The Case for Quigley

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The Case for Quigley

By Charles A. Hatfield

My life changed forever on a cool, clear morning in early February of 2005. I was in the surgery recovery wing of a community hospital in Leesburg, Florida, and I had just been told that I had cancer. I’m sure that everyone, regardless of their emotional strength, is initially overwhelmed with shock and disbelief when given a diagnosis of cancer, and even though I had tried to prepare myself for the worst, I too was overwhelmed with the news.

Before my wife, Jill, and I left the hospital that day, I was told to visit the surgeon’s office the following week. By then, the doctor would have the pathologist’s report and would be able to give me a better idea of what type of cancer I might have. That left Jill and I with nothing else to do than go home and wait….and, of course, dwell on the worst-case scenario. On the second day, Jill decided to give vent to some of her anger and frustration by going out for some exercise. That left me to sit alone at the desk in our home office, and to ponder my situation. Naturally, since all I knew was that I had some form of cancer that had spread to God’s know where, I assumed that I was probably a dead man. I began to think that I’d better start making preparations - I should make sure all the paperwork was in order, that Jill knew where all the insurance information was, that bills were paid and arrangements for my funeral prepared. I had always fancied myself a pretty good writer, so I even entertained the notion that perhaps I should compose my own eulogy. After all, who could better sing my praises? Eventually, thoughts of practical matters turned to matters of the heart. I began to reflect on my life and on my many regrets. As I ticked through the long list of things in my life that now left me feeling sad and lonely, I began to blink back tears. Remorse, self-pity, thoughts of Jill….before long, the grief and sorrow simply became overwhelming, and the tears began to flow. As I sat there trying to cope with my mounting despair, I noticed that our dog, Quigley, had entered the room and was now sitting quietly near my feet.

Quigley was ten months old at the time, still just a pup. A pure-bred Australian Shepherd, Quigley was born typical of his breed: highly intelligent, energetic, affectionate, and loyal almost to the point of being too clingy. Australian Shepherds are commonly referred to as “Velcro” dogs due to their desire for almost constant physical contact with their owners. An owner of an Australian Shepherd pretty much wears his dog, either on his lap, over his feet, or pressed firmly at his hip. If the owner happens to be standing, chances are his Aussie is leaning against his legs, or sitting very close with one paw on the owner’s foot. Australian Shepherds are known to form strong bonds with their human families, and often very strong bonds with one family member in particular. Since I was retired and able to spend the most time with Quigley, he quickly chose me to become his best friend and the focal point of his life.

My relationship with Quigley was a little rocky at first. We had battled one another through the “puppy wars” for most of his early life, with no quarter given and none taken. The battle raged for months: he’d chew and I’d chastise, he’d dig and I’d admonish. It would always play out the same - Quigley would destroy something, a plant or piece of patio furniture, I’d yell and beat my chest, Quigley would roll over on his back and beg for forgiveness, and I’d threaten him with a terrible thrashing if it happened again. Just as I was beginning to think this cycle of destruction and retribution was never going to end, Quigley suddenly and inexplicably decided to unilaterally call for a truce. I was mystified. It was as if Quigley had decided that it was time to bring an end to his “puppyhood,” and to leave behind his mischievous ways. Much to my delight, seemingly overnight, Quigley had evolved from a hellion into a thoughtful, obedient and loving companion. It seemed to be too good to be true, but it wasn’t. To me, Quigley had become the perfect dog.

So here we were: me sitting at the desk in our little home office, tearfully wallowing in self-pity and despair, and Quigley sitting at my feet, gazing up at my contorted face. As I looked back at Quigley, I couldn’t help but think about what a handsome, young devil he had become. Australian Shepherds come in a variety of colors, usually in some combination of black, white, red, copper and gray. Their eyes also come in various colors, and can be brown, hazel, amber or blue. Quigley has what is described as a “blue merle” coat, which means his coat is predominantly black patches on a gray background. He also has several blotches of white and copper in his coat, a fluffy white chest and white paws. The first time my Father-in-law saw Quigley, he said he didn’t know if he was a dog or a decorative quilt. Quigley’s eyes are framed with a ring of black hair around the right, and a large band of black hair across the left, which much like dark makeup, brings out the color of his eyes. His eyes were a smoky gray when he was a puppy, and eventually transitioned to an amber color as he matured. By the time he was ten months old, Quigley had taken on an adult Aussie’s physique: dense, agile and athletic. He had grown into a beautiful specimen.

