Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home: And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals (Anglais) Broché – 7 septembre 2000
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The Domestication of Animals
Many people love their pets and are loved by them. In this chapter I explore the evolution and the nature of human-animal bonds.
But first it is important to recognize that emotional bonds between people and animals are the exception rather than the rule. For every well-loved cat or dog, hundreds of domesticated animals are confined to intensive farming systems and research laboratories. In many Third World countries beasts of burden are often treated brutally. And traditional societies are not usually subscribers to modern ideals of animal welfare. Eskimos, for example, tend to treat their huskies harshly.
But in spite of all this exploitation, abuse, and neglect, many people form bonds with animals from childhood onward. Young children are commonly given teddy bears or other toy animals, and they like hearing stories about animals. Above all, most like keeping actual animals. The majority of pets live in households with children.
Hearing tales about frightening animals, including the wolf in "Little Red Riding Hood," and forming relationships with friendly ones seems to be a normal and fundamental aspect of human nature. Indeed our nature has been shaped throughout its evolutionary history by our interactions with animals, and all human cultures are enriched by songs, dances, rituals, myths, and stories about them.
The evolution of human-animal bonds
The earliest named hominid species, known from fossil remains, are Australopithecus ramidus and Australopithecus anamensis, dating back over 4 million years. The first stone tools were used about 2 1/2 million years ago, and signs of meat eating appear about a million years later, around the time that Homo erectus spread out of Africa into Eurasia (Figure 1.1). The use of fire may have begun around 700,000 years ago. Modern humans originated in Africa about 150,000 years ago. The first cave paintings, including many of animals, appeared about 30,000 years ago. The agricultural revolution began about 10,000 years ago, and the first civilizations and written scripts about 5,000 years ago.
Our ancestors lived as gatherers and hunters, with gathering far more important than hunting. The old image of man the hunter striding confidently out onto the African veldt is a myth. Only a small proportion of the food eaten by today's hunter-gatherers comes from animals hunted by the men; most comes from gathering done mainly by women. The exceptions are the hunter-gatherers of the plant-poor Arctic regions. Hominids and early Homo sapiens obtained small amounts of meat more by scavenging the kills left by more effective predators like big cats than by hunting for themselves. Big game hunting, as opposed to scavenging, may date back only some 70,000 to 90,000 years.
In hunter-gatherer cultures, human beings do not see themselves as separate from other animals but as intimately interconnected. The specialists in communication with the nonhuman world are shamans, and through their guardian spirits or power animals, shamans connect themselves with the powers of animals. There is a mysterious solidarity between people and animals. Shamans experience themselves as being guided by animals or as changing into animals, understanding their language, and sharing in their prescience and occult powers.
The earliest domesticated dogs
The first animals to be domesticated were dogs. Their ancestors, wolves, hunted in packs, just as men hunted, and from an early stage dogs were used in hunting as well as for guarding human settlements. Their domestication predated the development of agriculture.
The conventional view is the domestication of wolves began between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago. But recent evidence from the study of DNA in dogs and wolves points to a far earlier date for the first transformation of wolf to dog, over 100,000 years ago. This new evidence also suggests that wolves were domesticated several times, not just once, and that dogs have continued to crossbreed with wild wolves.
If this theory is confirmed, it means that our ancient companionship with dogs may have played an important part in human evolution. Dogs could have played a major role in the advances in human hunting techniques that occurred some 70,000 to 90,000 years ago.
The Australian veterinarian David Paxton goes so far as to suggest that people did not so much domesticate wolves as wolves domesticated people. Wolves may have started living around the periphery of human settlements as a kind of infestation. Some learned to live with human beings in a mutually helpful way and gradually evolved into dogs. At the very least, they would have protected human settlements, and given warnings by barking at anything approaching.
The wolves that evolved into dogs have been enormously successful in evolutionary terms. They are found everywhere in the inhabited world, hundreds of millions of them. The descendants of the wolves that remained wolves are now sparsely distributed, often in endangered populations.
From the Hardcover edition. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .
Revue de presse
"Wonderful . . . splendid and thought-provoking" (Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs)
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With that said, I did enjoy the book and find Sheldrake's proof more than adequate. Many animals are sensitive in ways we don't understand.
There was a story, from the book, of someone who was going to commit suicide by overdose. When they went to open the bottle, their springer spaniel jumped in their lap, bearing it's teeth and growling fiercly. The person was so shaken that they put the pills away, at which point, the springer jumped back in the lap and happily lapped at their owners face.
