A Doggie (DNA) Christmas

Week 51: #52 Ancestors – Holidays

By Eilene Lyon

Santa’s Surprises

Sometimes a pet story is too cute not to share. While The Putterer was in town, I got out all the gifts I needed to wrap. When I took them upstairs to put under the tree, I discovered that Sterling had snuck into my office, made off with his new toy, and deposited it in the living room—still attached to the cardboard.

“Sterling! You ruined Santa’s surprise,” I scolded him and proceeded to put the toy (minus cardboard) and some other goodies into his stocking on the fireplace.

He looked longingly at the stocking for a bit, “Whadya do that for, Mom?”

He ignored it for several days, then the evening of Christmas Eve came around and, just like me and my brothers when we were kids, Sterling decided the anticipation was too much. He went over to the fireplace and stretched his neck and nose as far as he could.

“Please, please, please, can I have my presents now?!!” he seemed to be saying. Oh. All. Right.

The next morning, I began opening my gifts from The Putterer. As soon as I saw the word “Embark” peeking from the torn wrapping, I knew it was the DNA kit I’d been meaning to buy for Sterling for months. Not only had he purchased it, he’d taken the cheek swab and sent it in. The results came back the day before Christmas.

Oh boy!

Sterling’s Story

Eight years ago, we decided to find another dog to be part of our family…

Sterling soon after he came to live with us, about 9 months old.

A fluffy, cream-colored puppy, just about two months old, decided to leave home and explore the world. A kind soul spotted him on his adventure and took him to the shelter in Aztec, New Mexico. He was adopted by a family from Farmington who wanted a companion for a dog already in their household.

The puppy, wanderlust strong in his heart, repeatedly hopped the fence to go sightseeing and ended up in doggy jail. The parents decided he wasn’t a good fit and put a photo of him on Craigslist, where I spotted it and knew we were a match.

Sterling (not the name he’d originally been given) was neglected, but not abused, and obviously a happy guy at 8 months old. He came home with us and we’ve been family ever since. (He still hasn’t outgrown that wanderlust, unfortunately.)

Though he’d been billed as a lab mix on his paperwork, his fur coat, small ears, and body shape are not lab-like at all. He does love the water and is very friendly. But a retriever, he ain’t.

“What’s in here, Ma?” Curious puppy!

It seemed obvious to me that his love for the cold and snow, his thick, longish hair—especially the ruff around his neck—head shape and short, floppy ears, looked very much like a Great Pyrenees. He even has dew claws on his hind feet (though single, not double like a Pyrenees).

But there’s no way he could be a Pyrenees-Lab mix. A dog like that would top a hundred pounds, easy. Sterling has maxed out around 65 pounds. He has some similarities to our late heeler-mix dog. If Sterling had come from a farm or ranch, especially one with sheep, he very well could be a Pyrenees-heeler combo.

Sterling is pretty chilled out now at 8-1/2 years old. (Showing off his Flying-Nun-hat ears.)
The DNA Story

First of all: Does it really matter? Sterling is still Sterling and finding out his breed make-up doesn’t change that. But much like when I DNA-tested my family, surprises can change your perspective about people (and dogs). Secrets revealed bring up unexpected emotions.

Second of all: I was absolutely incorrect about the Pyrenees. Sigh. We do hate to be wrong. If Kyra (the heeler mix) was still around, I’d have to get her tested to see if my guess about her was right. Too late for that, though.

Befitting a genealogist’s dog, Sterling now has his very own family tree, and “ethnicity” estimate. He’s truly a dog of the world: Siberia, Australia, Germany, America.

Images from Embarkvet.com

So, maybe we should invest in a dog sled? Or take up doggy ski-joring?

Sledding at the Durango Dog Ranch in 2020. Sterling would fit right in with this bunch!

Feature image: Our first Christmas with Sterling. He didn’t care to pose with Santa’s hat.

45 thoughts on “A Doggie (DNA) Christmas

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  1. Love it, so like what I put up with, maybe I need one of those DNA kits~! She too is possessive of her “toys”, The maid goes around the house picking them all up and putting them her “toy box”, watching this process I told her “they will not stay”, sure enough, they were taken out one at a time and scattered all over the house again… After all they are her toys and her house and she was not going to let that stranger who is only around (sometime) and has no business messing with her things~!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a fun story this was Eilene. I had no idea that there were genealogy kits for dogs. I have a good friend who raised golden retrievers and tracked with them for years and I just sent her a link to your post. She will be interested to learn this. I thought I was very cool when I was a kid as my Cocker Spaniel had a nose print from Wag-a-Way kennels where we bought him. Of course, that was a long time ago, circa 1962 or 1963. I laughed at Sterling taking his toy, then miffed at you for putting it into his stocking for later. 🙂 You have to love pets sometimes.

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      1. I just Googled and discovered exactly that Eilene – I would have never guessed and when I Googled, they have videos showing how they are made and it was something done in the 60s. Interesting! Since you have DNA for Sterling now, here is a little factoid for you: “Dogs’ noses, like human fingerprints, are unique to that specific animal; your dog is, in fact, entirely one of a kind.”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I had no idea there are DNA kits for dogs. This is fantastic! Love the Christmas story too. Isn’t it funny how they’re so much like little kids? My parents have a German Shepherd who LOVES presents.🎁

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sterling is so cute – since labs and huskies are two of my favourite dog breeds, it’s not surprising I think so! I had a doggie Christmas for the first time ever this year with my brother’s adorable dog Kona, who I met for the first time on this trip. She’s a German Shepherd as far as we know (she came from a similar situation as Sterling – she was too high energy for the family who got her and they were neglecting her. My brother heard about it from a friend who knew the family, and he adopted her), but she’s quite small for a Shepherd, so I might have to get my brother a doggie DNA test next year to see if there’s a surprise in her DNA too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like you were able to visit Cleveland for the holidays. I’m sure that was a welcome visit for everyone. Sterling really is adorable. It seems unfair to pick favorites, but he really has been my favorite dog. Maybe I’ll say that about the next one and the next one…

      Liked by 1 person

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