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Man’s Best (and Most Energy Efficient?) Friend
Dogs join the fight against global warming.
Jim Gunshinan with his energy-buster Cooper.

My cousin Mark is a pretty smart guy who reads widely. (All my cousins are above average.) Here is what Mark sent to me in an e-mail about dogs:

“Professor Temple Grandin says that dogs are genetic wolves that have co-evolved with humans for 100,000 years, maybe more. Hence dogs and humans have complementary advantages and deficits. Humans used to have a better sense of hearing and smell, now dogs are better than us at those. Humans walk upright and have better vision and organizational skills, so dogs depend on us to see things and try to find them. Both are social creatures. So the lesson is that Nature has bundled the hardware and software for these skills and abilities between the two species. Unbundling them carries certain risks, so you should try to live with a dog if you can.”

I agree that dogs and humans are a pretty good combination. We’ve had a dog for about a year now. Cooper is a medium-sized Labradoodle, which is a Labrador Retriever and Poodle mix. He’s a great dog and we love him a lot. He’s heartbreakingly cute and cuddly. He has a Lab’s great disposition and a Poodle’s smarts. We think he’s the best dog ever.

But, along with being a good partner, is Cooper an energy efficient addition to our household? Are pets, and dogs in particular, a step in the right direction in the battle against global warming and the fight for energy security? Is Underdog more than a cartoon?

I think “bundling” ourselves with animals is a good idea for lots of reasons, but here is why I think dogs are energy efficient:

1. Dogs add warmth in the winter and stay outside most of the time in the summer, so they don’t add much to a house’s cooling load.

2. Dogs add fur in the winter and cool themselves using their tongues. Try that, humans!

3. When he has nothing to do, Cooper lays down flat as a pancake and barely moves, thereby conserving energy.

4. Dogs are great alarm systems and don’t even need batteries.

5. Dogs eat stuff that humans throw away. They will clean your plates if you let them, saving water and energy.

6. Because dogs need to be walked, they cause their owners to exercise, reducing their owners’ appetite and therefore their food intake (that’s how it’s supposed to work).

7. Dogs give you unconditional love and so you don’t have to drive your car to visit family and friends.

What’s your dog’s energy pawprint?

Jim Gunshinan is managing editor for Home Energy Magazine, covering residential energy efficiency, health and affordability in North America. He has background in spirituality, materials science, bioengineering and science writing. He is also a published poet. Many of his recent poems have been about Cooper, his Labradoodle. homeenergy.org

Photo by Michele Nikoloff.

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