DNA Shows Dogs May have Evolved near Nepal and Mongolia


File- A police officer sprinkles colored powder and petals onto a police dog at Nepal’s Central Police Dog Training School as part of the Tihar festival Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: AP

NEW YORK: Where did dogs first arrive on the scene? Scientists have long debated that question, and now a study of doggie DNA from around the world is pointing to Central Asia.

Man’s best friend may have evolved somewhere near what is now Nepal and Mongolia, researchers say.
Previous studies suggested that man’s best friend first evolved from wolves in China, the Middle East, Siberia and Europe, at least 15,000 years ago, Daily Mail reported.

The results of research by a team led by Adam Boyko of New York’s Cornell University were released by Washington-based journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” on Monday.

The team analysed DNA from 549 dogs that represented 38 countries in Africa, the US, Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East and islands north and east of Australia.

They said the animals were not house pets, but rather ‘village dogs’ that wandered freely in the streets or fields. The analysis, however, did not tackle the contentious question of when dogs appeared.

“I am not pretending my study alone is enough to rally the community together,” Boyko said.

Meanwhile, some other scientists did not buy the conclusion and questioned the results.

Robert Wayne of the University of California, Los Angeles, who proposed a European origin for dogs in 2013 based on analysis of ancient DNA, questioned Boyko’s use of modern-day genetic material as a guide to the distant past.

Another expert, Greger Larson of Oxford University, heaped praise on Boyko and said the paper is a ‘major step forward’ but suspected the use of modern DNA to get correct results.

“Now that Asia has been added to the mix, ‘Everyone with a favourite region can point to at least one paper that supports their suspicions’,” Larson said.

Previous studies have suggested southern China, the Middle East, Siberia and Europe as the place where our first domesticated animal arose from wolves at least 15,000 years ago.

For the new work, Adam Boyko of Cornell University and others analyzed DNA from 549 dogs that represented 38 countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East and islands north and east of Australia. The animals weren’t house pets, but rather “village dogs” that wandered freely in the streets or fields.

The researchers examined the DNA for signals of where the dogs had the most ancient roots. That pointed to Central Asia. The analysis did not tackle the contentious question of when dogs appeared.

Dogs play on a street in Lumbini, Nepal. A new study suggests that the most ancient origins of man’s best friend were in the area of Nepal and Mongolia. 2012. Photo: AP/File

Results were reported in a paper released Monday by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Even Boyko doesn’t think the work will end the debate among scientists.

“I’m not pretending my study alone is enough to rally the community together,” he said.

He’s right. Robert Wayne of the University of California, Los Angeles, who proposed a European origin for dogs in 2013 based on analysis of ancient DNA, said he didn’t buy the conclusion about Central Asia. In an email, he questioned Boyko’s use of modern-day genetic material as a guide to the distant past.

Another expert, Greger Larson of Oxford University, called the paper “a major step forward” but said he also suspected that modern DNA isn’t the way to go.

Now that Central Asia has been added to the mix, “Everyone with a favorite region can point to at least one paper that supports their suspicions,” Larson wrote in an email.

Larson is involved in an international project to tackle the question with ancient DNA and anatomical comparisons.

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Sleeps With Dogs by Lindsey Grant

SleepsWithDogsSleeps with Dogs: Tales of a Pet Nanny at the End of Her Leash is by and about a certified Dog Walker and all-round Pet Nanny. Author Lindsey Grant did it all, with stories to tell!

In a short note to her neighbors and, by extension her readers,. She writes: “It is my pleasure to offer my services to you and your pet–canine, feline, reptilian, avian, or otherwise–with the guarantee that, while I am with your companion, my top priorities are always safety, consistent quality of care, and lots and lots of affection!”

Early on, while slowly learning the tricks of the trade of taking care of other people’s pets, she admits (tongue-in-cheek): “It appeared that I was trainable, too.” And off she goes on a romp, or romps, plural, that will brighten your day, bring on some serious laughs, and make you feel better all over… Maybe…, because if you have the urge to become a professional pet nanny, be sure to read this book first.

After the challenging experience taking care of one set of critters (they were birds, though what she writes about it holds true for dogs, cats, and other pets, as well): “Little did I know,” she writes, “how indispensable this skill of managing the wilder and less-predictable aspects of the menagerie in my charge would prove. I’d leaped enthusiastically into the pet-care industry for the serenity, the simple joy, of spending my days in the company of animals. But my job, it would seem, was more about maintaining the illusion of control.” And, her sanity.

