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A Mutt, Just Like Obama

We’ve always wondered about the provenance of our one-and-a-half year old dog, Maggie. That she defines mutt there can be no doubt: my wife picked her out from a litter of Heights pups that were to the canine world what the UN is to humans.

Now, thanks to a Tennessee company called Biopet, we know the answers to all our questions.

Biopet uses the same techniques for dogs as local company Family Tree DNA does for humans. For a little over $50, they send you a kit with a swab, which you rub around on the dog’s gums for 30 seconds. You send it back to them and get your results pretty fast. (Not only do they tell you about your dog’s breeds and personality, but also health risks your pet might be inclined toward.)

Maggie had presented us with quite a puzzle...

She’s mainly a sort of burnt orange color that camouflages her when she’s sleeping on a hardwood floor, and about medium-sized, with a thick torso that makes her head look way too small.

She doesn’t bark a whole lot, but as she has grown older, she has become more protective of the family, except for one episode of rank cowardice: When some yard men unexpectedly entered her backyard domain, she ran away in abject terror and hid under the dining room table.

She has an abiding hatred of water, and is very good with our 12-year-old son and four-year-old daughter, but she did chase a special-needs neighbor kid, who later admitted he had been teasing her through our fence.

She is a grudgingly obedient dog. She’ll mostly come when called, but if she slips her leash she’ll roam for half a block until her curiosity is satisfied. If she sees a squirrel or another dog, all bets are off, though.

As for her assortment of breeds…

My wife Jacqueline thought that the way she held her tail in a circle folded over her back was a dead giveaway that Maggie was part Chow. I agreed, but why didn’t she have the black tongue or bushy coat?

As she grew older, I thought I could detect in her furrowed brow a most unlikely breed of ancestor: the Shar-pei. But again, where was the black tongue, and how likely would it be for our mutt to have such an exotic ancestor?

And it turns out Jacqueline and I were both right about Maggie. Jacqueline a little more so: according to the handsome, frameable certificate they sent us with the test results, Maggie is between 20 and 36 percent Chow, but also less than 10 percent Shar-Pei.

The report says that Chows “must see the point of commands,” which definitely sounds like Maggie, as does the report’s assertion that Shar-Peis “will go to great lengths to avoid water.” She is also 10-19 percent German Shepherd and less than 10 percent miniature pinscher. From the latter, I believe she gets her coloring and little head, but she seems to have taken nothing from her German Shepherd ancestors.

But the number one breed, with a percentage between 37 and 74 percent, was a shock.

Apparently, at the very least a plurality of Maggie’s genes come from the Great Pyrenees.

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Save for a fold of flesh around her neck, Maggie has absolutely no resemblance to these huge, white St. Bernards of the Spanish mountains, but then Jacqueline remembered that several of Maggie’s littermates were both white and judging by their enormous paws, well on their way to being very large dogs.

“I thought they were white because they were part Lab,” she remembered. “I didn’t choose any of them because Labs are spazzes until they are about five.” So she picked Maggie, sort of out of pity for the runt and also because she was apparently the least Lab-like.

But now we know that she is not Lab at all. Instead, she’s a Germanees Chow-Pei Pinscher, and we have the framed certificate to prove it.

John Nova Lomax

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