Even if

I suspect that even if dogs aren’t obligate scavengers, it often and can happen especially if or when humans defecate in the open (especially if there aren’t any toilets around, let alone good ones at that) and can’t bury their dead well. (that’s without a coffin and gravestone to stop it though not always exactly so). If dogs do devour corpses, it’s often either in the open (they even eat their own owners), in rivers (they do this in India) or dig it up from a badly dug grave.

Keep in mind that open defecation’s still a thing as is burying the dead in inconvenient places and dogs will eat their own owners. The idea of dogs as scavengers of the dead’s even a thing in mythology, especially whenever they’re associated with the dead and underworld. This aspect, as brought up by the Coppingers, influenced old mythology a lot but for some reason gets downplayed in current attitudes. Somebody noted that dogs were even associated with treachery in Ancient Greece before.

This study’s called Shameless: The Canine and Feminine in Ancient Greece. If a dog’s caught dead wandering into neighbours’ premises, killing livestock and game animals alike as well as killing its own owners, then it shouldn’t be much of a stretch as territorial vigilance gives into loyalty. Might the Ancient Greeks be really keen on dogs’ sometimes nefarious tendencies? While this might be the case with only some dogs, let’s not forget that even if the Ancients did have sentimental feelings, it’s neither the norm nor is it consistently practised and believed.

You could own dogs but be sometimes bothered by them and be aware of their baser tendencies. Sometimes some dog owners aren’t that sentimentally close to their own dogs and some people are sentimental towards truly stray dogs. Alas it seems despite reports confirming what the ancients and even some scientists believe, it’s parsimonious to suggest that there’s a big generational divide between the Ancient Greeks and 21st people.

Maybe not always so but still substantial enough to sense a big shift in attitude.

Once a upon a time

I think it’s been remarked elsewhere in other studies that historically at some point or another lapdogs were despised for being nothing more than old maids’ pets and playthings. (I remember the word for minx also meant a lapdog.) Even this very blog contains excerpts on this phenomenon. But there are extensive studies on that phenomenon in Germany. Both in English (The Surplus Woman) and German (Hagestolz und Alte Jungfer).

Whilst the Anglophone book contains only a chapter on old maids and their lapdogs, the German book seems to have several more. Maybe that’s based on my experience excerpting it (as Google Books only offers previews and sometimes briefly so) and having it translated on Google (that’s where I know about those stray dog incidents in Europe). Heck that’s even true for both German language and Anglophone documents about pugs being old maids’ dogs.

That even a close bond with such dogs is even laughed at, especially if the dog’s rather useless save for alleviating loneliness. Karen Lupo pointed out something in her study ‘A Dog is For Hunting’ where the community she studied, the Aka Pygmies, seem to have rather ambivalent attitudes to dogs. Though dogs were used for hunting, they’re not always reliable. They’re deliberately excluded from homes and may sometimes get attacked for pestering others.

If dogs were trained to hunt, they’d even be drugged or socialised to other dogs to do so. In another, albeit Ugandan and Ivorian accounts, dogs may even be starved to do the same. Also her informants and interviewees were wary of the idea of treating dogs as family members. (Or maybe they do treat them like family* that’s by giving them chores to do and forcing them to be independent so soon and quick.)

That and dogs being linked with witchcraft. These alone reveal why Europeans also had the same or similar attitudes in the past. I remember somewhere that women who’ve got close relations with their dogs and cats get targeted for witchcraft. Some like this Ghanaian man deliberately use their pets to commit witchcraft like cursing Cristiano Ronaldo.

There’s even an account somewhere about the role of dogs and boas in witchcraft (at least somewhere in the DRC where in another account, children are accused of witchcraft if they turn into dogs, owls and mice). Not to mention there were early modern documents about lapdogs named Minny just as there’s an account of a witch and dog familiar Minny.

Keep in mind that even then, like today some people either had positive opinions of or were tolerant of cats and dogs. Conversely speaking in Europe, there are still people who can’t stand them as to dispose them with shooting or poisoning.

*Some Western families encourage their children to be independent so and have them forced out soon enough, hence why the idea of an adult who still lives with their parents weirds them out.

