Thursday, June 2, 2011

100th Post! The Dexter Dog DNA Drama (a co-written venture)

For my 100th post, I will for the first time do a co-written post with my lovely wife Karen; detailing the story of how we got our dog DNA tested and how we each felt about that.


So, remember when you were a kid and it was coming up to Christmas time? Maybe you didn't know what you wanted at first, but then there were all these TV commercials on for really awesome toys and your friends started talking about what they wanted for Christmas, and you found yourself thinking "Hey! Suddenly I feel like I really need a Barbie!" Maybe before you didn't really care about Barbies, but after hearing your friends talk about what kind of Barbies they had and what kind they wanted, you felt like you should care too. Pretty soon you do care, you care a LOT, and that Barbie is all you can think about. You tell your parents a million times that you want a Barbie for Christmas. They're not that enthused about it, but you know deep down they're really listening and come Christmas morning, that Barbie is coming your way.

This story is kind of like that.

At first I really didn't care what sort of dog Dexter was. We assumed he was at least mostly Lab, but since he's a rescue there was no way to know for sure. I was fine with that. Fine, that was, until we started going to the dog park. Standard small talk at the dog park generally involves what sort of dog you have, what sorts of messes they make and what silly things they've done. We can certainly tell stories about Dexter's antics, but when it came to his breed we were stumped. This was not an acceptable answer for the other dog owners at this park, the majority of whom have dogs of a most definite breed. The answer "he's a mutt of some sort" was generally met with blank stares and vague disbelief (as though not knowing was not an option), followed by some well-meaning guesses as to what Dexter might be like they needed to solve the puzzle. I started to feel like I needed to solve it too. Then one day a nice man made an offhand comment about having had his mutts DNA tested and, well, I was immediately hooked on the idea. And by hooked, I mean obsessed.

DNA testing a dog is stupid. I knew that. I still know it. There's no real reason to know your dog's breed, but I came up with some anyway. For example, I reasoned, if he is part Great Dane he will have a shortened life span as they do not live as long as some other breeds. We need (and I placed great emphasis on 'need') to know if he is even partially a Great Dane, because then we can care for him properly in his impending old age. Right? Sure.

The test was not as expensive as one might assume, which should have been my first clue that it was even more ridiculous than my husband claimed it probably was. I didn't care; I was cheek swabbing that dog, end of discussion. I checked the mail religiously for weeks afterward and nearly had an aneurysm when the results finally arrived. They were here! I opened the envelope with bated breath.

Remember that Barbie you wanted so much for Christmas? Imagine if, on Christmas morning, you ripped open the paper from the package you absolutely knew contained the thing you were longing for, only to discover that it was not a Barbie. It was some stupid knock-off version called Barbara. She was kind of like a Barbie (close enough, thought your parents), but her face was a little weird and her feet weren't shaped right so your other Barbie shoes wouldn't fit her, and her clothes were some 1976 polyester mess rather than Barbie's signature awesome styles. What is this crap? Who's Barbara?!


I hate when my husband is right.

A few years ago we adopted our dog, Dexter. He was a rescue from the Humane Society and as such, we were unsure of his exact lineage. It was quite obvious that he was mostly black lab. As he got older, though, he got bigger and bigger and it became evident that he may have some other breeds mixed in. He is taller than a standard lab and a bit faster running and sometimes barks sort of like a hound (Great Dane? Greyhound?)

At some point during the years of various people asking us what he was crossed with, my wife's curiosity piqued. I can't say that I wasn't interested, but it certainly never got to the same level. It started with the odd mention of 'I think it would be fun to have the dog DNA tested', which was met with little response from me. Then from time to time I would find her researching DNA test websites to compare the differences. At this point, the previous statement appeared in conversation more frequently. I then had to state my point of view, which was 'I think it's a waste of money. You're going to do it and then when the results are something ridiculous, you'll be disappointed and want to keep trying until you get the results you are happy with.'

She was on maternity leave at the time, so my go-to response was 'You can do it when you have a job.' I wasn't thinking very well, obviously, because of course, she would go back to work at some point. And of course, she wouldn't forget that I had said that.

So the time came when she was back at work and lo and behold, she ordered the kit and said 'you SAID I could when I was back at work.' Well, I couldn't argue with that logic.

The kit came and we did a cheek swab and sent it back. The hints that this might not be so accurate were right in the kit, which said things like 'what breed do you think your dog is' and 'would you like to include a picture of your dog for the certificate?'

2-4 weeks later we got it back, and as I had estimated it was a little bunk.
It said that Dexter was mostly Lab (as estimated), Australian Shepherd (okay I guess that's possible) and Maltese (wait, what?)

That can't be the case. Observe Dexter and the other breeds and their lack of similarities.

Here's Dexter (notice the fur and height, unlike labs):

This is an Australian Shepherd (some size and facial similarities, not at all the same fur and shorter in height):

This is a Maltese (wtf really?):

So naturally, as I so Nostradamically predicted, she was disappointed with the results and wanted to try more companies to see what he really is.

The moral of the story? You can't find out what your dog is by a DNA test and even if you can, it's more fun to come to your own conclusion anyways.


Okay, that is not the moral of the story. The ACTUAL moral is that expecting great science from a company you found on the internet is stupid, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't try again with a different company.

No comments:

Post a Comment