Darwin’s Dog

It was my dog’s birthday yesterday. Mocha, a chocolate lab, is a marvel of evolution that surely would have made Charles Darwin proud. That she could cause literally thousands of dollars worth of damage and still live to experience her second birthday tells me that she knows more about survival of the fittest than I can ever hope to discover during the process of writing this book. Of course, I love her: but I love her in spite of her naughtiness, not because of it.

And that got me thinking about Darwin and his dog. Darwin had a terrier called Polly: a white dog with a patch of red hair where it had been burnt as a puppy. Polly slept in a basket by the study fire while Darwin wrote lofty words about life and the universe. She was an affectionate dog that would lie on Darwin and lick his hands incessantly.

Darwin and his dog paints such a lovely picture of canine domesticity. Now, if I could just get Mocha to lie in a basket by the fire, perhaps I could get some more writing done on
Looking for Darwin; but Mocha – if she were true to form – would be likely to eat the basket and burn herself on the fire. The one thing you could be sure that she would not do is lie down. She is living proof that dogs can suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and, as a consequence, her nickname is Ritalin.

One characteristic Mocha does share with Polly is that she is abundantly affectionate. And maybe that is it? Maybe that is the insight about
fitness that our pets can give us: love really does make the world go round. Love a little bit and live a lot. I’m so excited by this revelation, I’d call someone if Mocha hadn’t eaten my phone.
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