Pulitzer Prize–winning science writer Franklin (Journalism/Univ. of Maryland; The Molecules of the Mind, 1987, etc.) explores the symbiotic relationship between man and dog.
When the author proposed to his wife, her response was, “Does this mean that I can have a puppy?” His agreement was the beginning of a happy marriage and a love affair with Charlie, the poodle who joined their family. Franklin’s world was changed as he shared Charlie’s joy and pondered his awareness of things “just beyond the reach of everyday human beings.” It wasn’t surprising that the poodle could nose out hidden wildlife, but he seemed to perceive the emotions of people by their smell as well. During his years on the science beat for the Baltimore Sun, Franklin followed advances in archeology, anthropology and neuroanatomy, but he was startled to find little scientific information about dogs. “How could an animal be everywhere, and yet go almost completely unnoticed by the very people whose job it was to notice things?” he asked himself. Chancing upon a photograph taken at a dig in the Jordan Valley that revealed a man and a pup buried together at a site estimated to be 12,000 years old, he began a ten-year quest to unravel the relationship between the evolution of humans and dogs, both of which appear to have emerged in their modern form at the same time. Franklin branches off in many fascinating directions. Noting that excavations of 400,000-year-old sites show wolf bones and human artifacts intermixed, he speculates that wolves who followed primitive pre-humans were gradually transformed into dogs, which then participated in the domestication of other animals. He concludes that mankind and dogs have evolved symbiotically and are psychologically as essential to each other today as in the past—the dogs for sustenance and the human for companionship and to dump the occasional “emotional weight”—with brains that have evolved accordingly.
Should delight dog-lovers and science buffs alike, even though many of Franklin’s conjectures can’t be proven.