As I looked back at Quigley through the blur of tear-filled eyes, the awful thoughts of death, the possibility of leaving my wife and friends, of leaving with so many regrets and so many things undone suddenly turned to thoughts of this silly dog at my feet. I began to think about how quickly the little monster had wormed his way into my heart, and how he had progressed from a clumsy pup with a Frisbee bouncing off his head into an aerial acrobat, who astonished our friends and neighbors with his repertoire of Frisbee tricks. I thought about his innocent exuberance, his gentleness, the friendliness and affection he showed toward everyone and everything he encountered. Mostly, I thought about how there were really only two truly important things in my life that I could not bear to lose: my beloved wife, Jill, and this damn dog sitting before me! Silly as it sounds, the thought of leaving behind my beautiful wife and my dog was all it took to push open the floodgates. My self-indulgent whimpering now turned to spasms of sobbing. My emotions were spinning out of control and I was beginning to fade into unfathomable grief. It was then that I noticed that Quigley had stood, moved even closer to me, sat up and placed one paw on my knee. As I turned to look down at him, he leaned in to position his face as close as he could to mine, and then stared directly into my eyes. As I stared back, I could swear that those big, amber eyes were brimming with purely “human” emotion: they seemed to exude empathy and confidence. His gaze drifted slowly from one eye to the other, as if he were searching for the shortest route into my soul. I couldn’t help but feel that this dog was trying to tell me something. It was though he was doing his damnedest to convey to me, “don’t worry, my friend, we’re going to get through this, together.” It was then that I realized that Quigley really wanted to “be there” for me that day, and a bond began to form between us, between a man and a beast, that was to grow to be more rich and fulfilling than I could ever have imagined.

The following week, my wife and I made the seventy mile drive from our home in Central Florida to the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. The surgeon, who removed the cancerous node from my neck, had referred me to Moffitt for treatment. Once there, after considerable poking, prodding and scoping, it was determined that I had stage III tongue cancer, which had spread to my lymph system. Two weeks later, I began a regimen of six weeks of daily radiation treatments, with a couple of chemotherapy sessions thrown in for good measure. Needless to say, the treatment caused me far greater pain and discomfort than had the cancer, but I wasn’t complaining - at least the treatment wasn’t likely to kill me.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I made the decision not to share news of my condition with my friends and family. Not only did I not want to burden others with my plight, I really didn’t want the attention. I was determined to do everything in my power to defeat this insidious disease, and I wanted nothing to distract me from my focus. Besides, I already had all the support I needed in the world - a loving wife and a loving dog, each of whom had decided to make it their mission to comfort me and to nurse me back to health.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. As of this writing, it has been over five years since I completed treatment and the cancer has not recurred. Of course, like any cancer survivor, I bear the scars of both the disease and the cure. I’m now paranoid about cancer, and worry not only for myself, but for all those around me. On the other hand, the cancer allowed me to come to grips with my own mortality and to finally understand what is truly important in life. I am now so grateful to be alive and will no longer take any of its gifts for granted.

Quigley is now six years old, and remains a very healthy and happy soul. He’s still as attentive as ever and rarely leaves my side. Not surprisingly, the bond between Quigley and I has only deepened over the years, and I have grown to depend on his companionship and love. I must say, however, my relationship with Quigley has been a rather odd development for me. While I have been fond of dogs my entire life, never before have I grown so attached to one. Before Quigley, my view was that dogs were no more than domestic animals that had no business being in the house, much less sharing my pillow.

