Sandoval Signpost


An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
  Around Town

c. Rudi Klimpert

Paging Through The Past
Signpost article reprints from twenty years ago

Why do dogs bark?

—John Wymore

Why do dogs bark? The old New Englander says, “Well, just for the hell of it, I suppose.”

According to biologist Raymond Coppinger and linguist Mark Feinstein in Smithsonian Magazine, the old-timer may be right. What’s your explanation for the incessant barking of some dogs? I mean all night long! Maybe you like to think that they are really responding to something—something just out of the sensory capacity of humans, or that they have evolved this behavior as, in some way, a service to mankind, or that maybe they are telling us that someone is coming long before we could become aware of it ourselves. Did we selectively breed this capability into them? Maybe they bark to define their space. Maybe they are proclaiming: “I am here!” Maybe they are just barking, because other dogs are barking. Canine peer pressure. That explanation has some merit.

But the authors conclude that barking serves no communications function. Indeed it may not mean anything at all! It evolved they say by means of an evolutionary mechanism known as heterochronic change. We can explain this by first looking at canids other than domestic dogs—for example, wolves and coyotes.

Dogs, wolves, and coyotes are morphologically and genetically quite similar and the three have nearly identical vocal repertories: howls, growls, snarls, and whines—and they all can bark. But there is an interesting difference. Whereas the domestic dog, Canis familiars, barks constantly, coyotes and wolves do it rarely. Except as pups. (The coyote’s scientific name: Canis latrans—barking canid—refers to the high-pitched yips that often punctuate its howling.) As pups, they seek contact and care; they readily form social bonds (even with other species); and pups bark significantly more than adults. As the wild animal matures, it, of course, loses puppy characteristics. The propensity for noisy rambunctiousness is replaced with wariness, with behaviors establishing social status and territory, and the cunning of predators. Coppinger and Feinstein suggest that as the domestic dog’s evolution progressed (maybe from a wolf ancestor), a “self-selection” for tameness produces an animal adapted to living as a scavenger and camp follower among humans. This resulted in a candid more or less adult in form, but adolescent in behavior, thus the stupid barking. Its capacities consist partly of leftovers from infancy and partly of adult traits some of which, however, never fully emerge. This is a mechanism of heterochronicity.

The domestic dog, for example, exhibits very little of the adult maternal behaviors normal for wild canids. A dog will nurse, but is seldom observed providing other food to her pups, nor does she develop full-pattern hunting and predatory behavior. Instead what we see are vestigial bits of such behavior as “play.”

As far as vocalizations go, the authors think that when dogs bark, they are effectively doing the same thing as when they run after balls or chase their own tails. Nothing really very important.

The bigger mystery for me is: when dogs bark all night long, how do the people who own them sleep?

Reprinted from The Placitas Signpost, January 1993.

Placitas History Project— points, bison, archaeology

—Bob Gajkowski

One of New Mexico’s premiere archaeological finds was the Folsom spear points found in the late 1920s near the town of Folsom, east of Raton in New Mexico’s northeast corner. Several hunters’ points were found with the bones of a known extinct bison making it possible to date the points.

At a recent meeting of the Placitas History Project (PHP), Bruce Huckell, Senior Research Coordinator at Maxwell Museum of Anthropology discussed similar Folsom points and their discovery in and around Placitas. He introduced Placitas resident Russ Ruhl who recently found one of the points in his backyard, a discovery that reinvigorated the interest of many Placitans.

Utilizing slides to show the highlights of Folsom discoveries, Huckell explained that near the end of the Pleistocene Age the Folsom hunters followed the Clovis peoples. Both of the groups had perfected the making of beautiful fluted hunting points. Artifacts of these early humans were subsequently found at many locations in the Rio Puerco Valley and other places in the Southwest.

After these initial discoveries, many others were found, many just west of Placitas on the Llana de Albuquerque, where two Folsom hunting camps were discovered around a dry lake bed.

Huckell recalled how he and his dog had accidently come across one of the sites on a morning walk. Seeing numerous potshards, Huckell investigated more closely. The site, Boca Negra, has revealed many points and shards over the course of several digs, which have placed Folsom man in our area.

