So, now we know.
Through the wonders of science and marketing, I was recently able to get the final word on Hooper's genetic makeup. Two weeks ago, I had to take Hooper to the vet for his rabies and distemper shots, and I seized the opportunity to have them also draw blood for the Wisdom Panel DNA test. This test, a fairly new offering in the veterinary community, can identify the genetic markers of 134 AKC-recognized dog breeds from a blood sample. The price has dropped somewhat, to a still-expensive $120, but I thought it would be fun to know exactly what's goin' on there in Hooper's genetic makeup. So I said what the hell.
The test consists of drawing blood from the dog in question, and sending it off to the Wisdom Panel People for analysis. They are supposed to send you a full report in the mail, but so far that has not arrived. The veterinarian did get the results however, and they called us on Friday and left a voice mail message with the results. I waited for Brenda to get home from work before playing the second half of the message, so we could find out together. As we played the message, Hooper sat beside us, head tilted to the side, as we strained to listen to the message on the speakerphone; he could sense this news was important.
And so, according to the DNA analysis, Hooper is a slightly tainted Labrador Retriever. It's no shock to anyone who has seen him that he's a dog built on a Lab foundation, but just what the heck are the rest of the bits, this is what I paid my $120 to find out. The Humane Society we adopted him from guessed Border Collie, which I could believe from his smaller size, fringier tail and intense herding instinct. But it turns out, there's no Border Collie in there. Close, though...
Hooper Primo Avery Guglielmetti-King is a Labrador Retriever, with traces of Airedale Terrier, Bearded Collie, and--get this: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
So, yeah. Now we know.
The results spawned another round of dog breed research on my part, since all three of these trace breeds are breeds I hadn't previously had an interest in. The Bearded Collie, it turns out, is the progenitor of the Border Collie we thought Hooper was partly comprised of. So, that sorta makes sense. It's another herding breed, like the Border Collie, which helps explain Hooper's endless reserve of energy:
Bearded Collies are a very high energy breed, originally bred to work in the Scottish Highlands herding sheep. Beardies also excel at dog agility trials. They also prefer to be kept indoors with their families.
The Airedale Terrier threw me for a loop, as I have not really seen terrier-ish traits in Hoop (except maybe for his propensity for annoying bark fests). But the Airedale Terrier, as more of a working dog than a squirrel chaser as most terriers are, does make sense when you look at Hooper's behavior and interests:
The Airedale can be used as a working dog and also as a hunter. Airedales exhibit some herding characteristics as well, and have a propensity to chase animals. They have no problem working with cattle and livestock.
...explains Hooper's insistence on chasing Ellie all over the house...
The Airedale is also a stoic, able to withstand pain and injury, the Airedale's hurts and illnesses often go unnoticed until they become severe and require veterinary attention.
...explains the negligible reaction when I cut Hooper's nail to the quick and he bled all over the living room without so much as a yelp or a whimper...
The breed has also been called the Waterside Terrier, because it was bred originally to hunt otters in and around the valleys of the River Aire from whence it gets its name.
...explains his love for the water as much as his Lab foundation does.
Now, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Shit. A fucking toy breed, god dammit. At least, that was my first reaction. But the smaller size of that breed explains Hooper's topping out at 50lbs for a MostlyLab, instead of the more usual 85lbs for a purebred Lab. After some research, some other aspects of his personality can be traced back to this breed:
The breed is highly affectionate... Most dogs of the breed are playful, extremely patient and eager to please. A well-socialized Cavalier will not be shy about socializing with much larger dogs. (However, on occasion, this tendency can be dangerous, as many cavaliers will presume all other dogs to be equally friendly, and may attempt to greet and play with aggressive dogs.)
As I usually reply to strangers I encounter on the paths when they ask "Is your dog friendly?", "to a fault.". Unfortunately, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels also suffer from a long list of serious genetic defects (Royal Family, are you paying attention?), so we'll just have to hope that the traces Hooper got are just the good traces.
So it does seem that I can find personality and behavior markers in Hooper that match up quite well with the genetic markers they found in his blood. Was it worth it? I guess so. I do find the whole thing fascinating; ever since bringing Hooper home I have read quite a lot on dogs, dog breeds and canine natural history/evolution. So this was a fun little lab(oratory) experiment for me. Really, anything that gives one an insight into the history of their stray dog is worth a lot, if you ask me. I mean, how does a dog composed of a breed from Newfoundland and bits of three other breeds all from the United Kingdom end up on the street in Vernal, Utah?
When Hooper leaps into the water at the East Boulder Dog Park, and swims out to the ball like a nuclear submarine at full power, this genetic exercise helps refine the scene that I'm watching. But at the same time, none of it matters. Hooper is Hooper. He loves me, he loves the water, he loves to eat, play, and sleep. He's a dog, a great dog, and that's really all that matters.