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The wolf in the parlor by Jon Franklin

The wolf in the parlor (2009)

by Jon Franklin

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At first I thought Franklin was just taking ages to get to his premise, then I started to realize and appreciate that his premise is in the groundwork that he lays, the seemingly random paths he leads us down in stories about his relationship with the family poodle, Charlie.

He makes an extremely keen, valid point that Dog is so omnipresent in the life of Human, and yet we know nothing, just nothing, about HOW and WHY. And that boggles me beyond all sense. Homo sapiens and Canis familiaris are practically one entity, but WHY did Wolf come in from the cold to sit by Man's fire? What did Man give Wolf in return for Wolf's hunting and protection? Why did Wolf need Man, lie down and become Dog? And how? Not just evolutionarily, the physical changes are easy enough to comprehend, but what changes did both species undergo psychologically? We none of us can answer this, and I'm just sitting here completely bowled over by the heart-aching reality of it.

Reading this with my very own wolf cuddling for warmth and sleeping on my feet makes it especially poignant.

I noticed in some other readers' reviews that they were disappointed that there wasn't more science to Franklin's thesis. I disagree with those reviewers. I didn't ever think this was going to be a straight scientific work, but more of an experiential work drawing on science knowledge as a guide to exploration -- science for non-scientists, I guess. What I think is far more important than any science is Franklin's observations about the relationship between Dog and Man, with his own relationship with his dog Charlie being Exhibit A. (Although I do have to disagree with his characterization of the Welsh corgi.) The science behind the evolution of the domesticated dog from the wild wolf is secondary to the socio-cultural, anthropological, and psychological affects thereof. I know how evolution works and natural selection and adaptation and blah blah blah, but I (and Franklin) want to know WHY you don't see humans without dogs or dogs without humans, and why when dogs lost their value as working partners to 99% of the human race and we became modern city-dwellers we yet kept our canine companions. I live in a sub-urban beach cottage, I don't own any cattle or other livestock, so why do I feel it is necessary that I own, care for, and pay for the upkeep of a herding dog? Because she licks me dry from the kneecaps down when I get out of the shower, she tells me when it's time to stop working and go for a walk, and she sits at the end of the bed when I read a book until my husband comes and gets her to go outside before bedtime and go to bed in her crate. In other words, there is no practical reason for a person like me to have a dog like Amy. And yet, I do.

Reading about Franklin's experience as a dog owner and a person who thinks about dogs and how we relate to them has helped me look at my new dog-human relationship, and I have since grasped a few important things: I have to be patient. The canine-human symbiote can't form overnight. I must agree to be the thinker; Amy agrees to be the emotional anchor. If I get stressed, she will get stressed. I have to let her tell me when I am stressed, because half the time I don't know it, and the other half of the time I just ignore the stress and plow on.

I like Franklin's style and I think this book has contributed to my life as a thinking person. His theories about the development of the human-dog relationship are clear-headed, even though they are just theories and must necessarily remain so: no archaeological evidence will ever prove (or disprove) his thoughts about the follower wolf, human selection among the follower wolf pack, and the psycho-social development of the dog-human alliance. Sure, science can look at dog brains and wolf brains and see where they differ, and dog genes and wolf genes and find where they branch off, but no amount of hard science can capture prehistoric, pre-literate human culture and say, "Yes, that is how the wolf became the dog." I'm partial to Franklin's theory myself and don't see where a scientist could find a legitimate reason to disagree with it. I think this is a must-read for any animal-loving person, whether they own a dog or not. ( )
  mrsmarch | Nov 28, 2018 |
This book frequently branched out into scientific topics having little or nothing to do with the evolution of either dog or man, but it's so well written that I enjoyed every bit of it. ( )
  Gingermama | Jan 24, 2016 |
Really liked the beginning of this book; interesting ideas here. But he starts repeating himself and it goes on a few chapters too long. Still an interesting story. ( )
  MaryWJ | Dec 20, 2010 |
I learned an immense amount about dogs, wolves, and humans in this fascinating book. After his fiance adds a dog to their household, he finds himself perplexed by the nature of the creature. Thereupon he embarks on a journey to understand how canines and hominids have become so closely intertwined. That journey takes him through anthropology, archaeology, and various branches of biology.
Franklin has a true gift for repackaging complex technical information into something that's digestible by the layman. I salute him. ( )
  dickmanikowski | Jun 12, 2010 |
I liked this, and would have liked it a lot more (it is scattered, but that doesn't bother me) had it not been for Franklin's rabidly (pun intended) pro-purebred stance. He tells his readers not to adopt a mutt, because you don't know what a mutt's personality will be like; this despite his assertion throughout the book that all dogs ultimately take on their owners' personalities.