Where sleeping dogs lie

I think I remember a study on streeties/street dogs in India’s that they spend a lot of their time resting. Maybe not always but still as to conserve energy. Even my own dogs do this, taking intermittent naps every now and then. Such behaviour’s enough to inspire the phrases ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ and ‘dog-tired’. As well as the familiar old rhyme ‘the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’.

Maybe not always exactly the case but it’s enough to inspire such phrases and nursery fables like these in addition to some of the expected positive stereotypes (same for cats to some degree). Though it can be argued that there’s a lot of misremembering going on at times. Like a Chinese riddle telephone game, one distorts the other’s story. Embellishing it with its own nuances.

It’s like how at some point in many, if not most European countries dogs were also commonly associated with witchcraft (though that may also depend on the community and region as in African countries where such beliefs occur in alpine regions, though again not always the case). Same for canine laziness and why it’s nearly forgotten in that canine laziness still occurs in idioms and nursery rhymes.

Dogs in ancient Greece

Keep in mind that dogs’ reputation isn’t always well-received (and neither are cats), let alone the idea of dogs as ideal companion animals isn’t always entirely consistent not even today for many reasons. In the book Shameless: The Canine and Feminine in Ancient Greece, dogs aren’t just associated with women but also shamelessness and treachery. If a dog’s caught dead killing livestock, urinating/defecating inside or barking at guests some would see it as shameless.

Logically if a dog kept wandering to kill prey, find mate (or packs) or in compounds, villages and around farms it seems treacherous. Dogs are even association with seduction and manipulation, especially if they keep begging for food and in Russia, some of them dupe humans by acting friendly just to get food. That dogs are manipulative isn’t just true in one recent study, Russian scientists and Ancient Greeks already knew about it.

As for dogs and women, this may’ve been a fairly frequent association before albeit one that lasted in the West right up to the early 20th century especially when it comes to old maids and lapdogs and still is recurrent to some extent elsewhere. Especially with women feeding stray dogs in Russia and Taiwan. Women hunters were noted for using dogs in Holocene Australia, which finds its Ancient Greek counterpart in the divinity Artemis.

So were witches, healers (Gula) and demonesses (Lamashtu), most notably Hecate which’s a popular association in Early Modern Europe (whatever the degree that is but popular enough to spawn plays involving women and their demonic dogs). The association’s not lost on some Ghanaian, Zambian, Ugandan and Cameroonian churches if I remember. It’s also not entirely linguistically lost too. In some languages, the word for dog’s feminine (Russian, Dyirbal, Oromo and epicene in others like Latin).

Even in genderless languages like Turkmen, the go-for word for dog’s it but a word for a specifically male dog’s kopek (that’s the default word for dog in Turkish). That’s if you pardon the limitations in the keyboard I’m using. That author’s assumptions are well-supported if you’ve read similar findings to be honest.

Sort of makes sense

Though the Coppingers were wrong in underestimating dogs’ predatory tendencies (I suspect this is the very thing European, Indian and Russian dog studies were far keener about), they’re half right about dogs being self-domesticated and pests (to some people). This isn’t just the case with historical instances/views and even hunter-gatherer communities such as the Aka Pygmies where dogs are sometimes useful in hunts and even feared for witchcraft.

But also in contemporary Europe to varying degrees not just due to canine predation (likely same for India, China and Russia) and canine straying (also true in Africa and Asia and same for cats) but also because of dog faeces which goes hand in hand with dog poisoning. Not to mention the idea that dogs domesticated themselves through scavenging also makes sense, albeit if you take their habits of eating faeces and corpses into consideration.

Especially if/when there were no toilets in the Holocene with open air defecation being the only option and that it can be hard to find a way to bury the dead with, let alone with better coffins to keep dogs from digging it up. (Which was the case in Europe and partly still is in India.) Animals that do go commensal often risk becoming pests themselves. Not just with cats and dogs/wolves.