I knew of a young girl who was walking home, down a deserted street, when a sedan approached with a man demanding that she get in the car. She began to walk faster... the car sped up... the demands became angrier... The car stopped, and a man got out and came towards her... She said the only preyer she could think of at the time. "God, please help me." Suddenly two dogs appeared and began barking at the man. Shaken, but not disuaded, he reached for the girl, and a beagle juped up and bit his wrist. That was enough, the man got back into the car and it sped off.
It has been over 6 years since that incident and the girl still goes to the farmhouse near where this happened to visit Molly and Dolly.
By the way, that was not their names when all of this happened... You see, no one had ever seen these two dogs before... before that fateful night when a young girls prayer was answered... by two dogs who appeared from nowhere.
This story was related by Paul Harvey on his program *The Rest of the Story* December 8, 1999
Have you ever found yourself staring at someone and they turn and look directly at you. How do they do that? How do pigeons find their way home from hundreds of miles away? How do some dogs react when their owner merely has the thought of coming home?
This book doesn't provide all the answers, but it establishes the reality which is a significant step.
This is far and away Dr. Sheldrake's most accessible book to date, which is not to say it is a vulgarization. Far from it. In his characteristically sober yet charming prose, he has miraculously dodged the danger of compiling a list, but has rather presented the world with an anthology of mind-expanding instances of powers of animals. Some ideas are particularly compelling, such as "an animal-based earthquake warning system". Once more, he deals a blow to institutional science by beating it on its own turf, and that is, by piling up impressive evidence, a database, etc., so as to substantiate his claims. In all likelihood, many more "cases" will be added to his database after the general public has read this book. Perhaps tens of thousands. If institutional science will continue to ignore these phenomena, rather than join the author in the research, it will have de facto discredited itself in the eyes of the world. The Appendices are also valuable, C in particular, in which the author provides the Cliff's Notes to his own books. The concepts he summarizes are so fascinating that they should prompt the unfamiliar reader to read all his books, where the ideas are given the space they deserve.
Dr. Sheldrake's overall aim to resacralize the world is well-served by this book. Most pet owners have always felt there was something "more" or "other" to their pets than mere companions. This book will confirm their hunch, and prompt further investigations. Indeed, as the author says, "We have a great deal to learn from our companion animals."
This is a fun book for animal-lovers, full of engaging anecdotes about dogs, cats, horses, and birds who enjoy strong emotional bonds with their owners that allow them to accomplish seemingly-unbelievable feats. But it is also an eye-opening book, for Sheldrake has applied some scientific techniques to both debunk fraudulent claims and to confirm those that have no conventional explanation. His "morphic bonds" are persuasive, especially to those who have lived closely with animals and observed their behavior in close quarters.
First of all, Stephen Budiansky--whom I admire--thinks dogs are social parasites (though that's not why I admire him; I like his unique approach to the subject matter). And the truth is, at least one other researcher, who was furiously attempting to discredit Sheldrake's theory (hardly an objective approach), actually ended up replicating his results exactly.
And having a small brain has absolutely nothing to do with what Sheldrake posits to be a common biological function of all social animals. He theorizes that it's a fairly ordinary form of communication that pre-dates human language and which doesn't require any kind of highly developed cognitive architecture.
Granted, Sheldrake focused on the dogs who'd been reported to already show this behavior, but the thrust of the research detailed in this book was not to provide definitive proof that dogs are "telepathic", but to start people thinking in that direction. And some of the data is quite remarkable.
By the way, my dog could care less when I'm coming home. He's always asleep when I get there (though he's always happy to see me). But I've had other experiences that show Sheldrake is on the mark. For instance, I found that if I'm walking my dog and thinking about going into a store up the block and picturing the possible behavior in my mind, he'll give up his usual path and pull me toward that store, even if I've changed my mind in the meantime.
I've also found that when teaching the down/stay at a distance, followed by the recall, if I imagine the dog coming toward me before I give him the release and the recall signal, he'll almost inevitably break the stay and come running.
I'm not a complete moron, so when I first noticed this happening I figured that I must have been doing something with my body language to cause this behavior. So I very carefully monitored and controlled my posture, my facial expressions (even though I was fifty yards away), etc. Nope. It wasn't my body language.
Huh, I thought, could it be these mental pictures I'm creating in my mind? So I trained myself not to create those mental images and whenever I kept my mind blank the dogs inevitably stopped breaking the stay until the release signal was given.
These experiences are far from being scientific proof but they do make you think.
I also recommend THE PRESENCE OF THE PAST for Sheldrake's theories on morphic fields.