Anyone who has ever followed my posts or viewed my social media pages for more than
three minutes knows my wife and I adore our dogs. They go just about everywhere with us, and they’ve accompanied us to high adventures on water, land, and caves in ten states and
counting. Callie, our oldest, has always been an enigma. She’s tough as a horseshoe, yet gentle enough to have certified as a therapy dog. She’s scrambled sixty-degree boulder faces, toured hospitals, schools and courthouses, canoed rivers, and stolen beer from complete strangers. She’s a dog’s dog, and a people pleaser. A dog lover couldn’t ask for more.
Callie was abandoned in a ditch at eight weeks, and we adopted her a day later. Subsequently, we’ve never been quite sure of her background. Ask half a dozen veterinarians about her breed, and you’d get six different answers.
Frankly, it hardly matters. She’s our Callie, and breed pales relative to love, courage, and loyalty. That said, I was always curious. My wife knew I had a hankering to know, and so her Christmas present this last year was a dog DNA kit. The kit was supplied by a company called Embark (see what they did there?), and while this is certainly not an ad for them, I can tell you they treated us right.
The kit provided what is essentially a cotton swab dipped in science goo that we used to collect a saliva sample. Callie was totally cool with me swabbing between her cheek and gum for the allotted thirty seconds, though I kept thinking she might bolt at any moment. We then sealed the sample in an envelope they provided and sent it off to be analyzed.
The company updated us frequently as to how the test was proceeding, and after a period of time we were rewarded with Callie’s breed mix: 50% boxer, 26% Siberian Husky, and 24% Golden Retriever. Suddenly it all made sense; the way she moved and played, how she loved and protected, and even the markings in her fur all came into focus. What she was and where she came from didn’t matter one whit, but knowing some of those answers was a true joy.
What’s more, the company continues to send us updates on potential genetic conditions and familial matches based on their growing database. Just like a human DNA registry, canine registries are growing exponentially. This has allowed us to “meet” potential
family members with as close as a 95% DNA match. That means we’ve found first cousins and possibly even half siblings from as far away as Maine and the Carolinas. That just blows my mind, and it also makes me think her father is out there riding trains and trucks like a hobo, cavorting with every female he meets coast to coast. Somebody get that boy fixed!
Listen, knowing the breed of a dog is about as important as knowing the ancestry of your friends. In the end, it’s what is in their hearts, their actions, and their loyalty that really matters. That said, I have enjoyed this Christmas present about as much as any I’ve ever received. Having some of the history of this good dog revealed to us has been a hoot. The only thing better is knowing she will always be a part of this family.