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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Evolutionary dead end

In Jean Donaldsons book Oh Behave she talks a bit about the idea of "dog moms" and "dog dads" but instead of in a mocking tone like most of popular culture would use the term, she discusses it as is should be, like a real, legitimate phenomena.

Genes want to be eternal. Everything we do has som' root in our genes wanting to exist for another generation. The genes don't necessarily care about the organism, as long as it lives long enough to reproduce, or in som' animals with parental care, long enough to reproduce and raise young until they can fend for themselves.

This is why, if you like babies, you like babies. Your genes are making you do it. You find babies irresistible because millions of years of evolution depends on you liking babies.

Most people do have a gut reaction to baby animals. This is a side effect of liking babies. Many of the trigger, big eyes, funny movement, exaggerated features, are present in other animals, so the brain gets fooled slightly into feeling good about other species. But truly they reserve all the best feelings for their own species.

Well in the "Dog parents" brains. Som'thing even more interesting happens.

The best feelings, and all those parenting hormones, all those innate parenting behaviors are triggered by the wrong species, and generally speaking, not triggered for the correct one.

This is a massive evolutionary misfire, in fact, it is described as a mutation, and seems to be both genetic and random at the same time. Families that have strong bonds to animals tend to have children that are more likely to have the misfire gene, but it does pop up seemingly at random in normal families.

There is also a disorder (which name escapes me) that describes people that identify more with animals than with humans. Likely another evolutionary misfire where instead of parent care triggers being off, its social triggers.

When I was a kid, all my toys were mostly animals. I would carry around teddy bears in diapers and play house like most kids carry around dolls and play house. I did play with dolls this way occasionally, but it was more to gain my mothers approval. Since she was always very negative about me not wanting to play with dolls. Insisting that som'thing was wrong with me and giving me grief about it constantly.

Years later, when I was pregnant. I remember feeling very detachted the whole experience. People kept insisting what I wonderful thing this pregnancy thing was. How awesome babies were and on and on.

I remember feeling a mixture of confusion, fear (mostly about the physical pain to come) and detachtment from the whole idea. After all I never had ever found babies interesting or cute, and I found children absolutely annoying on all levels. I also morally, since a young young age had a great sense of human overpopulation destroying our planet. Nothing was logical about the whole thing.

I did try and subtly express these feelings. God knows I would have been declared mad had I been brutally honest at the time. So I would just slip in a thing or two in a convo to people, testing the waters as to why everyone felt this was the best thing ever.

I was reassured, over and over, by many women, that all my doubts would melt away the second I laid eyes on my new baby. There would be a bond, a spark, an emotional connection like no other. Then I would understand.

Of course similar ideas are preached in books and film, so I thought, perhaps they are right. In fact I was excited with the idea of all my anxiety melting away and having that wonderful moment with my offspring.

When she was born, and they were cleaning her up, I remember waiting for it to happen. I figured, I was tired or som'thing. They handed her to me and I remember, to be brutally honest, thinking "now what?". I also remember staring at her, for almost an hour thinking "now what?" over and over than coming to the relization that nothing was happening. You might as well have handed me a melon wrapped in a blanket, because that would have given me the same amount of emotion.

Squat. Nothing. Nada.

I shrugged it off on being exhasted and drugged. But as the days went by, and the weeks, and then the months, and even years. I knew. It wasn't in me. The spark never came. No magic, no miracle, no nothing.

Now I know, it isn't magic. Its hormones and genes. Babies are not a trigger for those things in me, and no matter how much I hope and wish and want them to be, they aren't and wont be, likely ever. Thus the lack of an emotion when gazing on a child, even my own. Don't get me wrong, I didn't dislike her. I wasn't one of those women who throw their child out the hospital window, I did grow to love her. But Mom of the year I was not.

Fast forward sevenish years.

Chili was about five and a half weeks old. I had rescued him from a kill shelter with the intention of rehoming him when he was well. I did not think I would like a puppy, so It was safe to bring one home, after all puppies are messy, noisy, unrully, hyper...all the things I dislike in dogs. I would do my good thing for him and send him on his way.

As the days past, I realized that all those puppy horror stories were a product of unsavy owners. Me being experienced in training, and having likely read nearly everything available on puppy development and care, was 110% ready to deal with this dog. That coupled with the fact that he housebroke easy, and did not cry when left alone he already had shortened the list of things that puppies normally do wrong.

So as the weeks went on, I became attached to him as I had my other adult dogs.

Then, one day, when he was very young still, I was carrying him from the bathroom to the bedroom. He was about 3ish lbs at the time, and still mostly mangy naked. I had him in my arms close to my face and he was belly up, kicking his legs at me as would become one of his signature move. Then I felt som'thing tangible wash over my skin, like a chill, to the extreme I had to stop in my tracks.

It was the most intense emotion I can remember ever having. It was a mixture of overwhelming attachment and love coupled with a urgent sense of keep this thing safe. It was anxiety and joy wrapped together, it was an intense sence of pride at having this creature in my made the hair on my neck stand up.

It was the spark. And those women were right. It changes everything.

Being a logical person, not an emotional one. This intriques me more than I can explain. I completely understand now that this very real feeling isn't the normal or "correct" one. And that science views it, and people like me as evolutionary dead ends, as mutations with no uses, as genes gone wrong.

To be completely cliche...Its amazing how som'thing so wrong can feel so right.



  1. I caught this one pretty close to post. :)

    I wanted to share this forum with you that I've been reading around today. I think it relates, if only in a small way:

    It has a section for animal behavior. It's fun to read the threads that are discussing primal human nature, and, well, all the threads in general.

    Dead-ending in the gene pool isn't such a bad thing, but it seems the newly developing part of our brains is trying to keep our species down. LOL.

  2. Ironically enough, your last comment, I was going to write about, but decided now to at the last moment. :p