THE LOYAL ANIMAL: THE DOG

Dogs are smarter than most creatures. They are easy to educate. Well-educated dogs are sometimes used as watchdogs. A watchdog can render a creature that is five to six times bigger ineffective. It is interesting, though, that these dogs, which can become terrifyingly wild in times of danger, pose no harm to their owners. In the face of a threat, they put their lives in jeopardy to save their owners and under no circumstances do they abandon them.

The existence of hundreds of dog species of different colours and sizes is one of the signs of Allah's matchless creation. In the Qur'an, our Lord's unique creation is related as follows:

He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth. How could He have a son when He has no wife? He created all things and He has knowledge of all things. That is Allah, your Lord. There is no god but Him, the Creator of everything. So worship Him. He is responsible for everything. (Surat al-An'am: 101-102)

Let's consider the following: assume that you have never seen a dog before and somebody asks you to draw a picture of one. Would you be able to accomplish this? Of course not. No one could do this. Because, we cannot do anything unless Allah provides us an example in nature.

Aeroplanes, for example, are designed in imitation of the flying systems of birds. Robots are imitations of man's body systems. However, our Lord has created countless species without any previous example: Penguins living at the south pole, lions - the kings of the savannah, dolphins, butterflies, birds and bees, etc., in short, Allah created all creatures.

Allah, Who has given all creatures various features, has also given dogs physical characteristics that make them different from other living beings. For example, dogs have 42 teeth, that is, 10 more than human beings. This way, they can grind and break their food, especially bones, into pieces without difficulty. Moreover, thanks to the special creation of their eyes, in darkness dogs have better eyesight than human beings. They can perceive moving objects from farther away. Furthermore, because dogs can hear voices at frequencies beyond our threshold of hearing, they notice noises from distances four times farther away than we can. For example, a man cannot hear the extremely high-pitched sound of the dog whistle used to give commands to dogs while dogs can hear it easily.

The dog's sense of smell is also very keen. The olfactory centre - the centre for smelling - in its brain is forty times more developed than that of man. For this reason, their sense of smell is superior to man's.

By means of all these abilities, dogs can sense the smell of prey, trace it and fetch a hunter's catch even if it is kilometres away. A sniff of something belonging to a person suffices for a police dog to find its owner. Those huge flabby-cheeked dogs the Saint Bernards, for example, can easily detect injured people stuck beneath the snow with their sensitive noses and rescue them. This extraordinary sense of smell that dogs have is itself a miracle.

Dogs also use their noses to breathe air. Passing through the nose, air is filtered, warmed and moisturised and then it makes its way to the lungs.

Unlike human beings, these creatures do not sweat to regulate their body temperatures, because there are no sweat glands in their body. Regulation of body temperature is handled by the respiratory system. The hair covering the body isolates the skin from external heat. As the external temperature increases, a dog's body temperature also increases; a dog whose body temperature increases gets rid of this excess heat by sticking out its tongue. This way, in spite of their thick hair, they do not sweat on hot days. Allah has given them such a perfect system, whereas we, human beings, immediately sweat when we run even for half an hour. But dogs never sweat even if they run for hours. Now that you have learned this fact, you don't have to worry about dogs when you see them with their tongues lolling out on hot days.

Also, if you think about dogs, you will remember that their bodies are always very soft and bright. What gives this softness and brightness to their skin is its oil glands.

There are some special systems within dogs' bodies. Thanks to these systems, the paws of a dog are never hurt, nor do they wear out and their claws never become irritated. As you see, our Lord has solved even a minor problem of one creature by means of a protective mechanism He has designed for it. Our Lord creates everything in harmony. As this example also shows, Allah has equipped all creatures with the abilities they need. Such examples lead us to think and to realise the artistry in our Lord's creation.

LITTLE WHITE LAMBS

You have most probably noticed that all lambs have tiny, cute innocent faces. There are also those bigger ones that closely resemble them. They are the mothers of the lambs, that is the ewes. Do you know that there are strong bonds between the lamb and her mother? These strong bonds are established by the time the ewes begin to feed the lambs.

By the time the ewe gives birth to her lamb, she never forgets its smell and the taste she senses while she cleans it with her tongue. That is why, she never accepts another lamb having a different taste and smell. This is really astonishing! While a mother in a hospital may well accept somebody else's baby given to her, a ewe can readily distinguish her own lamb from all others in a crowded flock.

However, the ewe has not much time to get to know her own young one; she has to manage this as soon as she delivers the lamb. Otherwise, she could never find her lamb in a crowded flock again. Yet, she is never afflicted with such a problem, because Allah inspires her to lick her offspring as soon as she gives birth to it so that she can know its taste and smell.

