Relentless friends…

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Contributing Editor
Walt Pickut

A faithful dog is a good friend and a very handy helper—which is surprising because he really has two left feet. And if you miss his walk one day, he’ll still grant you furr-giveness, especially if you make up for it with a trip to see his favorite movie—Jurassic Bark.

Dogs, however, probably won’t understand those puns. They’re too smart. As a matter of fact they have a lot to teach us.

Humorist Robert Benchley once explained, “A boy can learn a lot from a dog: obedience, loyalty, and the importance of turning around three times before lying down.” And author Gabrielle Zevin added, “Did you know that there are over 300 words for love in canine?”

Our dogs always seem to love us, no matter what. They are relentless in that. You’re never friendless if you have a dog.

Yet that’s not the only mystery about dogs. Dogs are also wolves. Everybody knows it, but we never seem to question it. Geneticists have recently discovered that the DNA of dogs and wolves is more than 99.9% identical. Technically, they are the same species, according to one of the most important biological criteria: they can mate and produce healthy offspring.

As a matter of fact, here’s an interesting factoid on that subject. The only consistent genetic difference between dogs and wolves is found in two single genes—unpoetically named GTF21 and GTF2IRD1—found on a dog’s sixth chromosome.

Oddly enough, we humans have those two genes, too, and they’re known to lead to what scientists call hypersociability. That’s what we and our dogs have in common. Wolves aren’t sociable, except among themselves.

So, this week your Jamestown Gazette features a very special human-dog friendship that’s making a huge difference in our community and across the region. Lakewood’s John Livingston and his three-and-a-half-year-old Golden Retriever named Clarence are making friends and bringing delight to local students, the elderly in nursing homes, hospital patients, and loved ones in hospice, all of whom can use a lift.

We’re all glad that doctors can prescribe medicines or operate when it’s needed, but sometimes those are just not enough. John and Clarence, on the other hand, simply prescribe a wagging tail, a friendly paw, a lick on the cheek, and most of all, fun.

I once had two dogs. My kids named one of them King Arfur, even though she was a she, and the other one was called Barkley—at least a little more gender-accurate for him. We came to know what so many other dog owners have learned—dogs aren’t only pets—dogs are family. And like family, their care and feeding are important. They may have their own food, but just like people food, theirs should be the best too. They’ll thank you for it.

As a matter of fact, your puppy just might look at you before chowing down and say, “Bone appetite!”

And if your best four-footed friend decides this week’s edition of the Jamestown Gazette would make a good chew-toy, please take the words right out of his mouth, and enjoy the read yourself.

Walt Pickut
Contributing Editor

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.