While cute, loyal and affectionate, dogs have a proclivity for barking, defecating in public and shedding lots of hair. They can be a lot of fun, but they can also be a terrible nuisance. In fact, I really didn’t even want to own another dog before my wife pestered me into buying Quigley. Having had such a mindset, I have often asked myself, why do I now see our canine friends so differently? How could I have developed such a deep, meaningful relationship with a member of another species, especially one prone to rudely sniffing the posteriors of others and routinely “humping” canine playmates of either gender? I realized, of course, that innumerable others had fallen prey the cutesy charms of their canine companions, but why me? I began to think that there had to be a simple answer to this question if I just knew more about the nature of dogs and how the heck they came to become man’s closest companion. To better educate myself, I decided to conduct a close examination of the most current science related to the behavior and evolution of the domestic dog. I searched the literature extensively for my answer and it was a search that eventually led me to an extraordinary revelation that has altered my perspective of my boy, Quigley, and all his kind forever.

The domestic dog, Canis lupus familaris, is a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora, and is classified as a subspecies of the gray wolf (Canis lupus). In addition to the wolf and domestic dog, the Canidae family includes the fox, coyote and jackal. While the dog is widely believed to be descended from the gray wolf, there is still a great deal of debate among researchers. Many believe that other wolf species, such as the Chinese Wolf or Indian Wolf might be more appropriate candidates. Some researchers believe that the exact origin of the dog remains a mystery and that it is still too soon to accurately identify a progenitor. Even the time at which the dog evolved and diverged from its wolf ancestry remains controversial. While some geneticists believe they have found DNA evidence that suggests the dog evolved at least 100,000 years ago, there is no fossil evidence to support that. Based on the fossil and archaeological evidence that is available, the prevailing theory among researcher is that the dog evolved between 14,000 and 17,000 years ago, during the Mesolithic period.

Interestingly, there are two prevailing theories about how the dog evolved from the wolf, and they both involve the influence of humans. The first theory contends that Mesolithic man captured and domesticated wolves, probably pups, presumably to utilize them for their hunting prowess and protective nature. Over time, by selectively breeding the tamest and most cooperative wolves, Mesolithic man became the impetus for the creation of a new wolf subspecies, the domesticated dog. A second theory contends that as Mesolithic Man began to transition from his nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle to permanent settlements, those wolves exhibiting the least amount of fear toward humans began to search for scraps of food around village dumpsites. The scavenging activity of these wolves was tolerated by the human community, and over time the tamest of the wolves took up residence in the proximity of villages, and began to breed. This isolated breeding eventually resulted in the evolution of the dog from its wolf ancestry. While both of these theories seem feasible, which of the two is most likely the right one?

In their book, Dogs, A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution, biologists and behavioral ecologists, Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, discuss the two competing theories regarding the evolution of the domestic dog. They conclude that it is quite unlikely that Mesolithic people selectively bred wolves with the intent of producing a new subspecies of “tame” wolf. In their book, the Coppingers refer to this notion of selective breeding as the “Pinocchio Hypothesis.” As that story goes, a wooden puppet named Pinocchio is transformed into a live boy when a fairy Godmother grants the wish of the wood carver, Geppetto. The Coppingers contend that the notion that people living between 14,000 and 17,000 years ago could have transformed tamed wolves into domestic dogs is equally as unlikely as a wooden puppet being transformed into a living child. Not only is it difficult for the Coppingers to imagine a primitive, semi-nomadic people having the wherewithal to control the breeding of wolves, tamed or otherwise, they also point out that Mesolithic man had never seen a dog and could not therefore intentionally breed for dog-like qualities. A tamed wolf does not act like a dog, nor is anymore likely to form a working bond with a human than its wild counterpart. Therefore, how would Mesolithic man have possibly known what the long-term outcome of his breeding program would be?

When it comes to a relationship with man, a tamed wolf is not predisposed to making the same kinds of connections that readily form between a man and a domestic dog. This fact was clearly demonstrated in experiments conducted at Eotvos University in Budapest, Hungary in 2001 and 2002. Researchers there reared wolf pups in the same fashion as they would domestic dogs to ensure that the wolf pups would have the same opportunities to develop relationships with their handlers as domestic dogs would have with their owners. Once the wolves had become well socialized, the researchers conducted two experiments to compare the communicative abilities of the socialized wolves and domestic dogs.

