I see them as I walk around my neighborhood, peering at me through fences, barking at me in living room windows, and—in at least one unfortunate case—straining against a chain in someone’s back yard. They are guard dogs.
The American Kennel Club recognizes seven dog breed groups, including Sporting dogs, Working dogs, Herding dogs, Hounds, Terriers, Toys, and Non-Sporting dogs. But the AKC does not have a category for guard dogs. All dogs, I suppose, are expected to be guard dogs.
Guard dogs, or watchdogs, probably date to the first co-habitation of humans and wolves. Their original job was to protect humans and their domestic herds from dangerous animals and unrecognized humans. They are seen in ancient Greek mythology and were used extensively by the Romans. A Second-Century mosaic of a black dog was found in a house in Pompeii. It was enclosed by the Latin quote “Cave canem!”, which means “Beware the dog!”. We humans, it seems, have long been protective of our property.
Control of property goes back to the very founding of our country. Two hundred fifty years ago, British colonists in the “new world” decided they wanted to break away from British rule and create their own nation. After our success during the American Revolution, we have been obsessed as a nation with freedom, independence, and our right to private property. My wife and I have a piece of property. We own a home for which we have a mortgage. We also pay taxes on that home’s carefully defined plot, which is located in a particular neighborhood, in a city and county in the state of Georgia. But is it really ours?
The United States, our homeland, was taken by white settlers from the indigenous people who already lived here and the State of Georgia is land that was seized by the British Empire in the 1700s to protect its North American colonies from the Spanish empire in Florida. In fact, all of the boundaries and borders that we like to claim and defend are artificial. Somebody, or some group, bought them or took them by force, then defined them and sold them to us. Yet, we guard them with our lives. As property owners, we put up signs and fences to keep people out. We install elaborate alarms and cameras that connect to our smart phones to warn us of intruders. And we acquire guns and dogs for when people ignore those warnings.