About three weeks ago we brought home our new puppy, Buddy, to fill the void left by our dearly departed 18-year-old dog. Without question, puppies are one of the cutest creatures on the face of the planet. Conversely, they also require lots of work. It seems like God must have designed their “cuteness” for a reason – to offset their not-so-cute drawbacks.
I read a study published in a journal the other day that researchers uncovered the evolution of “puppy dog eyes” – the endearing look of “hold me” that all puppies can use to escape the consequences of soiling the floor, biting, and chewing up shoes. Those cute “puppy eyes” happen from a strong eye muscle that, according to some studies, have evolved to mimic human emotions. Oddly enough, researchers discovered that this muscle is absent in the non-domesticated members of Canis, a classification which includes wolves, coyotes, and domestic dogs. In a survey of wolves and dogs, researchers found that the “cuteness” muscle is “uniformly present” in puppies, but noticeably absent in their wild family members.
The ability of puppies to make this sad expression, which closely resembles the look of sadness often expressed by human babies, "may trigger a nurturing response" in humans, researchers stated, and could therefore be a designed feature which has led to the popularity of man’s (and woman’s) ‘best friend.’
It seems that the puppy has developed a unique facial communication with humans unlike any other animal in their class. And, those endearing eyes last well beyond the puppy years, because the expressive eyes of dogs continue to elicit forgiveness and attention throughout a dog’s lifetime.
As to Buddy, we will continue to clean up his poop, brave those ruined slippers, and attend to his crying, because, after all, who can resist those loving puppy eyes? Moreover, who knew one little muscle could make such a profound difference in our lives?