In the first experiment, the researchers would hide food under one of two containers. They would then observe the comparative ability of the wolves and dogs to select the correct container under which the food was hidden based solely on hand gestures made by the handlers. The researchers quickly noted that the dogs would spend much more time gazing at the face of their handlers and studying the handlers’ gestures. As a result, the dogs were significantly more likely to properly interpret hand gestures and to select the correct container under which the food was hidden. The researchers concluded that when wolves and dogs are raised in almost identical social environments and given equal opportunity to bond with humans, dogs demonstrate a much greater preference for gazing at their human handlers to initiate a communicative interaction than do socialized wolves.

In the second experiment, researchers placed a piece of meat inside a cage and then measured how long it took for both the dogs and wolves to figure out how to open the cage and retrieve the meat. They then altered the test by locking the cage and attaching a rope to the piece of meat, so that the meat could only be removed from the cage by pulling the rope. After a series of trials, the researchers discovered that there was no difference in how quickly the wolves and dogs could solve the problem and successfully retrieve the meat. However, the researchers then made the problem unsolvable by anchoring the other end of the rope so that the meat could not be pulled from the cage. The researchers then noted that the wolves would tend to ignore their handlers while growing more agitated when they could not solve the problem, whereas the dogs would spend significant time turning and gazing at their handlers in an apparent effort to obtain assistance. The researchers concluded from the results of this experiment, as well as the first, that dogs are genetically predisposed to initiate and maintain eye contact with humans in order to facilitate communication, whereas wolves are not.

The dogs inherent ability to “communicate” with man is at the core of the relationship that has developed between the two species over the millennia. The wolf, even when socialized with man, does not have this ability to communicate and is unlikely to have ever developed a working bond with our Mesolithic ancestors. As a result, it seems likely that rather than early men intentionally taming wolves and then breeding them for dog-like qualities, wolves showing the least fear of man began frequenting village dumpsites and breeding amongst themselves. Over time, this unintended form of selective breeding resulted in the evolution of a new sub-species, the dog.

Darwinian evolution tells us that an organism will evolve to accommodate changes in its environment, if those changes have a link to the organism’s probability of survival. In the case of a wolf evolving into a dog, however, it’s difficult to understand how simply living in the proximity of humans would result in such profound changes. Granted, feeding on food scraps left in village dumpsites would enhance the wolf’s ability to survive, but wouldn’t the process of evolution dictate that over time the wolf would simply evolve into a tamer wolf? Why would evolution spawn a whole, new beast - especially one seemingly so perfectly suited to becoming man’s best friend? This question becomes even more puzzling when you consider how quickly the wolf evolved into a dog. Based on the evidence, scientists believe that the domestic dog evolved in as little as one hundred years, and perhaps in as little as one human lifetime! If this is true, in evolutionary terms, the transformation took place in little more than the proverbial blink of an eye, a notion which flies in the face of everything we know about evolutionary theory. Amazingly, as unlikely as such an occurrence may seem, there was an experiment conducted in the 1950’s that seemed to actually confirm that such a bizarre instance of abbreviated evolution could indeed have taken place.

Dmitri Belyaev was a Russian scientist, who spent several years during the 1950’s selectively breeding the silver fox in an effort to make the fox less fearful of men. The plan was to solve the problem the Russian fur industry was experiencing with foxes being reluctant to breed in captivity. Belyaev assumed that if he bred only those foxes showing the least fear of men, he could eventually produce foxes that would freely breed even while kept caged on fur farms. The result would, of course, be a significant boost in fur productivity. Balyaev’s plan went astray, however, when after about ten generations of controlled breeding, the foxes not only lost all fear of humans, but also began wagging their tails and licking their handlers to show affection. They also began being born with spotted coats, floppy ears and curled tails. Within twenty-two generations, Belyaev had foxes that barked profusely, would roll over to have their tummies scratched, would seek out their handlers to climb in their laps, and would answer to their names when called. Does any of this sound familiar? Perhaps most interestingly, foxes, like wolves, have one estrus cycle per year. Belyaev’s foxes began having two estrus cycles per year, just like the domestic dog. There’s no question that Belyaev had inadvertently created himself a proto-dog. Ironically, his experiment was an abject failure, since no one was in the market for a black and white, spotted fox fur coat.

