Me and a multitude of people had a dog named Fido at one time or another. Those crazy dogs are the original domestic animal and regardless of their breed, they are probably all descended from an ancient wolf-like creature from way back there in the dinosaur days that scientists call Tomarctus. In fact, the dog has been a part of our family for so long that no one knows exactly where the word “dog” came from.
Me and a multitude of people had a dog named Fido at one time or another. Those crazy dogs are the original domestic animal and regardless of their breed, they are probably all descended from an ancient wolf-like creature from way back there in the dinosaur days that scientists call Tomarctus. In fact, the dog has been a part of our family for so long that no one knows exactly where the word “dog” came from. They also don’t know when the first wild dog began to hang around the camp fires of the cave man, but I’d be willing to bet the dog came looking for a free handout. Stone Age hieroglyphics in European caves suggest that early man used dogs to track wild game some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago.
The ancient Egyptians probably developed the first true breed, the “saluki,” and since then man has bred and used dogs as everything from pets to guards, police aids, shepherds, rescuers, soldiers, medical assistants, and even thieves and smugglers. Dogs and their crazy habits have been deeply ingrained in all human cultures throughout the history of the world, though sometimes in varying terms. For some, the dog is a symbol of loyalty, yet almost all Biblical references to dogs are derogatory.
The dogs themselves and the crazy things they do have not only became a part of the American vocabulary, but they have become a part of virtually every language around the world. When Winston Churchill, a master of the English style, wanted to describe the depths of the depression that periodically gripped him, he spoke of the “black dog.” Often enough dogs are used to describe something servile or humble, treacherous or unworthy. But not always, for we all know that “every dog has his day”, as in “love me, love my dog”, which expresses the feelings of dog owners who are one with their pets.
“You can’t teach old dogs new tricks” suggests that dogs, like humans, become set in their ways. In
some circles old dogs are treated a bit more reverently, as in “If the old dog barks, he gives council.” The Eastern Europeans express the same sentiment in slightly different terms: “If the old dog barks, look for the reason.” “In a dog eat dog world” it describes the desperate struggle for survival, however that is really rather unfair to the critters. Does the “dog really eat dog” – the implied answer would be no.
The Greeks and Romans were more definite: “Dog won’t eat dog.” “Putting on the dog” means to make a flashy or pretentious display, but “She’s going to the dogs” means she’s taking a final, destructive course of action. “Call off the dogs” generally means to stop doing something disagreeable or unrewarding. Coon hunters call dogs off unpromising trails – some young coon dogs like to jump crazy opossums.
Page 2 of 2 - “Dog days” are those sultry summer days that are swiftly approaching when no air stirs and even breathing is punishment. The expression comes from our Roman cousins of old, who theorized that in certain seasons of the year the Dog Star (Sirius) added its heat to that of the sun and thereby intensified the afflictions suffered on those of us down here below. What do they know?
A “gay dog” is not simply a charmer; he is a philanderer who roams dangerously far from his home turf. Careful, you may end up in the dog house. Of course, the American soldiers all wear “dog tags.” During World War II, front line journalist Ernie Pyle labeled all soldiers “dog faces,” probably because they all wore those dog tags. While we are at it, I discovered that the name Fido is the Latin word for “trusting.”
Ted W. Stillwell is available to speak before any club, church, civic, senior, or school groups.
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