The Bargain
©Sue Ann Bowling

Long ago and far away
We made a bargain,
Your forefathers and ours.
One could find game, sharp-nosed, keen-eared, alert to every breeze.
One had spears to kill in safety.
One too often died beneath defending hooves
One too often found no target for his spears.
So we made the bargain:
One to find and one to kill, and the meat to share.

The years passed, and the bargain changed:
Tend our flocks.
Fight our wars.
Pull our sledges.
Guard our children,
Lead our blind.
Amuse us.
Love us, when all the world has abandoned us.

And on the other side, the same:
Share the food.
Share the fire.
Share our lives.

Wolf that was, how can I break the old bargain now?

I wrote that years ago, along with an apocalyptic short story, now posted on my website. But at the time, the idea that the domestication of the dog might have been two-way, that man as well as dog had been changed by the relationship, was scientific heresy. Now at last it seems it is being accepted.

In the May 28-June 3 issue of New Scientist there is a cover article titled “How Animals Shaped our Minds.” The article is based on a book, written by Pat Shipman, which is due to be published on June 13. I don’t want to say too much until I’ve read the book. But she argues that the mindset that made domestication possible, the knowledge of animal behavior gained through careful observation, may well have been a driving force behind our development of language. And the article, at least, makes the same points that I did in my story: our relationship with another species may be an important part of our humanity.

I am looking forward to reading the book, and will probably review it here. Meanwhile, read the article — and “Death of a Dog.”