happy darwin’s birthday: it’s a dog’s life, part 1


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".

DSCN0132 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.

DSCN0228Among 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.

DNATest I put the pictures up not just to show off my pup,  but to invite CPP readers to submit their guesses about what the test revealed as to Darwin's ancestry. 

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. 


16 thoughts on “happy darwin’s birthday: it’s a dog’s life, part 1”

  1. Well, first of all Darwin’s face is so full of love and content I couldn’t stop staring at his picture 🙂
    Dogs that have been rescued seem to be aware of that, at least to me.
    I would love to know what breed my two are.
    I’m guessing poodle, Maltese and the other Cocker/poodle?
    Darwin, could have some Shepherd in him based on his body shape.
    Thanks for the fun story and for taking in Darwin.

  2. diandra@trivalent-productions.com

    Irene: We are the lucky ones for having the Big D.
    Hold off on getting that genetic test for your two until the second part of the article!

  3. Back in the 70s, we adopted Foster, who we were told was a beagle mix.
    Years later, we came to the conclusion that Foster was, as near as possible, a Texas pig-dog. This is a non-AKC registered breed that corresponds to a hunting hound, closely related to coonhounds, that tracks and quarters feral pigs.
    He was a brilliant dog, absolutely attentive to formal commands, but also inclined to chase after prey. He took off after a rabbit one night, and we called and called, but he was hit by a truck.

  4. I miss him so much. I still blame myself, for treating him like a household pet and not giving him a real job to do.
    This is why I don’t have dogs today.

  5. Hi Darwin happy birthday. Sascha here from the Renaissance Mathematicus don’t let all this rubbish about races get to you. We real dogs have got to stick together against the label mafia. A dog is a dog is a dog….and that’s all.

  6. What an adorable dog! I’m guessing that he has some retriever in him simply because there seems to be quite a lot of them about.

  7. I remember my howdy puppy! She was just 4 months when I adopted her. She was just strolling on street. She’s now 1 year and half now. I love my puppy like you do. I’m planning to apply an insurance for her soon.

  8. What do I think? Well, I think, what is the point of DNA-profiling your dog? If you do it to know what potential dangers lie ahead (say, a potential cancer), fine, but just to know his pedigree? He´s a dog, by Pete´s Sake. Just love him.

  9. diandra@trivalent-productions.com

    Arturo: The initiator of this investigation was that a friend bought him the doggie profile kit. Since the husband and I are constantly having minor spats over one of those silly married things (whether it is appropriate to refer to him as a beagle mix), we thought it would be a fun thing to learn a little more about Darwin, and about what makes dogs different from each other. Given that dogs have a huge, huge range of variations within a single species, the scientist in us finds that interesting.
    No test would ever change how we feel about the pooch that has shared his life with us for six years (and counting). It was simple curiosity.

  10. I got one of those tests at a big box petstore because I was curious about my dog. But after I read the reviews on Amazon.com, I was a little sorry I got it. Unusually, the product reviews were 1/2 4-5s and 1/2 1-2s. Hope you had a better experience than the folks who complained that they knew their dog couldn’t be what the tests showed. After reading that, I haven’t bothered to do the actual test so I’m curious to read about your experience. Susan E

  11. Looks like a hound. The temperment you describe is certainly beagle! Happy Birthday Darwin. Glad you found your Home.

  12. Darwin looks a look like my dog, Ella, who we refer to as a “hound mix”. She’s a little broader-chested and shorter legged, perhaps, but the resemblance is a good one. We know she’s got some hound in her because she hates the water and she loves chasing rabbits (she actually caught one once – oops). She’s a barker, not a bayer, though, so she’s got some other blend in her too. Other people have suggested shepherd, because of the coloring, but hounds have that coloring too. Her ears are a little lacking for hound ears, too, I can tell she’s a little embarrassed about the shortness of her ears, but Darwin’s look right in line, and he’s got the hound dome-head too.
    A friend got the test done for her dog, who looks almost 100% pit bull, and it came back as some sort of sheep dog. I’ve been suspect of those tests ever since.
    I would be curious to know what it shows for Darwin, though.

  13. “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.”
    LOL! My sister has two dogs and one of them (a mutt which must have some Husky in it) has a similar behaviour. When you are sitting in a chair/sofa she will come up to you and nudge you or look at you intently and expect to be petted. If the petting is good enough she apparently goes into a trance and her knees get weak and she slumps to the floor. On the floor she is harder to reach, but the moment you stop petting she will raise her head and look at you (accusingly I imagine) and then start banging her right paw into the floor until you understand your purpose, which of course is to keep petting her.
    Dogs are wonderful.

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