Week 51: #52 Ancestors – Holidays
By Eilene Lyon
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.
Eight years ago, we decided to find another dog to be part of our family…
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.
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.
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.
So, maybe we should invest in a dog sled? Or take up doggy ski-joring?
Feature image: Our first Christmas with Sterling. He didn’t care to pose with Santa’s hat.