The documentary “Friend or Enemy” is about the ambivalent relationship of humans and their oldest domestic animal, the dog. The film tells the story of this unique companionship from the beginning of the domestication until today with thrilling images, emotional stories and fascinationg scientific insights.
The oldest fossil findings of dogs are about 14.000 years old and were discovered in a double grave close to the German town Bonn. Thus the Canis familiaris is the oldest domestic animal. But what made dogs commit themselves so closely to humans?
The romantic image of the human creating the dog by taming wolf puppies is a fairytale, according to new scientific findings. Most probably the wolf domesticated himself by eating garbage on the dumping grounds of the stone age men. But since wolves and humans live in similar social structures and both rely on sophisticated communication with their social partners, an amazing relationship could develop between those two species. Dogs are even genetically programmed to live together with humans.
The dog in history
The earliest images of dogs show hunting scenes. They are rock paintings from the middle east and 8000 – 9000 years old. But already 4000 BC the first dog breeds are depicted on egyptian paintings. So the human learned quickly to use the former garbage disposer as hunting dog, guardian dog or just as a social partner. But also the dog benefits from the coexistence with humans: dogs are one of the most successful animal species on the planet with approximately 400 million individuals (and is thus 1000 times more frequent then his ancestor the wolf which is close to extinction). Indeed there is no nation or tribe of humans on this planet which does not live together with dogs.
The ambivalent relationship
While the practical utility of dogs was more important in earlier times their emotional utility predominates in the 21st century in the industrialized countries. Numerous scientific studies have proven that living with dogs benefits the psychological and physical health of humans and thus promotes their quality of life crucially. Especially in our anonymous mass society dogs are getting more and more important as social partners. Many dogs are treated as full family members and are an important economic factor by the trading with food, supplies, medical care etc. But there are not enough laws which protect dogs from abuse and too many laws which damage them. The breeding and trading of dogs is almost not regulated whereas stricter and stricter laws restrict the freedom of the dogs and their owners. In some parts of Switzerland certain dog breeds which are considered as dangerous cannot be kept anymore at all and so many of them are abandoned or even euthanized even if they have never hurt anyone. The media stirs up this hysteria although there are only very few cases in which humans are severely injured by dogs. The illegal trade with puppies is booming in Europe. In factory like conditions especially in eastern Europe thousands of dogs are produced under cruel circumstances and sold in the richer western Europe. But also in the richer parts of Europe dogs are treated badly. Many purebred dogs are suffering from their deformations or inherited diseases. English Bulldogs cannot breath anymore due to their short noses and every second Doberman Pinscher dies from the heart disease DCM. But many breeders and kennel clubs cover up this problems because they are afraid of selling less puppies.
The dog in the present
In the 21st century the dog is more than ever a plaything of our emotions. It is bred into extremes and overfed due to a misinterpretation of love and suffers from the same diseases of civilisation as his partner the human. On the other hand it is killed as a street dog or has to live a sad life with a muzzle and leash if it belongs to the wrong breed. There is probably no human who has a neutral, indifferent opinion on dogs. Some people are afraid of dogs or hate them, others love them as family members and bury and moarn them after they died. But all this doesn’t stop the dog from staying on our side as he did in the last 15.000 years. So the question is not if the dog is the best friend of the human, but if the human is the best friend of the dog. Or its worst enemy?