Somewhere around 15,000 years ago, at the very least, dogs became domesticated. In the time since, those early apex predators such as wolves evolved into slightly less fearsome creatures such as pugs and Pomeranians.
It was only relatively recently, however, that dogs became genuine pets, living indoors, sleeping on the sofa, and sporting silly haircuts. Prior to the 18th century, dogs were kept mainly for hunting and defense. Back then, even today’s pampered poodles were used to retrieve waterfowl and stray arrows.
The now-common notion that dogs are “man’s best friend” was first put forward by the Prussian King Frederick II sometime in the mid-1700s to describe one of his faithful greyhounds. Frederick loved his pups so much that he wanted to be buried next to them, a wish that was denied upon his death in 1786, but later granted in 1991 when he was interred alongside his canine companions.
Modern dog-lovers can certainly understand Fredrick’s point of view, as few things in life give us as much joy as our furry friends. This sentiment has been shared by many famous figures over the centuries, from Lord Byron to Oprah Winfrey, as the following quotes reveal.
The poor Dog, in life the firmest friend, / the first to welcome, foremost to defend
— Lord Byron, from “Epitaph to a Dog”
Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one is a life diminished.
— Dean Koontz
The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven not man’s.
— Mark Twain
Everyone thinks they have the best dog. And none of them are wrong.
— W.R. Pursche, “Lessons to Live By: The Canine Commandments”
Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.
— Orhan Pamuk, “My Name Is Red”
My little old dog: / A heart−beat / At my feet.
— Edith Wharton, “In Provence and Lyrical Epigrams”
The gift which I am sending you is called a dog, and is in fact the most precious and valuable possession of mankind.
— Theodorus Gaza, 15th-century Greek humanist
I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.
— Doris Day
When an eighty-five pound mammal licks your tears away, then tries to sit on your lap, it’s hard to feel sad.
— Kristan Higgins, “Catch of the Day”
The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself, too.
— Samuel Butler
In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semihuman. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.
— Edward Hoagland, from his essay “Dogs and the Tug of Life” for “Harper’s Magazine”
My dog has a number of acquaintances of his own species — as do I — but it is abundantly clear to both of us that there is little company in all the world which we enjoy so much as each other’s.
All knowledge, the totality of all questions and all answers, is contained in the dog.
— Franz Kafka, “Investigations of a Dog”
Bo was a constant, gentle presence in our lives — happy to see us on our good days, our bad days, and every day in between… He was exactly what we needed and more than we ever expected.
— Barack Obama
A life without a dog is a mistake.
— Carl Zuckmayer, German writer and playwright
Over the years I have felt the truest, purest love — the love of God, really, I imagine that’s what God’s love feels like — is the love that comes from your dog.
— Oprah Winfre