I grew up in a home with 3-5 dogs at any given time, all of them rescues. I bet a lot of you know what I mean when I say they have been family to me for years and filled our house with clumps of hair, slobbery lips, and oceans of pee (you kind of become immune). But even better than this (and what’s better than dog smell?), was the friendship, protection, and love that could reach 15 years plus. Thus, this documentary was a real treat to me.
The focus on Eugenics got me thinking about how streamlined and specialized many breeds have become, and how awesome it is that they have adapted to flourish in certain conditions. Rescue dogs, seeing eye dogs, and sniffer dogs are just a few modern occupations that I admire and love to see.
When the documentary focused on the Sulimov dogs, I perked up. I disagree with dogs being used for war and combat, so at first I worried that this was their purpose. But to know that they were only bred as sniffers to prevent terrorism and find contraband was a real relief. They are heroes in their own right. This made me wonder about less fortunate dogs that really have been forced into human warfare in the past. I did some quick research on this topic.
In WWII, the Russians made use of anti-tank dogs to curb German tank invasions. The explosives would be strapped to their bodies in canvas bags before the dogs were sent to detonate near enemy war machines. Thankfully, the project was largely unsuccessful. Maybe a few generations of eugenically designed pups would have produced a truly good bomb dog, but this is a horrid thought to think of. Eugenics and these ‘high concept designs’ seem to be beneficial to canines if they diversify their gene pool, help prevent hereditary disease, and produce dogs happy in their environments, but to make a different species into a walking weapon for war is both inhumane and inhuman.
Other countries attempted the anti-tank dog idea, including America, Japan, and Vietnam, but the risks proved too great. Dogs could easily spook in the chaos of battle and run back to their masters with the ticking packages in tow. Today, dogs are still being bred for the service, but not as commonly in a suicidal role (some terrorists recently attempted this in the last decade). Hopefully, one day all canine soldiers will be entirely replaced by unmanned drones.
Eugenics and its utility for war calls to mind questions of how far humans really should go in bending other species to our needs. In a perfect world, no animal would ever need to be bred for slaughter, either for food or the front. But is it even acceptable for humans to make different breeds adapted for water, speed, endurance, and specific jobs? I believe that as long as the breed is not stringently kept ‘pure’ (so that hereditary disease from interbreeding does not appear), and the dogs are happy and enjoy a wonderful life, eugenics seems to be a harmless. However, this falters when a focus on unique breeding puts more mutts in shelters and decreases their value in the public eye. I digress, but there is NO DIFFERENCE between an expensive purebreed and a mangy mutt found in a pound. All dogs need a home.
My canine companions have added so much to my life over the years. We owe it to all dogs to be responsible with this unbreakable bond we share. We must practice eugenics with good intentions.