Well, do you know what protects a lamb from rain? Its skin! As lambskin consists of a soft fatty layer, it serves as a raincoat preventing the lamb from becoming wet. This makes its wool curl and remain dry on rainy days.

Besides, one of the most important characteristics of lambs is their rumination. Have you ever seen an animal ruminating? Let us tell you about it. Some animals that feed on grass ruminate. Characteristically, these animals have a stomach divided into four compartments. When the animal eats something, the food first goes to the stomach then comes back to the mouth again. After the animal chews it, it goes to the other chamber of the stomach. This process is called "rumination". Our Lord has given this capability to some animals the better to digest some indigestible foods.

Sheep and lambs have many uses for us. Every day they provide milk, and sheep milk is commonly drunk and used in many parts of the world. The calcium in milk is essential for the development of bones and teeth. Some basic foods such as yoghurt and cheese are made of milk. Milk is also used for making cakes, pastry and other dishes. In short, milk is one of the most useful nutriments that we use everyday. Furthermore, yarns produced from their wool are used in weaving cloth for us. Yarns and threads used in many other fields have made our lives easier. In the Qur'an, which is the Book Allah has sent down to people, the uses these animals provide men are related as follows:

Allah has made your houses places of rest for you and made houses for you out of cattle hides which are light for you to carry both when you are travelling and when you are staying in one place. And from their wool and fur and hair you obtain clothing and carpets and household utensils for a time. (Surat an-Nahl: 80)

We give you pure milk to drink, easy for drinkers to swallow. (Surat an-Nahl: 80)

As mentioned in these verses, we benefit from sheep and lambs. We should be very grateful for these blessings that Allah has created for us.

OUR FAITHFUL FRIENDS: HORSES

Do you know that after dogs, our most loyal friends are horses? Domestic horses never leave their owners if they are able not to.

These loyal friends can carry us kilometres without becoming tired. Horses are the animals that have helped man most throughout history.

Today, you can see thousands of cars on the streets and there are many motorways built for these cars. Cars, however, came into the service of man only in the last century. At the time your grandfather's grandfather was born, there were no cars. In those years, animals, especially horses, were used for transportation.

Do you know that you can identify the age of a horse by looking at its incisors? Indeed, since the grass on which horses feed contains sand and dust, their teeth wear out gradually and the degree of this indicates their age. Despite this, however, horses' teeth are very long. These teeth are similar to long strips buried deep in the roots of the jawbone. That is, compared to our teeth, the roots of horses' teeth reside deep inside. As the teeth wear out, the part remaining in the jawbone begins to emerge. In fact, the roots of the teeth of very old horses appear on the surface of the gum. Each tooth may wear out about two and a half to five centimetres (one to two inches) before it loses its ability to chew. Think for a moment: had our Lord not given this feature to horses, these animals would quickly lose their teeth and die of starvation.

Our Lord has also given another important ability to the hair of horses. Horsehair serves as a thermostat - a device used to regulate body temperature - for the animal. Their body must always remain at a constant body temperature of 38 degrees Centigrade (100.4 F). To maintain this temperature, the hair of the horse becomes longer in winter. In hot seasons, horses shed their hair, thereby maintaining this body temperature.

Here is another interesting feature of horses: Horses sleep on their feet! Do you know how they manage not to fall down? Because their leg bones have the ability to lock themselves while asleep. Thanks to this ability our Lord has given horses, they can sleep on their feet and also carry very heavy loads. The heads of human beings, however, fall down even when they fall asleep in an armchair.

Horses' legs are specially created not only to make them carry heavy loads but also to make them run very fast. Unlike other animals, horses do not have collarbones, a feature that enables them to take bigger steps. Besides, there is a bone-muscle mechanism in their limbs that, as they gain speed, decreases the amount of energy they spend and increases their ability to move. The functioning principles of this mechanism is similar to the gear mechanism in cars. Just as an accelerating car shifts to a higher gear, horses, too, shift to a higher gear when they want to run faster. While the force required for pushing decreases, the ability to move increases.

Well, why are horses' bodies designed in a way to make them carry heavy loads and run very fast? Actually, carrying heavy loads or running very fast are not skills that a horse needs for itself. So, why do horses have these abilities?

The answer is obvious. These skills have been given to horses not to meet their own needs but to serve human beings. In other words, Allah has created horses with these abilities so that they can serve human beings. In the Qur'an, our Lord stresses that He has created animals to serve people:

And He created livestock. There is warmth for you in them, and various uses and some you eat. And there is beauty in them for you in the evening when you bring them home and in the morning when you drive them out to graze. They carry your loads to lands you would never reach except with great difficulty. Your Lord is All-Gentle, Most Merciful. And horses, mules and donkeys both to ride and for adornment. And He creates other things you do not know. (Surat an-Nahl: 5-8)