Franklin loves his purebred poodles. His wife is a fanatic about bloodlines and breeders, and it seems that all their friends with dogs only have purebreds as well. That's fine, but to then say that everyone should have a purebred is ridiculous. The part that astounded me was Franklin's story of, as a reporter, seeing puppies euthanized in a shelter for lack of space - and how he still, only a few pages later, repeats his advice that prospective dog owners find a breeder rather than go to a shelter.

In this day and age that advice borders on the criminally irresponsible. My two sweet beautiful adopted mutts are certainly grateful I didn't follow it. The "eternal connection" isn't based on Westminster standards, Franklin.
  atheist_goat | May 11, 2010 |
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When the Man waked up he said,

"What is Wild Dog doing here?"

And the Woman said,

His name is not Wild Dog any more,

but the First Friend,

because he will be our friend

for always and always and always."

--Rudyard Kipling
To Lynn

The love of my life
First words
To live the considered life is to dwell in an enigma.
My generation sometimes looks back on the '50s and the '60s as a time that was almost magical.   Those were our salad days, and we tend to forget that there were worms in the salad.   Scorpions, even.  Marijuana, for whatever reason, heralded an era of drug use run amok, and as for free love . . . well, it was a myth right up there with the free lunch.  In large part, we behaved as we did because those were frightening times, and drugs and sex become especially appealing when the world seems about to end.  (Chap. 4, p.72)
So it was that Paul MacLean was the first to define the human dilemma as growing directly from the fact that we had three brains in one -- a "triune brain," as he called it.  We weren't individuals, we were committees -- and like all committees, we were given to inner uncertainty, dispute, and even feuding.  We were the only creature in nature capable of ganging up on itself.  (Chap. 4, p.79)
We live in our inner worlds, yet our fates are often determined by outside reality.  (Chap. 6, p.108)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805090770, Hardcover)

A man and puppy exhumed from a 12,000-year-old grave sends a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer on a journey to the dogs

Of all the things hidden in plain sight, dogs are one of the most enigmatic. They are everywhere but how much do we really know about where they came from and what the implications are of their place in our world? Jon Franklin set out to find out and ended up spending a decade studying the origins and significance of the dog and its peculiar attachment to humans. As the intellectual pursuit of his subject began to take over Franklin's life, he married a dog lover and was quickly introduced to the ancient and powerful law of nature, to wit: Love me, love my dog. Soon Franklin was sharing hearth and home with a soulful and clever poodle named Charlie.

And so began one man's journey to the dogs, an odyssey that would take him from a 12,000-year-old grave to a conclusion so remarkable as to change our perception of ourselves. Building on evolutionary science, archaeology, behavioral science, and the firsthand experience of watching his own dog evolve from puppy to family member, Franklin posits that man and dog are more than just inseparable; they are part and parcel of the same creature. Along the way, The Wolf in the Parlor imparts a substantial yet painless education on subjects as far ranging as psychological evolution and neurochemistry. In this groundbreaking book, master storyteller Franklin shatters the lens through which we see the world and shows us an unexpected, enthralling picture of the human/canine relationship.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:21 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Building on evolutionary science, archaeology, behavioral science, and the firsthand experience of watching his own dog evolve from puppy to family member, Franklin posits that man and dog are more than just inseparable; they are part and parcel of the same creature.… (more)

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