Man’s Best Friend

By Dan Green   |   Angus Talk

Today, Along America's Angus Trails is thinking back fondly of the plethora of ranch dogs that have enriched his life. Robbie, Smokie, Myrt, Carmel. Thor.

I'll bet most of the listening audience could cite similar cherished memories of their beloved ranch dogs over the years. Whether well trained as stock or cow dogs, or just a faithful daily companion beside you on the pickup seat or in the truck bed, you really learn to appreciate a good dog, and constantly be amazed at their talents — or, lack there of.

At least on the ranch, and at home at night, we accept our dog for who they are, and are pleased to accept them, just as they are.

Off the ranch, the government and private industry train dogs to use their sharp noses to detect bombs, drugs, fugitives, pests and cancer. Of course the scientists and techies around us are constantly finding ways to spend our money to find a carefully calibrated machine that might be preferable to a dog.

The Defense Department has spent some $66 million dollars, drawing on the expertise of at least 35 different research institutions, to develop sensors that could detect explosives and other chemicals as well as a dog can. They couldn't do it.

As L. Paul Waggoner, co-director of the Canine Performance Sciences Program at Auburn University put it, "There's not an instrument out there that can replicate a dog's nose."

Dogs even outperform other animals. The Southwest Research Institute tested the odor-detecting abilities of a variety of animals. It found that pigs and ferrets outperformed German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers in odor detection.

But overall, dogs won out because of their combination of qualities: not only do they have strong noses, but they are compatible with people, they respond to training — and they beat technology paws down.

Any good rancher could have saved them millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars, and told them the same thing. We see it every day.

Editor’s Note: Commentary provided by Dan Green, author and historian. Opinions and thoughts are his own. You can hear more from Dan Green at 10 a.m. CST each Saturday on Angus Talk, the American Angus Association’s weekly radio program on Sirius XM’s Rural Radio, Channel 147.