Today, 71 percent of men between 18 and 44 own a dog — 71 percent! That’s more than the number of those men who have kids. Of course, there’s a reason for this. There are few things that round out a man’s life like a good dog. They’re loyal. They’re always happy to see you. And they never flake out on a camping trip or trail run. When you’re single, owning a dog is a sign you’ve grown up, agreed to take on a responsibility greater than yourself. When you’re surrounded by a wife and kids, a good dog is a slobbery respite from soccer practices and lawn-mowing days. They’re alone time, with a buddy.
In fact, without dogs offering us protection and partnership in our cultural infancy, some 20,000 years ago, civilization may not have been possible at all. Also, they can catch a damn Frisbee like nobody’s business.
That’s why, for our June 2017 issue, we put a dog on the cover. And not just any dog, a mutt, a China mix named Walt. Because let’s face it, while we admire a purebred Lab or Husky as much as anyone, there’s nothing like a good rescue mutt.
Part of this is the knowledge that you’ve saved a living thing. But it goes deeper. Long before we started selectively breeding for all of these variations, all dogs were mutts, feral canines interbreeding like any other wild animal. And maybe that’s why we love mutts so much: They’re not meant to look a certain way, have a certain disposition, or serve a certain need (although all of those are fine things to consider when getting a dog). A mutt is simply a mutt. You get what you get. Any skill you can teach it, any good behaviors it adopts, is simply a bonus.
Really, when it comes down to it, a mutt is an exercise in acceptance: You’re going to take in this small, large, friendly, neurotic, loud, disgusting, smelly thing whether you’re ready for it or not. This bargain comes with all dogs, but with mutts it’s more pronounced. They’re the canine wildcard. You tame them at the same time they tame you. And mutts, being the original dogs, are better at this than most. They’re the clear link to, and reflection of, the wildness that’s still in all of us.