Friday, December 12, 2008


A recent conversation regarding altruism has been playing in the back of my head this past week, as the actions of various canines have made their way to prominent (and perhaps not so prominent) news stories. The coincidence of similarly themed news articles could be an interesting topic in and of itself (anyone remember the shark bite stories of early 2001?), but whether coincidental or not, the following have got me wondering about the altruism of man's best friend (the dates given are when I saw the reports on TV or the internet):

Dec. 5th: The most popular story involved a stray dog crossing a busy highway in an attempt to rescue an injured dog. The homeless dog is seen on camera dragging the injured dog across the highway to the safety of a median.

Dec. 8th: A local story here in Virginia about a three year old toddler that wandered off into the woods from the babysitters house. The child would have likely died from exposure overnight, if not for the two 12 week old puppies following him and cuddling up with him to keep him warm overnight.

Dec. 9th: Oklahoma. A dog takes three bullets to the head in chasing off a home intruder.

Dec. 10th: A research team in Austria have determined that dogs have a sense of fairness. The test involved getting dogs to shake hands for a reward. When one dog got a reward and the other didn't, the unrewarded animal stopped playing.

In the discussion I recently had, my friend and I were contemplating if there is a "true" altruism, or if altruism is only a very high defense mechanism borne out of selfishness, insecurity, or both. The actions of our four legged friends may have provided me with a bit of an answer.

Perhaps we humans can learn a bit from them:

Dec. 11th: Chicago: Jogger, dog owner jump in lake to rescue dog.

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