The author is not only a skilled dog-sitter, but also a gifted writer. I like her descriptions, such as the one about Baxter’–“a mixed breed six ways to Sunday that purportedly included traces of Rottweiler, some variety of shepherd, ditto for terrier, and maybe chow somewhere in there, which seemed dubious but for the dense-to-frizzy quality of his coat, and a faint purplish hue to his tongue.” Despite all that, he was as “cute as he could be at his advanced age and with the myriad end-of-life issues he struggled with,” including a breath that “could kill a dragon,” arthritis, deafness, and a bark that “sounded like a smoker’s cough.” But she loved looking after him!

The book title, ‘Sleeps with Dogs’, comes from the all too frequent requirement of some dog owners who insist that their Fidos to sleep in bed with her. Whoa-there now. Not so fast, for after what she writes about some of those experiences, you’ll wonder: Was it a good idea?

The titles of some of the chapters tell us a lot more about what to expect in this frisky read. Keep firm hold on that leash, for they include ‘Wolf Pack’, ‘The Farting Greyhound’, ‘Alpha Females’, ‘Bachelors’, ‘Desperate Measures’, and ‘No heroics’…

Sleeps with Dogs is unique and very funny, and after you gotten only a few paragraphs into the details you’ll appreciate how challenging pet sitting can really be.

Sleeps with Dogs: Tales of a Pet Nanny at the End of Her Leash
By Lindsey Grant
Berkeley, CA: Seal Press
256 pages, 12 chapters
ISBN 978.1.58005.547.5 (paperback)
ISBN 978.1.58005.548.2 (ebook).

About Seal Press: “Seal Press was founded in 1976 to provide a forum for women writers and feminist issues. Since then, Seal has published groundbreaking books that represent the diverse voices and interests of women—their lives, literature, and concerns. Seal’s authors are radical and original thinkers, professionals with a distinct point of view, gutsy explorers, truth-tellers, and writers who engender laughter, tears, and rage. Seal Press published books with the goal of informing women’s lives. Based in Berkeley, California, Seal is a member of the Perseus Books Group. You can visit us at www.sealpress.com.” (Publisher’s blurb)

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Dogging Truth in Advertising re: Dog Poop Bags

On February 3 2015 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) distributed a news release stating that not all of those dog-poop bags that (we hope) you use live up to their claims of “biodegradable” or “compostable,” etc.

doggie-pooper-scooper“Consumers looking to buy environmentally friendly products should not have to guess whether the claims made are accurate,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “It is therefore critical for the FTC to ensure that these claims are not misleading, to protect both consumers and honest competitors.”

Claims of biodegradability without further qualification usually means that the product will completely break down into its natural components with a year of disposal. “Most waste bags, however, end up in landfills where no plastic biodegrades in anywhere close to one year, if it biodegrades at all,” says the FTC.

For the full story, see: http://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2015/02/ftc-staff-warns-marketers-sellers-dog-waste-bags-their. Or, for the NBC News take on it, see http://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/your-dog-poop-bags-arent-green-advertised-government-says-n301546.

Illustration: ‘doggie-pooper-scooper’ courtesy of www.bulletinbag.com.

Posted in Canine Science, Dogs in the News, Environmental Issues | Leave a comment

Collared: Politics and Personalities in Oregon’s Wolf Country

Here isresize a journalist-cum-geographer’s well documented account of the often contentious issue of wolves in Oregon – their reintroduction, recovery and management. “They are not the boogeyman, or storybook monsters aiming to prey upon the young or old,” the author writes. “They aren’t cuddly pets or religious icons. They are Canis lupus. Wolves.” Ergo: They are controversial. The story takes us from the ranches of NE Oregon to meeting halls in the state capitol where the subject of wolves is often hotly debated. The author’s purpose is to bring understanding to the issues, against the background of she calls the “torrid history of wolf management” in the USA. Because of the wide range of characters involved – ranchers, regional and local conservationists, biologists, state employees, and lawyers –Collared will be of interest to an equally wide range of readers, including students of wildlife conservation. The chapters cover such highly charged issues as depredation, litigation, and retribution, along with details on the science of recovery. Appendices include a timeline of events, details of the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, and online sources of relevant documents.

