From Alaska comes the story of Madera, a blind 11-year-old Labrador retriever who wandered away from her home and became lost during a cold snap, when temperatures reached 40 below zero. Her owners searched for two weeks and had given up hope when Madera was found by a passerby, 14 pounds lighter but otherwise okay.
You can find examples of the extraordinary human-canine bond, like the search for the blind, aged Madera in dangerously cold temperatures, virtually every day. We saw it in our neighborhood recently when we walked outside after a recent snowfall and saw a couple pulling an obviously hobbled and sickly white-muzzled dog down the street on a makeshift sled. They explained that their dog loved the snow and they wanted to let him experience it, even if he couldn’t romp around like he used to. So they created the carrier and were struggling to steer the dog down the snow-covered street, one pushing and one pulling. It’s not exactly how most people would want to spend their Saturday, but it’s the kind of thing dog owners do.
In other instances, the bond is reflected in the expenses the owner is willing to endure for surgeries, complicated treatments, special foods, or drug therapies for sick dogs. Last year, Americans spent almost $56 billion on their pets, which included more than $14 billion for veterinary care. Options that weren’t even be considered in the past — like organ transplants, joints replacements and other high-end surgeries, pet health insurance, and even hospice care — are now commonplace and growing parts of the economy. How many of your friends have told you recently about extraordinary steps they have taken to enjoy a few more years with their beloved dog?
DNA studies indicate that dogs became domesticated between 18,000 and 32,000 years ago — so recently that the genetic makeups of dogs and wolves are extremely similar. Fossil evidence reveals that the first dogs were companions of hunter-gatherers — which probably explains why most dogs have a taste for human food scraps. The human and canine species share a long common history, and that history has created a deep bond that seems to grow stronger with each passing year.