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Speculators suspect, as Kipling did, that certain wolves or protodogs worked their way close to the fire ring after smelling something good to eat, then into early human gatherings by proving helpful or unthreatening. As packs of 25 or 30 wolves and clans of like-numbered nomadic humans roamed the landscape in tandem, hunting big game, the animals hung around campsites scavenging leftovers, and the humans might have keyed off the wolves, with their superior scenting ability and speed, to locate and track prospective kills. At night wolves with their keen senses could warn humans of danger approaching.

Times might not have been as hard back then as is commonly thought. In many instances food would have been plentiful, predators few, and the boundaries between humans and wildlife porous.

Through those pores and into our hearts slipped smaller or less threatening wolves, which from living in packs where alpha bosses reigned would know the tricks of subservience and could adapt to humans in charge. Puppies in particular would be hard to resist, as they are today. Thus was a union born and a process of domestication begun.

Over the millennia admission of certain wolves and protodogs into human camps and exclusion of larger, more threatening ones led to development of people-friendly breeds distinguishable from wolves by size, shape, coat, ears, and markings. Dogs were generally smaller than wolves, their snouts proportionally reduced. They would assist in the hunt, clean up camp by eating garbage, warn of danger, keep humans warm, and serve as food. Native Americans among others ate puppies, and in some societies it remains accepted practice.

By the fourth millennium b.c. Egyptian rock and pottery drawings show hounds hunting with men, driving game into nets. Then, as now, the relationship was not without drawbacks. Feral dogs roamed city streets, stealing food from people returning from market.

Thousands of years later dogs still can be trouble. From 1979 to 1998 more than 300 people in the United States were killed in dog attacks. Most were children. In 1994, the last year data were compiled, an estimated 4.7 million Americans were bitten, 6,000 of them hospitalized. Despite their penchant for misbehavior, and sometimes because of it, dogs keep turning up at all the important junctures in human history.

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