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The Wolf in the Parlor: How the Dog Came to Share Your Brain    by Jon Franklin order for
Wolf in the Parlor
by Jon Franklin
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2010 (2009)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Pulitzer Prize–winning science journalist Jon Franklin gives us an entirely new perspective on the relationship between man and his best friend in The Wolf in the Parlor: How the Dog Came to Share Your Brain. His intuitively appealing theory is based on both a range of scientific disciplines and also on personal observations of his poodle Charlie.

Franklin starts with the burgeoning revolution in biopsychology that is rapidly changing our worldview. He also talks about 'the changing perception of human evolution' and the discovery that about twelve thousand years ago, when modern humans began to appear, 'Average cranial capacity shrunk by 5 to 10 percent.' Which begs the question, 'What was the link between brain shrinkage and the explosion of human influence?'

The author was not initially a dog person - Charlie the poodle came into his life through his wife, but quickly established that he was 'here to stay', to change their life 'with a tide of small things', and to make Jon Franklin see humanity with new eyes. He began to seek out research on wolves, in particular the camp-follower wolf that 'lost 20 percent of its brain mass at the same time it won a place in the human spere.' Coincidence? Franklin thinks not.

He talks about dogs used in therapy and tells us that 'The evidence is accumulating that somehow, on some level, our dogs know us better than we know ourselves.' And he postulates that, 12,000 years ago the dog lost brain mass 'because the human had agreed, biologically, to do its thinking and scheming for it.' What did the human shed with its 10 percent loss? Franklin believes that 'Emotion was as clearly the dog specialty, as thought was ours', that humans lost emotional intelligence, and that 'we cannot do without' dogs.

It's a remarkable theory, one that (even though I live with cats and not dogs) feels right. But whether or not it is correct, The Wolf in the Parlor makes a fascinating read for both science geek and animal lover. Highly recommended.

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