Now admittedly, while I do have a degree in anthropology, I am certainly not an expert in canine genetics. However, I find it fascinating that foxes, like wolves, have some inherent capacity to transform into dogs, and all that is required for such a transformation is the mere presence of people. Granted, Balyaev’s experiment involved selective breeding, but what if foxes had been the species that decided to spend its days loitering around prehistoric man’s dump sites? Would man’s best friend today be a subspecies of fox? Think of the implications: if both wolf and fox have the potential to evolve into dogs, how about the other two members of the Canidae family, the coyote and jackal? Could they too be transformed into proto-dogs through selective breeding for no other trait, other than tameness? Moreover, why would any creature go through such a dramatic morphological change simply because it has made a “choice” to hang out around people?

When you think about the domestic dog, you are thinking about perhaps the most unique creature in all the animal kingdom. The dog is the most diverse mammal on the planet, whose physical appearance can be dramatically altered on a whim through a little selective breeding. This became apparent during the 19th century, when dog enthusiasts in Victorian England began breeding their dogs for differences in size, color, stature and a variety of other physical characteristics. As a result of man’s manipulation, dogs now come in more shapes and sizes than any other mammal on Earth. They are unlike any other species in that while you can selectively breed other animals, such as a horse or a pig, for differences in appearance, the end-product is always going to look like a horse or a pig. Selectively breed dogs for differences in appearance, however, and you’re likely to end up with animals that don’t even look like they belong to the same species! The thing that makes dogs particularly unique, however, is their ability and desire to relate to us humans. As demonstrated in the experiments conducted at Eotvos University, dogs are particularly adept at interpreting human gestures. In fact, research has demonstrated that dogs are as adept as two-year-old children at properly interpreting human gestures. This is unlike our closest relative, the chimpanzee, who routinely flunks such tests. Also, unlike wolves and most other social species, if given the option to socialize with their own species or with humans, dogs prefer the company of people. Their ability to interpret human expressions and emotions are unmatched in the animal kingdom, and no other animal demonstrates their proclivity for fostering loyal, loving bonds with human beings. Dogs are all too willing to work for us, guide us, protect us, console us, play with us, and simply keep us company. They can even heal us. I ask you, how would you define a best friend?

Ask just about any dog owner, and they will tell you that their dog is special. They’ll want to relate to you stories about their dog having the uncanny ability to sense their mood, to rescue them from depression, to comfort them in times of sorrow. A dog owner will delight in telling you how their dog somehow seems to know what’s coming next - how they know when it’s time for a bath or a trip to the vet, and how they even seem to be able to predict when someone is coming home. They will tell you that their dog’s ability is so uncanny, it’s as though their dog can somehow read their mind. Believe it or not, there is one British researcher who believes that maybe, just maybe, a dog can do just that.

Dr. Rupert Sheldrake is an English biochemist and plant physiologist, who has developed a keen fascination with what he terms “morphic fields.” According to Dr. Sheldrake, there exists in nature telepathic bonds between members of a species, or between members of different species, as in the case of man and dog, which can be deformed and stretched great distances without breaking. His theory states that any organism involved in a morphic bonding has intuitive knowledge of the location and condition of any other organism with which it is bonded. Dr. Sheldrake has researched his theory for many years and has published the results of his experiments in a series of books. I recently read one of his books, Dogs That Know When Their Owners are Coming Home, which highlights an account of experiments he conducted with an amazing, little mixed breed terrier named Jaytee. Dr. Sheldrake had heard about Jaytee and his seemingly uncanny ability to tell when his owner was about to return home, and decided to conduct a series of experiments in which he would use scientific parameters to test Jaytee’s ability. The experiments involved videotaping Jaytees behavior while having Jaytee’s owner return home at random times, using different means of transportation. When Dr. Sheldrake looked at the results of his experiments, he was amazed to discover that Jaytee consistently went to the front door to sit and wait patiently for his owner at precisely the time that his owner made the conscious decision to return home. Knowing the implications of his data and the likelihood that he would be labeled a crackpot if he were to suggest that Jaytee could somehow read his owner’s mind, Dr. Sheldrake checked and re-checked the methodology and results of his experiments. In the end, he could find no other explanation for Jaytee’s ability.