Original review by Don Messerschmidt in the Portland Book Review (Portland, Oregon); see online at  http://portlandbookreview.com/collared-politics-and-personalities-in-oregons-wolf-country/.

Posted in BOOK REVIEW, Canine Cousins: Wolves, Canine History, Canine Science | Leave a comment

My Leash on Life (book review)

FOXYLenore Hirsch has recently published an enchanting little book, My Leash on Life: Foxy’s View of the World from a Foot off the Ground. It’s the sort of book someone of any age will enjoy, from a first-grader to young teen, and even older folks for a quick read. Lenore has done a masterful job of writing it for (with) Foxy. It is obvious that she loves dogs, and especially Foxy.

Here’s Foxy, a perky little guy, underfoot, viewing the world around him and interpreting all that he sees, smells, hears, and feels. Foxy at Starbucks. Foxy at the park. Foxy visiting the hospital. Foxy at the vet’s. Foxy being trained–“Sit,” “Stay,” Leave it!”, “Uh Uh!”… the works. Foxy lost in the park. Foxy visiting neighbors and friends. Foxy staying in a hotel. And Foxy watching sadly and a bit bewildered as a beloved human takes ill and passes on.

Foxy is everywhere, trying to figure out what makes us humans tick! His wisdom is unique and healthy, and his commentary on life (both dogs’ and humans’) is entertaining.

After you read this little book, you may well want a pooch like Foxy under your feet.

My Leash on Life: Foxy’s View of the World from a Foot off the Ground, by Lenore Hirsch. Napa, CA: Laughing Oak Press, 2013. 148 pp., 32 chapters, plus Introduction and Acknowledgments. ISBN 978.0.6158726.5.0.
Relevant websites: http://www.myleashonlife.me and http://www.amazon.com/My-Leash-Life-Foxys-Ground/dp/0615872654.
About the author: (adapted from Amazon.com) “After completing over 30 years in education as a teacher and principal, Lenore pursues her passion for writing. She writes humorous essays, poetry, a column in the Napa Valley Register, as well as a blog on the local restaurant scene and her dog’s blog, which became My Leash on Life. She also enjoys photography, travel, and cooking.”

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Two Books by Carol McKibben

Luke’s Tale: A Story of Unconditional Love by Carol McKibben, and Snow Blood, Season 1 by Carol McKibben. Double Book Review, Fiction

Carol F. McKibben writes creative fiction, primarily books about remarkable dogs. In Luke’s Tale, we find a yellow Labrador retriever that can understand human conversations and actions, and who narrates his story to the reader. In science (anthropology) this is called anthropomorphism.

anthropomorphism, n. – ascribing human characteristics to non-human things, animals, etc.

In writing it is called imagination, ingenuity, resourcefulness or creativeness.

If such a condition were real, we’d find just what Carol so eloquently relates—that Luke’s human companions often miss the fact that the dog understands them, and that Luke can become quite frustrated at times. But Luke is a clever and resourceful canine, as dogs can be, and gently nudges his humans in various ways towards appropriate actions and behaviors.

Luke_20140717_0002In Luke’s Tale, Sara Colson has cancer, but wants to keep it and the associated trauma secret from her lover, Ashlundt Jaynes. To do so, Sara tells Ashlundt a wild tale and attempts to disappear from his life, ostensibly out of her love for him. Ashlundt is heartbroken and Luke, clever canine that he is, figures this all out and sets out through various means to bring the couple back together again.

It is an intriguing read, one that ultimately overcomes the couple’s dilemma and restores their relationship. There are various sub-themes here, also, including a lawsuit against Ashlundt by a client that disrupts his life in ways almost as traumatic as Sara’s disappearance. Overall, it is a story of unconditional love, one that is designed to affect the reader in a deep and meaningful way.

 In Snow Blood, Season 1, another of Carol McKibben’s books, we encounter Snow, a white husky, who (as in Luke’s Tale, above) tells his own story. It involves a sinister plot against the father of all vampires told through a stream of supernatural events. And there’s another love triangle, of a sort, involving Selene, Brogio and Snow. This wildly imaginative tale delves deeply into a complex occult world of the vampire and the panwere (a type of shapeshifter).Luke_20140717_0001

vampire, n. – one whom drinks the blood of others, be it animal or human.

panwere, n. – a shapeshifter that can morph its life to match that of another creature.

