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The whippers-in are Dave Ingram, a retired banker from Culpeper, and Beth Opitz, a housewife, foxhunter, mother, and hound lover from Berryville, who drives a couple of hours round-trip twice a week to help Dodson. Ingram says listening to the hounds chase a fox along a ridgetop on an autumn day "makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck." Opitz, who grew up with a pack of hounds her veterinarian father still keeps in Pennsylvania, loves foxhunting so much, she says, "If I got a second life and could choose how to live it, I'd live it as a hound." Short of that she keeps a pack of 17 beagles in a pen behind her house and uses them to chase rabbits twice a week with her husband and two children.

If Loewy, Dodson, and Opitz seem extreme in their affection for dogs, they are hardly alone. Dogs are kept in 40 million U.S. homes these days, and Americans spend billions of dollars a year on dog food and dog health care. What then of this abiding affection of humans for dogs, and dogs of all stripes for humans? How and why did it start?

Genetic studies show that dogs evolved from wolves and remain as similar to the creatures from which they came as humans with different physical characteristics are to each other, which is to say not much different at all. "Even in the most changeable mitochondrial DNA markers [DNA handed down on the mother's side], dogs and wolves differ by not much more than one percent," says Robert Wayne, a geneticist at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Wolf-like species go back one to two million years, says Wayne, whose genetic work suggests dogs of some sort began breaking away about 100,000 years ago. Wolf and early human fossils have been found close together from as far back as 400,000 years ago, but dog and human fossils date back only about 14,000 years, all of which puts wolves and/or dogs in the company of man or his progenitors before the development of farming and permanent human settlements, at a time when both species survived on what they could scratch out hunting or scavenging.

Why would these competitors cooperate? The answer probably lies in the similar social structure and size of wolf packs and early human clans, the compatibility of their hunting objectives and range, and the willingness of humans to accept into camp the most suppliant wolves, the young or less threatening ones.

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