As luck would have it, the Science Unit of Austrian State Television heard about Dr. Sheldrake’s research with Jaytee and approached him about filming one of the experiments. When that film was aired, Jaytee became somewhat of a celebrity, which attracted the attention of Dr. Richard Wiseman, a prominent British psychologist and well-known skeptic of all things paranormal. When Dr. Wiseman publicly criticized Dr. Sheldrake’s research with Jaytee, Dr. Sheldrake challenged the skeptical Dr. Wiseman to conduct his own experiments to test Jaytee‘s ability. Dr. Wiseman accepted the challenge and after conducting a series of his own experiments, reluctantly concluded that Jaytee did indeed have some sort of inexplicable ability to tell when his owner was coming home.

Any devoted dog owner will tell you that they don’t need scientific research to confirm that their dog has an uncanny ability to read their mind. I’m pretty sure Quigley can read mine. Quigley does not enjoy being bathed and will do his utmost to be somewhere else when I come looking to give him a bath. When he doesn’t come running to me when I call his name, I usually find him hiding in a closet upstairs. At first I thought he was spotting me going for the garden hose or the dog shampoo. Then I thought perhaps there was something in the tone of my voice when I called his name that tipped him off. However, after doing my best to sound upbeat and cheery while calling him to come to me, I finally had to resign myself to the fact that he simply wasn’t coming. It eventually dawned on me that my loyal companion, who was certainly quick to respond at dinner time or when it was time to go for a walk, seemed to disappear at precisely the time I made the conscious decision to give him a bath!

Then there is the endless tales of lost dogs miraculously surviving treks of hundreds or even thousands of miles in their quests to be reunited with their owners. I’ve wondered how on earth these dogs were able to locate their owners with seemingly nothing to guide them but their own desire. Could these stories be examples of Dr. Sheldrake’s morphic fields at work? Could the loving bond between man and beast be so strong that the two remain linked, regardless of the distance and barriers that might separate them? Perhaps the most celebrated case in recent times of a dog launching an incredible quest to find the lost human he loves involved a German Shepherd mix named Nubs and an American Marine stationed in Iraq.

Nub’s story began in October, 2007, when Major Brian Dennis of the United States Marine Corps and his team of eleven men arrived at a border fort while patrolling the border between Iraq and Syria. When they arrived at the fort, the team encountered a pack of stray dogs, one of which took an immediate liking to Major Dennis. Someone had cruelly clipped off the tips of both the dog’s ears, so Major Dennis began calling him Nubs. During his stay at the fort, Major Dennis shared scraps from his field rations with Nubs and Nubs became his constant companion, even walking guard duty with the Major at night. When it came time for Major Dennis to leave the fort, he couldn’t keep Nubs from his thoughts and would often mention him to friends in his emails. The Major and his team would visit the border fort every couple of weeks while on patrol and Nub’s would be there to greet him each time. On one such visit in December, 2007, the Major found Nubs badly wounded by someone who had stabbed him in the side with a screwdriver. The major did his best to clean the wound with antiseptic from his battle kit, patched the wound as best he could and fed Nubs some antibiotics concealed in peanut butter. The team had to leave on patrol the next day, and Major Dennis left with a heavy heart. Two weeks later, when the Major and his team returned to the fort, they were excited to find Nubs alive and well. At this point in the relationship between the Major and Nubs, their bond apparently became something akin to one of Dr. Sheldrake’s unbreakable morphic fields. This time, when the team left the fort, Nubs stubbornly chased after the Major’s Humvee. Although he eventually fell behind and lost sight of the convoy, he refused to give up. Amazingly, two days later, Nubs found his beloved Major at a camp on the Jordanian border. Somehow, Nubs had found his way across seventy miles of empty, treacherous desert, arriving in the camp badly wounded and haggard. Once at the camp, Nubs wasted no time locating Major Dennis, whose face he proceeded to lick with reckless abandon. The rest, as they say, is history. Major Dennis and his best friend, Nubs, now live happily together in the Major’s home in San Diego, California.

