Sunday, January 29, 2012

Jumpin' Joplin

We took in Jumpin' Joplin from a shelter in Virginia. We're told he was a stray running the streets dodging traffic. He really needs a haircut, but he's adorable nonetheless.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Missy's DNA Results Are Here!

What do you get when you cross generations of lab mixes? A fuzzy, 30-pound Missy—apparently!

We were quite surprised to see how much lab showed up. And imagine our disbelief when the test showed that, with varying degrees of certainty, there might be skye terrier, cairn terrier, cocker spaniel, and basset hound in her. (Okay, I was pretty sure there was cocker in her to begin with.)

I might think this test is a hoax if I didn't know people who had results that actually resembled their dogs. But it gives me 100% proof that the next time someone asks, I can say Missy is a purebred mutt. Alright, honestly, it was just plain fun to do.

I've included the results here. We used Wisdom Panel Insights. We received their kit in the mail, swabbed Missy's cheek, then dropped it back in the mail. The results came in about 3 weeks later. I'm not endorsing them; I choose this test because a friend recommend it. (Oh, and it was on sale.)

Have you had your dog DNA tested? Were you surprised by the results?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

ADOPTED: More Than a Number

A series of numbers are tattooed inside Scout’s long, droopy ears. This was primarily how she was identified at the lab. But then she stepped paw inside our home and was given her forever name—Scout.

My colleague had always wanted to get a female dog and name her after the inquisitive young tomboy from To Kill a Mockingbird. When she took in a male dog, she named him Scout anyway. I hope her Scout Sr. doesn’t mind, but I borrowed his name. It turns out that the name helped find my Scout a home.

A potential adopter was browsing Petfinder looking for a beagle. She told me that as soon as she saw the name Scout, she knew it was meant to be. She had always wanted a dog named Scout. In fact, she wanted a Scout and an Atticus to go along with her current beagle who, although named Gracie, also responds to the nickname Boo. 

Scout (front) and her beagle sister, Gracie
This potential adopter—we’ll call them the Finch family—was quite heartbroken when I told them that our little Scout already had a home visit set up, but I promised to call if things didn’t work out. Well, things didn’t work out. The other potential adopter decided after our home visit and conversation that it wouldn’t be feasible with their schedule to housebreak a research beagle. (Another good example of why home visits are important.)

You can imagine how happy the Finch family was when I called to share this news and ask if they were still interested. We visited their home last night so Scout could meet Gracie (Boo.) It went marvelously, and Scout was adopted as a permanent member of the Finch family.

The dog previously known by the numbers forever marked in her ears will now forever be known as Scout. She’ll be surrounded by love and given everything a dog deserves—Scout’s honor. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Scout's Firsts

Scout, our first retired research beagle foster, arrived this weekend. She's a really sweet, well-balanced dog, especially considering her circumstances. She is very friendly with people and other dogs and doesn't seem bothered by things like loud noises, passing bicycles, etc. It's astounding to me that other foster dogs we've had—who had lived with families and in homes—freaked out at things like this, but sweet little Scout doesn't flinch. I'm sure her breed has something to do with it, but it's also an indicator to me that she was socialized during the critical first few months of life.

But still, knowing that she spent her life in a laboratory means that just about everything is a "first" for Scout. It's sad to think that a dog could live a year or two or five without a toy to call its own or without ever feeling a cold January wind blow its ears back. So we're documenting Scout's firsts. Here are just a few so far:
Scout's First Blankie (while recovering from her spay surgery)

Scout's First Toy 
Scout's First Sunday Morning Walk

Scout's First Kiss

Friday, January 6, 2012

Missy's DNA

People constantly approach us on walks and ask what Missy is. Every time I settle on a breed I think she looks like, someone sways me. When I'm convinced she's a spaniel mix, a passerby says, "Wow, she must be a border collie mix." (I assure them she has nothing close to the energy level of a border collie.) Then, when I'm sure she's got some spitz in her, I see a similar dog on Petfinder labeled as a flat-coated retriever. And so on...

The ambiguity of her breed is one of my favorite things about her. I hate the idea that a dog is supposed to look like something. After all, who really cares what's in our dog's DNA? At the vet's office, I identified her as "mixed breed" on their paperwork. When the receptionist questioned me, I asked her to take her best guess. The receptionist looked down at Missy, shrugged, and said, "Mixed breed it is."

But a homeowner's insurance company pushed me over the edge. When we were applying to a new company, the representative asked if we owned a dog and if so, what breed. He wouldn't accept "mixed breed" for an answer. He needed to write something down in the file. Forget about the fact that we had a flooded basement that caused tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage. These people were willing to cover us as along as we don't have a bully breed living in our house. (Click here for more about breed-specific practices by insurance companies.) "Is she a pit bull?" the representative asked. And we said, "She's small and black and fluffy. Just put spaniel mix."

After that conversation, I caved and bought a DNA test for Missy. People need labels for everything, it seems. We can make our best guesses about what she is based on what she looks like, but what's in her DNA could be very different. Some friends also pointed out that it's good to know what breeds could be in the mix for medical purposes. And plus, it will just be fun to know. So we shelled out $50, ordered a test, and swabbed her cheeks. We dropped the samples in the mail this evening and should receive a copy of the results in 2-3 weeks. Stay tuned.

Do I think the results will be the end-all, be-all answer to what makes our dog supremely awesome? No. Will I be surprised or angry if it comes back as mostly "mixed breed?" Not at all.

In the end, she's our Missy, a purebred Missy.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Next Up, a Research Beagle!

A retired research beagle
Most people are surprised to know that dogs are used in biomedical research. The breed of choice? Beagles. They're small, have sweet dispositions, and easy to handle. While you could imagine the worst, I've been told there are strict USDA standards that involves regular inspections. The dogs are generally well cared for and socialized with both humans and other dogs.

Some laboratories will release dogs into "retirement" after they are no longer needed. Often these dogs have been used only for training purposes, as part of a control group, or have had only non-toxic materials tested on them. The dogs receive medical clearance before being released to rescues. 

Usually I shy away from taking in hounds because their bays would likely make my condo neighbors unhappy, but research beagles are bred to be quiet. (Imagine a lab full of howling hounds!) Since our rescue is working to take in numerous beagles at once because of a lab re-organization, we signed ourselves up for our very first beagle. She's set to arrive this weekend. 

However, I worry that...
  • these dogs have never seen the light of day. They've never felt grass on their paw pads. They've never lived in a house. It means many "firsts" and, of course, lots of housebreaking. I'm told they are fast learners and are often adopted pretty quickly as well. 
  • she'll be too stinkin' cute and sweet to let go! 

ADOPTED: Ariel's Foster Failure

You may rememberAriel, the 8-year-old chihuahua mix who spent Christmas with us while her foster family was on vacation. Well, the family came back and decided they could never let her go again, so they adopted her!

Foster failures aren't really that common. After all, if fosters adopted most of the dogs they took in, there wouldn't be any space left for them to save more dogs. But when it does happen, you know it's because that foster dog has carved a very special place in a family's heart. And so it was with Ariel Best of luck to Ariel and her forever family!