About six years ago, we adopted an eight-month-old "beagle mix" from a wonderful organization called Hearts United for Animals out of Auburn, Nebraska. HUA takes in dogs of all types and origins, especially dogs that have been prisoners of puppy mills. Dogs that aren't adoptable for whatever reason become 'shelter sweethearts" and stay at the multi-acre facility for the rest of their lives.
Being clever scientists and already having two cats named Vector and Chaos, we had to think hard about what we would name our new furry friend. I actually came up with the name: Darwin. When we figured out his age (he was more likely 4-5 months old when he joined us), we back calculated that he was probably born in February. Since Charles Darwin's birthday is February 12th, that seemed like the natural day to denote as "Darwin's birthday".
And here he is: If he's a beagle mix, it must be beagle mixed with elephant. Said pup is about 45 pounds. I have to admit that I am not a natural dog person. I have always had cats; however, my best friend once described Darwin as "a dog for people who think they don't like dogs".
Although he's calmed down considerably from his puppy days, he remains a serious mooch for affection, making everyone we meet sure that this poor dog gets absolutely no love at home since he is so starved for affection. If you start rubbing his tummy, you'd better not stop because he will use his right front paw to direct your hand back to his belly.
Darwin is a mutt without a past: he was found wandering on the Nebraska-Iowa border and nothing more is known about his parentage or lineage. From my six years with him, I can tell you that he likes everyone and everything, including cats and especially small children. He chases rabbits and squirrel, but not nearly with the enthusiasm he had when he was younger. About the only thing he doesn't like are Dachshunds, as one bit him when he was younger and he's been a little wary of them ever since. He also rolls his eyes when the toy poodles next door start their chorus of yaps every time he goes out for a walk, but in general, he loves tiny dogs - quiet tiny dogs.
Among Darwin's Christmas presents was one of those genetic tests that promises to tell you what breeds have contributed to your dog. I don't know how he got the test. He doesn't fly. I don't think he's ever seen a SkyMall magazine and his best buddy, Kona, is a stay-at-home dog whom I can't picture shopping over the Internet. The rawhide present got Darwin's attention a bit more than the test, but the humans in the family were intrigued at the prospect of finding out what patchwork of chromosomes and DNA make up our much-loved buddy.
The kit you use to do the test is fairly straightforward (and shown below) : Some cotton swabs and strict instructions not to cross-contaminate your sample. For example, if your dog and another dog share drinking bowls, they can mix DNA. We have it easy, as Darwin is the only dog in the family. You swab the inside of the dog's mouth, seal the swabs in the submission envelope and send them in.
The test gives you four contributory breeds, each with a contribution level. For example, a purebred poodle would be poodle (1). A labradoodle (a labrador/poodle) would be labrador(2)/poodle (2).
What do you think? I'll leave the post open for predictions for a while and then reveal the results.