People have often wondered where such a dapper gentleman gets his good looks. Well, firstly, from God. Since I was adopted from the Humane Society (which my parents HIGHLY recommend- they say I’m the best dog they’ve ever had) the details of my background and lineage has never exactly been known.
Me as a little pup, wasn’t I all downy and cute?
That doesn’t stop people from guessing though. My parents were told by the shelter that I was an Australian Shepherd/Labrador retriever mix, but in addition to those breeds people have guessed Catahoula leopard dog and blue heeler. My mom has wondered if I have some sort of hound dog thrown in for good measure as I love to bay like a beagle when I’m not getting the necessary amount of attention that I require for survival. I follow Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – my safety and social belonging are very important to me.
Anyway, my parents decided it was high time we figured out what, exactly, I am, other than Ralph the Wonder Dog (formerly Ralph the Medicine Dog who would diagnose ear infections – true story for another time, or Ralph the Ear Cleaning Dog – same vein, different specialty).
So to solve this mystery once and for all, who am I?
Am I part bunny?
My vote is for baby human, but my parents weren’t so sure so they went to the experts at Wisdom Panel. Wisdom Panel is owned by Mars, Incorporated- the same people who ironically enough manufacture chocolate which could be deadly if I ate it. They are the leader in canine DNA tests in the world so my parents thought they’d be a safe bet. They’ve been researching dog genes since 1999 and started Wisdom Health in 2005. All that translates to lots of stored data- they have identified the most useful DNA SNP markers to distinguish (hey I’m distinguished) between different dog breeds. They’ve turned those over 1,800 markers into breed signatures specific to each breed. They have now amassed more than 15,000 samples of those breed signatures which gives them the largest database in the world.
So on a balmy fall day we set out to solve the mystery that has been plaguing our household for the past 9 years. Well, that’s a little more dramatic than it has been but don’t I look wise with my Wisdom Panel tucked just so on my paw? Think of unicorns and rainbows Ralph, unicorns and rainbows.
As you may be able to see from the infographic on the box – they make this kit so easy a dog could do it. One thing to note that my parents didn’t know initially is you have to wait a couple hours before swabbing. This is likely to make sure none of the DNA from the food I ate gets mixed in with my DNA, that would throw things off and I might come back as being part chicken, salmon, or any number of things I could have eaten.
This part wasn’t as fun but I tolerated it just fine; easygoing guy that I am. Just take the swab and roll it around in your dog’s cheek a bit. The kit will give you specific directions.
They give you two swabs to ensure you don’t mess something up. Good idea Wisdom Panel, you thought of everything.
Now I’m studying their schematics to see what to do next. Let’s see, you let it dry then put the swabs in an envelope they give you. You also go online to register and get your ID number to write on the envelope (otherwise they won’t know who you are). Pretty straightforward.
We got updates emailed to us when it was received. It was very fast, great job Mr. USPS- I will stop barking at you when you come to my door. Oh who am I kidding, I love scaring you and making you think I’m super vicious every time you come up our steps with one of those Amazon boxes. We also got updates when it was processed, and when the results were in.
I’m checking my email, just checking my email….
It only took a little over two weeks, and finally the results were in. Unfortunately Wisdom Panel doesn’t provide Maury Povich to read the results (I’m a big fan of his work, though).
They do come through with an easy to read pie chart that breaks down my breeds by percentage. So it only adds up to 62.5 because I guess not all of my genes were in their database or the amounts were too small to figure out?
So those of you who guessed that I’m Lab and Australian Shepherd were correct. I was surprised to learn I have Australian Terrier as I 1) did not know this existed, and 2) I’m a lot bigger than a terrier. The German Shepherd was pretty cool to learn too, K-9 school, here I come!
Here’s a little bit about each breed (Information gathered from the AKC website and wikipedia for the terrier):
Labrador retriever (25%):
Height: 22.5-24.5″ (male), 21.5″-23.5″ (female)
Weight: 65-80 lbs (male), 55-70 lbs (female)
Life expectancy: 10-12 years
Labs are known for their friendliness and are great with families due to their affectionate nature. They also need lots of exercise to keep physically and mentally fit. They are the most popular AKC breed, for good reason.
Australian Shepherd (12.5%):
Height: 20-23″ (male), 18-21″ (female)
Weight: 50-65 lbs (male), 40-55 lbs (female)
Life expectancy: 12-15 years
Aussies are extremely intelligent and love to herd anything (I can attest for that as I love to herd my children). They have lots of energy and are trainable.
German Shepherd (12.5%):
Height: 24-26″ (male), 22-24″ (female)
Weight: 65-90 lbs (male), 50-70 lbs (female)
Life expectancy: 7-10 years
The German Shepherd’s best feature is its character- they are loyal, with courage, confidence, they can learn commands for many tasks and will put their life on the line to protect a loved one. For this reason they often work alongside police officers and soldiers. They do make wonderful guardians and family pets but can be aloof. Fortunately I didn’t inherit any aloofness.
Australian Terrier (12.5%):
Weight: 15-20 lbs
Life expectancy: 11-15 years
Australian terriers are alert, smart, and like to chase small furry animals (left over from being bred to get rid of rats and mice). They tend to love people and are especially loving towards babies, small children and people with disabilities.
I can see some of these features in who I am, and my mom is hoping my life expectancy is more in line with the 15 years for the terrier or Aussie. It is neat to finally know more about my lineage, but ultimately I am who I am regardless of breed or background, and that is a wonderful thing.