But also raccoons, foxes, macaques (whatever the species but some pig-tailed and long-tailed types aren’t just trained to harvest coconuts but are also owned to deter pests themselves), rats (fancy rats anyone) and pigeons (doves). The idea that wolves domesticated themselves into dogs makes the most sense when it comes to conflicts with humans, especially if they start straying and making arses out of themselves.

As well as being fed by certain caring humans, which’s not only¬† the case in Taiwan, Poland and Russia but also likely so before and may’ve helped encourage a mutation to process starch among some dogs. There’s even a time when having a lapdog marked women as being old maids. (There’s an account of a witch with a dog familiar named Minny as well as reports of lapdogs named Minny so there’s an overlap between the two.)

This is inspired by a German documentary about raccoons in Germany where they’re not only regarded as pests but some of them are even cared for by somebody else. This not only have contemporary canine (and feline) analogues elsewhere but also doubly so before. As for raccoons not being native to Germany (and cats not being native to Eurasia and the Americas), dogs aren’t native to Africa and the Philippines.

As there aren’t any large natural mammalian predators in the Philippines, dogs can constitute as an invasive species especially towards sea turtles. One of my own dogs kept on killing frogs that somebody else had to install fences to minimise this (though it jumped over it anyways) and likely’s also true in some African countries like Morocco where they even attack Barbary macaques at will.

So the idea of dogs as commensal vermin in the same way cats, monkeys and raccoons are to varying degrees makes the most sense and partly supports the Coppingers’ assumptions even if they made mistakes about dogs’ predatory inclinations.

The attraction of women to witches

I suspect that though demonising women as witches isn’t any better or less stereotypical than pedestalising women as more spiritual than men, it seems more relatable and arguably realistic to have women be the worldlier sex. Especially if the most prominent women in pop culture tend to be the worldly, earthy sort like Miley Cyrus. The girls next door who enjoy smoking weed, wanking and indulging in orgies as opposed to the unapproachable, idealised Mary types.

Heck ironically the word ‘girl next door’ is often used to describe an idealised approachable woman never mind that most girls next door are as flawed as most other women. Especially if you take away the disguise. Whilst women’s attraction to witches might be due to empathising with outcasts, it can also stem from insecurity from not living up to standards.

Which in a way does deconstruct how ridiculously high such standards are and can be disappointing if not fulfilled (I’ve experienced this). Not that I condone witchcraft and condemning women to be witches is as bad as pedestalising women a lot. However when the Madonna model (as in Virgin Mary) can be too impossible to achieve and aren’t enough role models out there, moreso as saints are discouraged in Protestantism, that’s partly why women are attracted to witches.

Kind of true on some level

I wrote about the dimensions of distrust where with the other two prejudices, these tend to be ambivalent in nature. With paternalistic prejudice, distrust’s aimed at the vulnerable and helpless and manifests itself as a patronising attitude to them which explains why they still get abused despite or because they’re seen as weak and needy. With envious prejudice, distrust’s manifested in the form of a nearly resentful jealousy aimed at those really good at what they’re doing.

Maybe not always exactly the case but I suspect this might have interesting implications for Bible studies. Especially with regards to dogs, goats, humans and sheep. Might it parsimonious to suggest that humans might lean towards warm-incompetent and dogs toward cold-competent. Both of them are divine creations worthy of care and love, even attention. Yet humans are often targets of paternalistic prejudice.

In the sense of being beloved but suspected when it comes to being impulsive and gullible so they need divine intervention or salvation to snap them out of what they’re doing. As for sheep, they’re useful but also vulnerable to predators. Dogs and goats lean closer to cold-competent. Both of them are valuable beasts. Dogs for guarding and hunting. Goats for clothing, cheese and meat. But both are also distrusted not only for their behaviours.

Goats for being stubborn and dogs for being both predatory and sometimes stubborn (especially if they’re not always reliable in hunts and get taken advantage of by criminals). Not to mention they’re even that frequently associated with witchcraft (and are coincidentally some of the more invasive species out there). They’re not inherently bad.

But not when sheep and humans are preferred in spite (or rather because) of their vulnerability and in humans’ case, tendency to give into baser habits that it appeals more to the Christian ideology of ‘needing to be saved by him’ that it’s going to be like this whether if some like it or not.