In her latest book for young readers, Dorothy Hinshaw Patent traces the deep bond between dogs and humans, and explores new scientific studies that show how close our species actually are. Her long-time collaborator William Muñoz brings both beauty and warmth to the pages with his often-playful images of canines and their human pals.
Patent notes that dogs probably split from their ancestral lineage to wolves about 27,000 years ago, which means their connection to humans is even more ancient than we thought. Although wolves probably coexisted and sometimes cooperated with humans, the author lists the many ways that dogs differ from their wild cousins.
She also shows how dogs and young children share abilities and learning comprehension. Like a child, a dog can respond when someone points and can learn the names of objects. In general, dogs understand about 165 words and gestures. She tells the story of Chaser, a border collie who has learned the distinct names of more than 1,000 toys, and can pick out a named object just by seeing a picture of it.
New imaging technology has given researchers a better understanding of the canine brain, which seems to work a lot like ours. A dog’s “reward center” lights up when it thinks about food or sees or smells a member of its human family, or when they hear positive words like “Good dog!” They can discern between happy, neutral and angry faces (and tend to shun the mad ones); and they use barks and body language to communicate with both humans and other dogs.
Dogs help their humans in so many ways, from offering comfort, play and protection, to performing jobs like rescuing, hunting and herding. The bottom line, writes Patent, is the more we understand the similarities between dogs and humans, “we realize that we are truly meant for each other.”
Patent, who lives in Missoula, has written more than 100 books for children. Learn more at DorothyHinshawPatent.com.
– Kristi Niemeyer