DESCENT OF DOG
Samson shivered in the early morning chill, jingling the chain joining his collar and leash. The sun was a big orange food bowl hanging low on the horizon, bathing the neighborhood in its warm glow. Most of the residents were still in bed at this hour, but a few dotted the sidewalks with their best friends in tow. Samson led his best friend a few blocks to the park. It was the first Sunday of the month, which meant Pug Day. Many breeds of dogs came to the park, but the overwhelming majority today would be Pugs, the flat, wrinkled-face Mopshond breed to which Samson belonged. Samson sniffed familiar scents in the air, pine, Kentucky bluegrass, poop, and Starbucks. He also sensed something else.
Instead of a few Pugs running around in circles, all kinds of dogs were sitting at the far end of the park looking up at a poster tacked to the big oak tree.
“What’s going on?” Samson asked an Australian Sheep Dog named Caruthers.
“Sammy haven’t you heard,” Caruthers replied, “Dogwin’s completed his treatise. It was published this morning in the Canine Times.” Caruthers cocked his head to one side.
Dogwin lived in London but his reputation traveled the world. He was an accomplished researcher. He could sit for hours observing small animals without chasing them. Among other things, it was Dogwin who convinced the canine world that they were descended from wolves. Now, after years of research, the revered Beagle had published his theory on the descent of dog, the mechanism governing the evolution of Canis familiaris.
“A detailed elaboration of Natural Selection no doubt,” Samson said.
Dogma held that mutations caused variation among the population. Those dogs with variation best fitting the environment would survive in greater numbers to procreate and pass on their genetic material. It was widely expected that Dogwin’s treatise would provide the scientific underpinnings for Natural Selection, explaining the specifics of how it worked.
“No, that’s the thing,” Caruthers was panting now, “Dogwin has completely split with dogma. He says dogs didn’t evolve by Natural Selection at all.”
“What then, dog?” Samson asked wide-eyed.
“He says we were designed, Sammy. A process called Artificial Selection.”
“Artificial? That’s preposterous. Who was it supposedly designed us?” Samson growled.
Caruthers looked up at Sammy’s best friend. “Him.”
“Master Johnson?” Sammy snorted.
“Not Johnson. Mankind. The whole bipedal bunch of them.”
“It’s a sacrilege, I say. Ain’t no barking about Intelligent Design going to shake my faith in Natural Selection.”
“But Sammy, Dogwin’s got the evidence,” Caruthers said. “Not only that, he says the designers are decidedly unintelligent.” Sammy bared his teeth and flattened his ears against his head.
“See for yourself,” Caruthers said
Sammy bolted from Master Johnson who had struck up a conversation with the best friend of a cute toy poodle bitch who lived nearby. Sammy sniffed her and made a mental note to hump her when he got back. He pushed his way through the scrum of dogs and read the poster.
“Do you honestly believe the Canis familiaris breeds here today survived because they were the fittest?” Dogwin asked. Sammy shook his head vigorously in the affirmative. “Hardly,” the old Beagle continued. “We wouldn’t last a month on the outside.” Sammy lifted his leg and peed on the oak tree, partly in defiance and partly because he really had to go.
After Sammy finished Dogwin went on: “Sheep dogs would be unemployed on the outside. German Shorthair Pointers would starve to death in that silly stance of theirs without their gun-toting best friends by their sides.” Sammy had to admit that something was awry in the Natural Selection process for some breeds. But he wasn’t a Pointer. Unfortunately, Dogwin was also famous for his thoroughness.
“And the Pug,” the Beagle said. “The royal best friends in China bred them to be companions they could pamper and spoil, a genetic expectation the Pug retains to this day.” Sammy reluctantly agreed with this latter part. “But owing to its short snout and lack of skeletal brow it easily puntures its eyeballs. It has breathing problems, eating problems, and overheating problems. It’s prone to skin infections. It can’t swim or go out in the cold.” Sammy’s eyes hurt; he was sweating, and he felt short of breath. “It loves to eat and hates to exercise. In short,” Dogwin concluded, “the Pug can’t survive long outside its best friend’s lap.”
The blinders fell from Sammy’s bulging eyes like so many contact lenses and he saw the raw, terrible truth. He pushed his way out of the scrum of freakish creations and rushed to Master Johnson’s lap. As the unintelligent designer rubbed his fat tummy, Samson settled serenely into his new existential disgust. The ridiculously coiffed Poodle bitch barked in his direction but Sammy turned away. He didn’t feel much like humping.
(Originally published December 11th, 2006)