WASHINGTON (April 12, 2004)—Dogs collar the spotlight in an interactive exhibit that opens at the National Geographic Museum at Explorers Hall next month. “DOGS: Wolf, Myth, Hero & Friend,” which runs from May 20 to Sept. 6, sniffs out the facts on canines and explores what makes the relationship between man and his best friend so unique.
The exhibit focuses on the history, biology and evolution of dogs and their role in human societies through the ages. Four themed sections include multimedia displays, artifacts, photo murals and dioramas of wild canines and modern breed dogs. Interactive, hands-on components allow visitors to climb into an avalanche scene and see what it’s like to be saved by a search-and-rescue dog, enter a “howling area” and guess what dogs are saying, and smell a bacon sandwich to test how their olfactory sense measures up to a mutt’s — dogs have 25 times more smell receptors than humans and can detect odors at concentrations nearly 100 million times lower than humans can.
The first section, “Dogs Come in Many Shapes and Sizes,” explores the diversity of canines, both wild and domestic, from the pocket-sized Chihuahua to the 200-pound Saint Bernard. Exhibit-goers will learn how dogs’ appearance has changed through time, both naturally and through human intervention. The section also addresses the origins and history of various domestic breeds and wild dogs as well as extinct canine relatives.
Section two, “Dogs Make Good Companions,” explores the qualities in both dogs and humans that have led to their successful partnership and close communication. It demonstrates the many similarities between wolf behavior and that of domestic dogs and how these have carried over into interactions between dogs and humans.
Dogs and people have worked together for thousands of years. Section three, “Dogs Have Skills that Help Us,” shows some of the many ways that dogs assist humans, from hunting and herding to detecting mines, sniffing out drugs and helping the handicapped. It focuses on the animals’ biological characteristics that make them so good at being our eyes, our ears, our noses, and sometimes even our arms and legs. The section also celebrates the role that dogs play as our friends and companions.
Section four, “What Can You Do to Help Dogs?” takes a look at how one can promote a healthy relationship between humans and canines. The exhibit shows how coyotes have managed to survive and adapt despite human encroachment into their habitat, and how the two can successfully coexist. Other topics include responsible pet ownership, the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park, the fight to save the Ethiopian wolf and other endangered species, and current trends in veterinary science.
“DOGS: Wolf, Myth, Hero & Friend” was developed by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County with generous support from Pedigree® and the National Science Foundation.
Susan Norton, director of the National Geographic Museum, said the exhibit was a follow-up to a very successful cat exhibit held at the museum several years ago. “This is sure to hit the spot with dog owners who may have felt left out then. We’ve now leveled the playing field, and no one can accuse us of feline favoritism,” she said.
To celebrate the opening of the exhibit, National Geographic Museum is holding a street festival, “A Dog Day Afternoon at National Geographic,” on Saturday, May 22. The free program, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., includes demonstrations by bomb-sniffing and search-and-rescue dogs; a shelter dog fashion show; Jack Russell terrier races; dog obedience training; and flyball, dancing-dog and agility-course demonstrations. A selection of National Geographic dog films will also be screened. Dogs are welcome at the festival, but must be leashed and not in heat. “Dog Day Afternoon” will take place at National Geographic headquarters, 1600 M Street, Washington, D.C.
The National Geographic Museum at Explorer’s Hall is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed December 25. Admission is free. For information on the “Dogs” exhibit, the public should call (202) 857-7588.