Well, here’s the deal. Charlie is a mutt, we know this. So a couple weeks ago, my husband and I went to Petco and picked up a DNA kit. After seeing the results of two of his litter mates, I was very curious to know what might be coursing through his little veins. His brother had different sire markers than his sister; but they shared the same dam markers… so because Charlie seems to be the only one in his brood with all his unique Bernese Mountain Dog / Border Collie -esque markings, we thought: if they can have different dads, then so can he. What I didn’t expect was the totally WHAT?! results we got. If you read these three together, you’d say that Charlie was a stowaway.
Anyway… back to two weeks ago: after a three-hour rest in his crate and on a snow-day, my son held him quietly and I swabbed between his inner cheek and his teeth.
Charlie’s cheek, not my son’s.
And then I sealed up the kit and sent it to the lab for reading. The lab received it on March 10. After much curiosity and ado, Charlie’s DNA results came in over email last night at 11:21.
I woke this morning, after expressing my gratitude for waking and being healthy, I rolled over, kissed my husband, then rolled back over, sat up, scratched my head, did a quick cat / cow to wake my back and then woke my son. After that, I went to get my smartphone and read my email.
At the bottom of a long line of messages, mostly of newspaper alerts and Daily Om messages, was a note from the DNA people.
I know you’re champing at the bit. So here… Read below … toot.
My heart literally stopped for a moment.
Small dog. Wiener dog.
“Labrador retriever” went right past me. Didn’t even register.
Dachsund. All I could think about was the Dachsund part.
NO NO NO NO NO.
I am a Big Dog Person. I see small dogs and immediately I go into “snarly nasty gnashing clawing” dog-vision mode. I am biased. But beyond that, I mean… no. Charlie’s legs are probably 15″ long and his proportions are … proportional. I don’t dislike small dogs, I just don’t like them. Every small dog I’ve ever met on a walk with The Murph has been nasty and unpleasant.
I contacted the owners of his siblings to let them know the results because we’re all in this together, and as I mentioned, they had the same DNA test performed on Charlie’s sister and brother, and their results didn’t mention D…ach…sund (uch. I can’t even say it.) at all.
The fact that the lineage goes alllllllllllllll the way back to his great grandparents and only one on each side out of eight means I get a refund annnnnnd further analysis of their veterinary team and other dog people (not people who are actually dogs) who will look at his pictures and compare his results with his siblings’ results (which look more comprehensive than Charlie’s) and they’ll get back to me with more guesses.
What this means to me, is that basically, they will have people like me who love dogs and who know breeds and who love dogs and who will look at pictures and talk about how cool looking he is and that will be it.
His sibs each have a mention of Basenji in them. I liked that. They don’t shed. (I’m hoping for something beneficial beyond utter cuteness and boundless affection.)
It brings me great joy to say about Charlie that when we talk about the term “rescue” that it has always been a foreign concept to me. All my dogs have been bred for captivity. All of them are thoroughbreds. All of them were “spoken for” here before they were born. I’ve mentioned this before, but I didn’t really understand what was going on here, when we took in Charlie. His presence in this family has rescued us. It has lifted up our collective spirits after a time of great loss.
When we first met Charlie, he was 12# 4oz. He couldn’t reach the ottoman in our family room. He was smaller than our cats. He could slide under the kitchen chairs and noodle into the crick of your elbow and fall asleep there, likely dreaming of his dark and roofless caved-in deserted home that he knew for all of his life before he came to know car rides, warm laps, children’s laughter, music, carpeting, safety, and predictable mealtimes.
I remember fondly the first moment we had together outside after his inaugural night here. He trotted out the back door of our home and licked the dewy grass that was glistening in the low morning sun. That was how he got water. I took him out front and he lapped from a puddle of rainwater on the street. He didn’t know about bowls. He didn’t know about doors and steps and leashes. He was a wild dog.
Oh! How he hated his crate. He howled like a pentecostal preacher whenever he’d get in it. Yelping in tongues; if he had a can to drag against the grid, he would. After about a week of that, he began to understand that the crate was his new cave; his new refuge and that every time he went in it — no matter how often a day, a treat was always waiting for him. All we have to do now is say “kennel!” and he takes off like a jackrabbit and careens through the house to zip like a snake into his crate where he is practically smiling waiting for a treat. He has become a true Virginia Gentleman: ready at the door to greet with a smile and sincere good cheer.
Oh, how his beautiful little ears flop and bounce in the wind when he runs; his lean teenager legs taking him wherever his eyes wander. Squirrels, birds, the dogs across the fence. Gandalf. Ohhhh… if he could eat / mate / kill / harvest Gandalf, how happy he would be.
Charlie rescued Murphy, our six-year-old Golden, who was becoming more reclusive with the months. Something has spooked Murphy, we’ll never know what it is because he can’t talk, but Charlie has encouraged him to come back to us, to beg for a treat, to compete for a snuggle and lunge for a tennis ball again.
We talk about “rescue” as if we are doing the saving.
We talk about “rescue” as if we are somehow the better person, the more noble endeavor that shows our heart and our bigness to the world: Look at me save this animal from a tragic end; look at me, how big my heart is, to let in this creature who had no where else to go…
What we don’t realize is that we are the ones who are saved.
It doesn’t matter what breed Charlie “is.” It’s purely a matter of curiosity and predicted dog behavior for me; I want to make sure I could train him right and understand any tendencies he showed. But in the end, aren’t most dogs the same? They bark, they play, they whine, they need love, they need protection and they are fiercely loyal. Charlie didn’t come to us as an adult. His only story is 8-10 weeks older than when we met him.
Today, he is about 33# and stands about 18″ tall. He has a mighty front chest; we’re talking very broad. His fur rivals that of a brushed sheep. His hair (on his head) is still just … crazy; he always has bed head. His eyes are deep dark chocolate. I don’t know what kind of dog has dark eyes like that… maybe a poodle? Does any of it matter? If he stayed this size, I’d be thrilled. Charlie has turned me into a Small Dog Person because he has a big heart.
We know what Charlie is. Charlie is our dog and Murphy’s brother.
ps — it’s so nice to be writing again. This is my 400th post! 🙂