There is no end to the stories about dogs with uncanny and inexplicable abilities, some of which seem to border on clairvoyance. Just one such tale concerns Scamp, the Schnauzer, who patrols the hallways of a nursing home in Ohio, and who routinely predicts the imminent demise of terminally ill patients. Scamp has seemingly predicted nearly forty deaths during his time at the home by curling up on or near the beds of patients during their final hours. Staff at the nursing home have described Scamp’s behavior as an apparent attempt to bring solace and comfort to those souls about to pass away from this world. Scamp seems devoted to this duty and has been known to drag his bed into the room of dying patients, perhaps in an effort to make himself more comfortable in his vigil. Does Scamp actually know when someone is about to die? If so, is his behavior motivated by the very real, human emotions of sympathy and compassion? Just as some dogs can detect cancer or epilepsy in their human companions, perhaps Scamp’s keen sense of smell can detect a distinct odor produced by dying organs. However, even though there may be a plausible, biochemical explanation for Scamp’s ability, why would he care? How could he associate the smell of death with the actual process of dying, and why would he care enough about it to stand vigil at a dying person’s bedside? I can’t help but reflect back on that poignant moment when Quigley put his paw on my knee and locked his gaze with mine. Perhaps it wasn’t my imagination - perhaps he truly did sense my anguish, and perhaps he did truly care.

I recently read an article about a study presented at the first Canine Science Forum in Budapest, Hungary, which suggested that as a result of their close relationship with humans over the course of their evolution, dogs appear to be developing greater intelligence, and may even be developing a moral sense of fairness. The study also suggests that the apparent ability that some dogs have to judge right from wrong is a unique quality in the animal kingdom, one barely evident even in man’s closest living relative, the chimpanzee. As I read this article and tried my best to digest the strange notion that any animal other than man could possibly develop moral values, my thoughts again turned to Quigley. I thought about the time my wife and I watched Quigley, who clearly abhors violence, try to intercede at his own peril between two dogs in the middle of a fight at a local dog park. I thought about the times that I’ve watched him share his food with other dogs and offer his toys to any dog visiting our home. I thought about the first time that he and I happened upon horses quietly grazing in a field and Quigley did his damnedest to keep me safe from what he perceived to be a threat. Then I thought, there it is - my answer! Quigley had become more than a domesticated animal to me because he is more than a domesticated animal. Unlike any other animal in God’s kingdom (other than man), he is a creature with an inherent sense of fairness, an ability to judge right from wrong, and a willingness to put his own safety on the line for the welfare of another living soul, not of his kind. Quigley is my friend in every sense of the word and proves it to me every day - how could I not love him?

I must admit that in my quest to learn more about the nature and evolution of the domestic dog, I have been unable to set aside the notion that our friend, the dog, was somehow “meant” to be. Just thinks of the odds…between 14,000 and 17,000 years ago, at least one breed of wolf (and apparently, at least one breed of fox) was carrying genetic markers, or more specifically, epigenetic markers, for an entirely new animal. We don’t know how long the wolf had been carrying these dormant markers, but we’re pretty sure we know that the wolf only required one new stimulus in its environment to trigger its transformation from wolf into dog: the presence of Homo sapiens. We’re also pretty sure that this transformation occurred literally overnight in evolutionary terms, contrary to the principle tenets of Darwinian evolution. The new animal was very different from the wolf, with special skills for communicating with people, both through gesture and expression. Also unlike the wolf, the new animal possessed an inherent desire, or perhaps even a compulsion, to relate to, interact with, and to please its human counterpart. Over time, the new animal’s existence became so inextricably entwined with man’s that a dependency developed, making it highly unlikely that this new subspecies could even survive in the absence of man. Further, as the relationship between humans and dogs evolved, the bonds between the two species deepened - a unique partnership emerged, unlike and far superior to any other relationship known in the animal kingdom. Then there’s the question of the dog’s incredibly malleable appearance - there is no other animal in creation that man can so easily mold to match his every whim and desire. Through breeding for variations in size, color and shape, man has created the most diversified of all mammals, and in so doing, has created “designer” dogs for every taste and purpose. There is no doubt that the domestic dog is an extremely unique creature, whose presence on this planet contradicts many of the things that we understand about nature. Therefore, I am compelled to ask the question: is the creature curled up next to me simply the result of a very bizarre, albeit fortuitous, series of random mutations, or was this creature somehow meant to be my companion?

