Busy Bodies: Dogs have played a part in nearly every aspect of human history. Politics, history, war, and literature are covered in paws prints. Their pack nature has given them an uncanny (or “uncanine”) ability to incorporate themselves into human events. Many dog owners claim they even mimic human behavior, and there are certainly times when humans seem to mimic dog behavior. For their part, dogs seem to view humans as part of their own family.
Wolf Cousins: No culture can solely lay claim to first inviting dogs into their family. They have clearly descended from wolves, and very likely entered human society via China. Some claim all domesticated dogs are descended from 3 pups in China thousands of years ago.
The Dog King: They have served humans as war dogs, police dogs, guard dogs, and, perhaps most importantly, friends. One dog, named Saur, even served as king. He took the throne after the people of Norway killed Onund, King Eystein’s son. After his son’s death the king gave the people a choice – they were to be ruled by a slave or a dog. The people chose the dog, thinking it would be easier to rid themselves of the dog. Saur ruled for three years, and was treated quite regally. He had his own gold collar, the best food, and an opulent palace, fully staffed of course. Apparently, he even stamped all official documents with a paw print. Sadly for Saur, his reign was cut short when wolves broke into his home and tore him to pieces. Little is said of whether he ruled justly or not, and there is no mention of how he treated cats.
Scientifically Speaking: Our canine friends have also been trailblazers in the sciences. A dog named Laika was plucked from the streets of Moscow to become the first living creature to enter outer space. She was trained with other dogs, but Laika displayed an uncanny ability to remain calm under pressure. She was launched into space inside Sputnik II on November 3, 1957. Unfortunately, Laika didn’t make it back. She died in her spacecraft. But she paved the way for future space programs and human astronauts.
Not all their participation, however, has been so positive. Sir Isaac Newton loved animals and his closest friend may have been his dog Diamond. Apparently, Diamond was quite smart as well. Newton once told a friend that Diamond had helped him discover 2 theorems in a single morning, although one had a mistake and the other had a pathological exception. Diamond once accidentally knocked over a candle that destroyed years of Newton’s work. Newton replied, "O Diamond, Diamond, thou little knowest the damage thou hast done"
Devoted Dogs: A dog named Delta was discovered during the excavations of Pompeii. The dog's corpse was frozen in time by the hardened volcanic ash. He was hunched over a small boy, his master, apparently trying to save him from the disaster. A collar around his neck revealed that this was not the first time Delta had been so heroic. The collar mentioned not only the dog’s name, Delta, and his master Servinus, but also that the faithful hound had saved the boy three times before, once from drowning, again from 4 robbers, and finally from a wolf set on attacking him at the sacred grove of Diana. Apparently, Delta’s heroism lasted until the end. His corpse, frozen in time, will forever be protectively draped over the body of his beloved Servinus, a sort of living monument to devotion and fidelity.
Brave New World: Dogs even played a part in the exploration of our own continent. Captain Meriwether Lewis purchased Seaman, a black Newfoundland Lab, for 20 dollars. When Lewis and his partner Clark set out to explore North America west of the Mississippi Seaman went along. The dog had a special place in the explorer’s heart. Lewis performed surgery on Seaman after a badger had bitten him. Also, when a tribe of Native Americans kidnapped Seaman, Lewis uncharacteristically threatened to burn down the entire village if the dog was not returned.
The dogs of history are to numerous to mention. The examples above give a mere taste of their involvement in human affairs, which will most certainly continue. Their popularity as pets continues to rise. Millions of dogs are kept by families as pets, and many of these are treated more like family members than pets. Of these most will not make a monumental impact on history, but each, in their own way, permanently effects the lives of every other family member.