The Covenant

  • 7/26/2019 2:27:38 PM
791ab5bc-b641-4ea0-8d46-cb51244563c3 By Chad Love                                                                                                               Photo by Marissa Jensen  

“When the Man waked up he said, 'What is Wild Dog doing here?' And the Woman said, 'His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always. Take him with you when you go hunting.'”
                                                                                        Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories

The famous Austrian zoologist and ethologist Konrad Lorenz called it, so simply, “the covenant,” that eons-old, mutually-beneficial agreement between humankind and dogs. It is an agreement that for many of us – hunters in particular – continues to this day.   

No other domesticated animal, save perhaps the horse, is as closely tied with human evolution and history as the dog, but no one knows for sure exactly when that association began. Some say the relationship actually predates humans, going back, at least loosely, to the Neanderthals, while other research suggests the man-dog connection gelled most strongly in the early humans that supplanted Neanderthals in Europe some 45,000 years ago.

We may never truly know when man and dog first found each other, and then found each other to their mutual liking, but what is known, irrefutably, is that dogs have been with us since the first stirrings of culture, of self-expression, of civilization, of – for lack of a better term – humanness. 

When man first scratched images upon a cave wall to proclaim “I am here,” dog was there, too, watching.

When man first left his cave and built homes of skins, mud, wood and stone, dog sat on his haunches and watched.

When man first took the beasts he and dog once hunted to raise, dog became their guardian, too.

Every civilization that has ever arisen since the dawn of time, from flickering nomadic campfires to the paved streets of great empires, has arisen under the curious, watchful gaze of the dog. And we are the better for it.

I for one will never be without one or three, and I suspect most fellow Quail Forever members share that sentiment. Bill Tarrant, the late, great gun dogs editor of Field & Stream magazine and the greatest stylist the dog-writing genre has ever known, said it best…

“I’ve seen dogs break ice to retrieve a duck, stand on point with a thorn in a pad, go down a seventy-percent grade to head a sheep, chase a car cross-town to be part of a family outing, sniff out a warehouse while a policeman crouched outside with a drawn pistol, lick a sick man’s feet, kiss a crying child’s cheek, stare beseechingly at a mother’s worried face, raise an arm of a dead-tired man who’d worked too hard to make ends meet. I’ve seen men bury their dogs and not be able to stand up to leave the grave. And I’ve seldom known a man to mention a dog’s passing.”

I doubt we'll ever know, in any clinical or scientific sense, what draws us to dogs so fiercely; what compels us to seek out their companionship. But we do. Because no matter how bad things are, no matter how bad things might get, the presence of a dog somehow makes things better. A scratch behind the ear, the wag of a tail, a warm body curled up at your feet; pharmaceutical companies would pay any price to synthesize how that makes us feel.
Thankfully, however, you can't manufacture that kind of emotion and stuff it in a pill. It comes from a place pharmacology and technology can't yet touch. Dogs humanize us in ways we can’t even humanize ourselves.

And we are all the better for it.

Chad Love is the editor of Quail Forever Journal                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Quail Forever Journal. If you'd like to read more great stories about birds and bird dogs, join Quail Forever today