If the dog was somehow created with a purpose in mind, what might have it had been? When you think about it, the dog is a kind of ambassador who really lives in two worlds: the world of man and world of Mother Nature. Through their interactions with us, dogs know a great deal about our world, but they also know things about the natural world that we will never understand. They are of the natural world in a way that we can never be, and in so many ways, represent that world in our lives. Perhaps then the dog was created to be our link to a world of which we are no longer a part. Perhaps then this creature curled up next to me was sent here to serve as a conduit through which I may take daily communion with a world I have so often forgotten and neglected.

Then again, just maybe the dog’s purpose is simply to teach us about love. Anyone who has ever developed a close bond with their dog will tell you that the love of a dog is truly unique - whereas, love between people is often complicated by personal motives and desires, the love between a dog and its owner is simple and pure. When a dog commits to a human, it truly is for life, regardless of how much that human may mistreat and neglect his dog. A dog will suffer each time he disappoints the human he loves, and will never cease to shower his human with adulation and affection. Perhaps then this creature so dear to me is simply here to teach me about selfless love, to give me the opportunity to be loved by another soul for no other reason than me being me, and to give that love in return.

Regardless of whether they exist as the result of divine design, or are no more than a product of random mutation, there is no doubt that dogs have a very special and meaningful relationship with mankind. Whatever their purpose, dogs have earned a status in the world of humanity that deserves our respect and protection. Morality dictates that we deliver them from suffering and give them every opportunity to enrich our lives. Quigley’s future is secure - he will spend the rest of his life safe and protected in a warm, loving home. He will love and be loved. What about all the other “Quigleys” in the world, however? Every year, more than five million unwanted dogs are “euthanized” in the United States, alone. In a very sad way, these dogs may be the lucky ones - most of them die by lethal injection, whereas in the Philippines they are electrocuted, and in Kathmandu they are poisoned in the streets. In Malaysia, the locals dump stray dogs on isolated islands, where starvation eventually drives them to cannibalism. Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated.” Yet even Gandhi condoned the shooting of stray dogs. What in God’s name are we doing? Are we so blind and callous a species that we would scorn and destroy perhaps the only friend that we are ever destined to have in this universe?

My life changed forever on that cool, clear morning in early February of 2005. It’s amazing how confronting your own mortality can open your eyes to a world beyond the mundane, to a reality of feelings and concepts that are normally obscured by the ordinary things in your life. With the help of a wise little dog, who my Father-in-law once mistook for a decorative quilt, my eyes have been opened to a world of love in its purest form, where friendship and loyalty rule the day, where a man can touch the gentle side of nature and be reconnected with that which makes him human. In a sense, Quigley has become my guide to a magical place to which I was once blind, and I shall be forever grateful to him and to his Creator for the journey.

My transformation from dog owner into dog lover has not been without pain. I find that many of my negative emotions are now piqued when I think about the plight of man’s best friend. I am filled with anger and disgust when I think about the neglect and pain that dogs must endure at the hands of men, and I long for the day when every dog will know the protection and kindness that a true dog lover can provide. To that end, I’ll shall do my part by not only leading by example, but by giving generously to organizations like the Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA. I have no doubt that God smiles on anyone who stands between the most innocent creature in our lives and those who would do them harm. Won’t you stand with us?

A final thought: if you are a dog owner who has not yet come to understand and appreciate the depth of the bond that exists between you and your dog, I recommend that you try a simple exercise that Quigley and I practice on a daily basis. What you do is first call your dog over to you, then bend down and cup his or her face with your hands. Once in this position, bend a little further and plant a kiss on your dog’s forehead, preferably right between the eyes. Finally, look your dog straight in the eyes and tell them that you love them. Trust me, your dog will understand the full meaning of this gesture in very short order - and so, my friend, will you.