This first of a series (Series 1) is told in six scenes or episodes. If you are a lover of vampire stories involving clever dogs, this book is for you.

For more about Carol McKibben and her books go to http://www.carolmckibben.com/books.html. See also Carol McKibben’s Author’s Page on Amazon, at http://www.amazon.com/Carol-McKibben/e/B00B6HDRVU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1405639905&sr=1-2-ent.

Luke’s Tale: A Story of Unconditional Love, by Carol McKibben. Troll River Publications, Los Angeles, 2012. Paperback; 173 pp., 14 chapters + Prologue and Dear Reader. ISBN: 978.1.939564.02.3.

Snow Blood, Season 1, by Carol McKibben. Troll River Publications, Los Angeles, 2014. Paperback; 241 pp. In six Episodes: Transformation, Discovery, Selene, Rebellion, Battle, Kane + To Read More about Snow Blood and his Pack. ISBN: 978.1.939564.36.8

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A Wolf Called Romeo

A Wolf Called Romeo, by Nick Jans. Book Review, nonfiction.

A Wolf Called Romeo is about the life and times of a black wolf romeo wolf COVERwho entered remarkably into the lives of the residents of Juneau, Alaska between 2003 and 2009. In three strong words, Nick Jans’ book is at once informative, powerful and passionate, written by a master story-teller.

In the Prologue, the author writes an early encounter:

“The wolf, instead of watching from the tree line as he had several times with me, angled toward us at a trot. Then he broke into a bounding lope, snow flying beneath his paws, jaws agape. I drew Sherrie toward me and reached for Dakotah’s collar. My vision sharpened, and synapses crackled. I’d seen my share of wolves over the years, some point-blank close, and hadn’t quite shifted into panic mode. But anyone who claims he wouldn’t get an adrenaline jolt from a running wolf coming straight in, with no weapon and no place to run, and loved ones to defend, is either brain-dead or lying…”

Part biography (of the wolf), part memoir (of Jans’ role in the story), part natural history (discussing the scientific literature on wolves) and part socio-political reflection (comparing the pros and cons of various personal viewpoints and regulatory perspectives on wolves), A Wolf Called Romeo relates many extraordinary events at the intersection of the wolf’s and many local residents’ existence. It reviews the perspectives of pro- and anti-wolf factions. Through it all the author tries valiantly, and for the most part successfully, to represent and respect all sides to the controversies, conversations and concerns that captured the imaginations of many Juneauites as Romeo became an object of great affection and veneration (and a smattering of disdain) within the community.

The black wolf of Southeast Alaska is classified scientifically as an Alexander Archipelago Wolf (Canis lupus ligoni), a unique and threatened sub-species of the Gray Wolf. The Alexander Archipelago refers to coastal and island Southeast Alaska, including the expansive Tongass National Forest. Beginning in 2003, Romeo lived part of each year until 2009 near and regularly interacted with humans, and played in high spirits with their pet dogs, in the vicinity of Juneau’s Mendenhall Glacier, in what appear to have been remarkably safe and friendly relationships.

Throughout the book, Jans describes the roles of several key actors in the saga, including his role as well as his wife’s and their dog Dakotah’s (a golden lab, pictured on the book cover with Romeo), as well as of several other individuals, including avid photographers, and their dogs. The close relationships that were formed between some individuals (and dogs) and Romeo were remarkable in their expressions of familiarity and mutual trust, and are well described by the author from personal observation and interviews.

Romeo-the-black-wolf-of-AlaskaNick Jans even brings some notable state politicians into the picture, including Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, a publicly proud big game hunter who has expressed distinctly anti-wolf feelings (in general). However, much of what Jans describes, based on solid scientific research by specialists, refutes many of the arguments against wolves that the anti-wolf faction raises. For example, he points to the well-established fact that wolves attacking humans is exceedingly rare.

Occasionally Romeo disappeared for varying periods of time, raising alarm and concern that he may have reverted back to the wild, or worse had been killed by humans or by other wolves. Yet, each time (except the last) he returned to renew and rejuvenate his ties with the humans with whom he shared key times in his and their life.

