When Your Looks Have Gone to the Dogs

It's nice when science verifies something we instinctively know. This not only makes us feel smart because we knew all along that exercise is good, smoking is bad, and E=mc2, but it keeps researchers employed, and if there's one thing you don't want it's a scientist standing behind you in the unemployment line asking probing questions like, "Does being an expert on nanotechnology make me a nanny?" Thus, it was nice to read that a professor at UC San Diego (motto: "Research rocks, dude!") has proven that when people choose a dog as a pet they look for one that resembles them. There, don't you feel validated?

Now before you run around eyeing every person who's walking a dog and saying, "Ah-ha, I see the resemblance!", it's important to understand that this only holds true for purebred pooches. That's because when you pick out a purebred puppy you already know what it's going to look like when it grows up. Rare is the boxer puppy that winds up having a long English sheepdog-like coat or the Pekinese that won't end up looking like it ran face first into the wall one too many times. Okay, ten too many times. Mutts, on the other hand, are a crapshoot. Choose the wrong one and it could grow up to look like, oh say, John Kerry, though come to think of it so would a purebred bloodhound. While the purebred would cost more, either one would be more fun and exciting to watch during a presidential debate than the real thing.

I suspect this isn't a recent development. Ever since the first wolves latched onto humans hoping for a dog biscuit, a scratch behind the ears and, well, another dog biscuit nearly 100,000 years ago they've looked like their owners, though in the early days it was mostly because both were covered with hair. Over the years we've lost most of our hair -- okay, some of us have lost just about all of it -- but haven't changed our physical appearance but so much, Lady Clairol, Botox, and tattoos notwithstanding. Yet, somehow dogs have come to show more diversity of size, shape and physical attributes than any other mammal in the world. This is pretty amazing since scientists claim that every dog alive today evolved from just six gray wolves that roamed East Asia. Very prolific wolves, apparently. Thanks to evolution, or Extreme Makeover if you don't believe in the existence of Charles Darwin, some of the wolves metamorphosed into Great Danes while others went the Chihuahua route. Obviously, they didn't have a choice in the matter. Some breeds, such as the Miniature Pinscher, didn't evolve at all, instead being artificially bred by humans who make a convincing argument for legalizing retroactive abortion.

This look-alike phenomenon is confined to dogs, it doesn't occur between other pets and their owners. Face it, it's not often you see people who resemble their fish, hamsters, and birds. Luckily. Even cats, the second most popular pet in this country, and their owners don't look alike. Of course some of that's because all cats look pretty much the same, with the exception of Siamese which look like Ed Begley, Jr. staring at a fly on the end of his nose. Okay, and Persians which look like they ran face first into the wall ten too many times along with their Pekinese canine counterparts.

Now before you cat lovers get your litter boxes in an uproar, stop and think about this. Cats come in four colors, three fur lengths, and two tail styles, normal and Manx. That allows for less variety than anything except a Wonder Bread sampler pack. Face it, you just don't see many cats running around with an ungodly amount of excess wrinkly skin hanging off them, a long sausage-like body that drags on the ground, or a head the size of Utah with a mouth that leaks gallons of drool per hour. Go ahead, take a moment to think about the people who own those dogs and what they must look like. Let me know when your stomach stops churning.

Of course dog owners will deny to the death that they look like their pet, just as married couples deny that they grow to look like each other, this in spite of the fact that they carry interchangeable driver's licenses. After all, each of us wants to think we're different, that we're an individual, that we're unique. Even if we believe we have a doppelganger running around, we don't want it to be a Shar-Pei, poodle or schnauzer. George Clooney, Charlize Theron, or Brad Pitt okay, but not Benji, Lassie, or The Taco Bell dog. Then again, how do you think the dogs feel?


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