Huckell remarked that Ruhl’s point, which initially he believed was the first found on the Rio Grande’s east side, was, in fact, second to another found here in 1982 by one of his colleagues. Huckell believes that the Ruhl point is a tip fragment that probably had been imbedded in a bison but had not been in deep enough to kill the animal and had eventually worked its way out of the wound. Although the early hunter was certainly disappointed, such a scenario is quite exciting for the archaeologist. The fact that the Ruhl point was found in Placitas suggests that herds of early bison, as well as men who hunted them, had been active along the terraces of Las Huertas Canyon. To further this hypothesis, Huckell also noted that Folsom artifacts had been discovered in the Sandia Cave east of Placitas.

The next meeting of the Placitas History Project (PHP) will be on January 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the Placitas Community Library. Everyone is welcome.

NM Rail Runner Express celebrates four years of service to Santa Fe

—Augusta Meyers

The New Mexico Rail Runner Express celebrates four years of train service to Santa Fe, while the City of Santa Fe Public Works Department and Santa Fe Railyard Community Corporation (SFRCC) announce the re-opening of the train platform at the historic Santa Fe Depot. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on December 18 at the depot, that also celebrated the re-opening of the Santa Fe Visitors Center, which had been closed due to construction.

“It’s great to be celebrating the four-year anniversary of Rail Runner service to Santa Fe, as well as celebrating the re-opening of the train platform at Santa Fe Depot,” said Dewey Cave, Executive Director for the Mid-Region Council of Governments. “Commuter rail travel to Santa Fe has come full circle over the last one hundred years, and now passengers and visitors who come to the Depot by train or any other means can experience history, while also seeing what modern technology has done to preserve it for generations to come.”

No significant work had been done to the platform since its original installation in 1909, and time and use had resulted in an uneven, subsiding surface creating trip hazards as well as danger from water and ice in depressed areas. The platform’s increased use due to its incorporation into the Railyard’s new hike-and-bike trail and loading area for thousands of new Rail Runner passengers created a need for renovation. The Santa Fe Visitors Center is also looking forward to once again welcoming visitors to the historic depot and will soon have a variety of enhanced tools to serve visitors to the center, including increased informational racks, maps, and signage. 

Total cost of the project to date is $250,000, and an anticipated additional $115,000 will be required to install gas-fired boilers and pumps to circulate the heated glycol under the platform. When completed, the entire bricked area will be free from ice and snow.

Commemorative breakfast held for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

—Frank Jerabek

On January 21, we will celebrate the seventeenth annual breakfast commemorating the life and ideals of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This event is sponsored by the Grant Chapel Lay Organization and begins promptly at 8:00 a.m. at the Marriott Pyramid North Hotel, 5151 San Francisco Rd., NE, in the Journal Center.

We invite everyone in the community to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy. Our theme, “keeping the dream alive: a day on, not a day off,” urges us to dedicate ourselves to completing the substantial work remaining to create a fair, equitable and inclusive society. Dr. King had a profound impact on our country—and the world—inspiring us to examine our humanity and emphasizing the importance of love, nonviolent activism, and shared community.

The program, emceed by Pamelya Herndon, executive director of the Southwest Women’s Law Center and co-host of “Train To Glory,” includes a speaker, recognition of supporters, scholarship presentations and musical selections by a city-wide men’s choir.

Our guest speaker is The Right Reverend Reginald T. Jackson, presiding bishop of the Twentieth Episcopal District comprised of Malawi and Zimbabwe in Africa. As a pastor in New Jersey for many years, Bishop Jackson inspired and led projects for community development. His work for civil rights resulted in legislation to remedy injustice. Thus, he is well qualified to talk about “keeping the dream alive.”

Generous corporations, organizations, and individuals have funded scholarships to be awarded to a group of bright, talented, and eager high school seniors. 

Breakfast tickets are available. Donations are $30 for adults and $20 for youth 12 years of age and younger. Organizations and/or individuals may reserve a table for ten for $300. If you prefer a fruit plate instead of the usual breakfast fare, specify it when you purchase your tickets. For tickets, contact Galvin Brown at 550-3749 or email your request to:

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