Without divulging the end of the story, suffice it to say that after finishing the last two chapters (13 and 14) I felt… — well, to put it politely — I felt profound anger at the behavior of several egotistic individuals who imposed themselves with brazen, headline seeking selfishness upon the scene at the very end, as well as at the failure of the judicial system to bring true justice to bear against them.246928485

Is this a good book? One that canine aficionados will enjoy reading? The answer is an unequivocal Yes, if only for what we who admire dogs can learn from it. The reader is bound to walk away from the book, mulling over its meaning, with special note about the remarkable bonds that developed between the three species involved – the wild Canis lupus, the domesticated Canis lupus familiaris, and that subspecies of local Homo sapiens known as Juneauites.

Well into the story, Nick Jans recalls this great scene —

Of all my times with the wolf, some much more action packed and dramatic, this is the one that keeps coming back. One warm April afternoon, Romeo, Gus [one of Jans’ dogs], and I dozed together out on the ice near the river mouth, me with my head on my pack, skis off; Gus with his head on my thigh; Romeo with his muzzle resting between his outstretched front paws. It was one of those still days when you could hear snowdrifts collapsing in hisses, the sun so dazzling off the white-crusted ice that we seemed suspended on a cloud, bathed in light radiating from below. Now and then the wolf would slit open an eye to check around, then settle back for another short snooze, and I’d do the same. Maybe twenty feet separated us, but in trusting enough to shut his eyes and sleep with me so neare, he might as well have put his head alongside Gus’s on my leg. There we lay, three different species bound by a complex, often bitter history, taking simple comfort in the others’ presence, the sun’s warmth, and the passing of another winter. That afternoon remains with me, one of those clear, still moments that graces the edge of dreams. jans$nick_lresWhen Gus and I finally rose, Romeo did the same, yawned and stretched, then lay back down and watched us glide away, toward the alien world from which we’d come. I recall looking back as he dwindled into a dark point against the snow, as if for the last time. I watched hard, hoping to remember.

Note. This reviewer is a Juneauite by birth and upbringing, and in my youth I roamed much of the territory that Romeo later came to possess. In reading this book, I considered it from three angles, answering three sets of questions. 1) As a writer: Is it well written? 2) As a reader: Is it informative (can we learn from it)? And, 3) as a former Juneauite: Is it authentic? In this case the answer to each is unequivocally affirmative: Yes. I not only admire the author’s style and his scientific understanding and portrayal of the natural history of wolves, but also his grasp of the sticky issues that arose by the interactive presence of the wolf at the boundary between suburban Juneau and its wild surrounds. I was particularly impressed by the author’s descriptions of the combined natural, social and political environments in which the story takes place. They fit both my memories and my expectations to a tee. In the end, I also found myself agreeing with Nick Jans’ personal views on the many issues raised by Romeo’s story. It was such a good read, so well written, so provocative, that I had trouble putting it down. /DM

A Wolf Called Romeo, by Nick Jans. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2014, 288 pp. Illustrated. Prologue, 14 chapters, Epilogue, Notes, Suggested Reading, Index, and Acknowledgments. ISBN: 978-0547858197. Available in hardcover, paperback, and digital formats.

What some reviewers have said about this outstanding book:

  • “Beautifully written, …a thoughtful and moving story about one of nature’s most evocative animals.” (P. McConnell).
  • “This story is a treasure. It’s a gift…a unique and wonderful journey…. unequivocally THE BEST man-wild animal book I have EVER read. PERIOD.” (Wm. Dahl)
  • “A good story showing all the dangers this social animal faced in modern Alaska.” (NC)
  • “I have never been so emotionally stricken by another book- ever!” (Murano)
  • This is an excellent book and I am going to read more of Nick Jan’s writing.” (G. Cavitt)

But take note, while most reviews are positive, not all are as enthusiastic as these. See other comments on Amazon.com, some of which are openly critical of Nick Jans’ perspective and approach. Of course…,  to be expected , given a subject is as as challenging and controversial as this one — of humans befriending wolves, and vice versa.

Nick Jan’s other books include: The Glacier Wolf: True Stories of Life in Southeast Alaska, and several others based on photographic excursions around and about the state. See more at http://www.nickjans.com/, and at http://www.amazon.com/Nick-Jans/e/B001JSE8Z0. There’s also a video clip of Romeo online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eEKGzs4MzE.

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