lounge at home all day.
Sounds like that wolf that wondered into that ancient camp may have won that one. But that’s okay because to paraphrase The Stranger from The Big Lebowski: It’s good to know they’re out there takin’ ‘r easy for all us sinners.