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Thursday, July 10, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 8/15/2007

DNA test won't boost doggie love

Now, let's see, do I really want to know if Digby is mostly border collie and Australian shepherd mixed? Or neither. Would I be disappointed if the test turned out that he had a lot of Dalmatian blood?

How pet owners can determine the breeds of their dogs scientifically was a subject on Good Morning America recently. The dogs owned by anchors Hannah Storm and Harry Smith were not all that they believed them to be, but according to the DNA test results, Dave Price's golden retriever was the real McCoy.

Dave jumped for joy that his dog scored 100 percent, but I doubt that Hannah and Harry will think any less of their pets because of the test results.

So do I want to buy a kit, swab Digby's cheek, and send it in to a laboratory to learn what makes him look and act like he does? No thanks. I know Digby has border collie in his genes because he herds the geese just as that breed of animal herds cattle. Besides his head shape is similar to that breed.

Perhaps if I paid hundreds of dollars for a dog it would be important to know if I was getting my money's worth or just a worthless piece of certification paper. Or if I were competing in the Westminster Dog Show it would be significant. But I have never paid for a pet. What comes down the driveway has a home, or at least a good meal until it can travel on or I can find its owner.

Come on, don't most people own dogs for companionship? It's not like we were selecting a Buick, a Ford, or a Lincoln because of its "breed." We adopt a pet because its cute, for the size, because it is homeless, or because we have always wanted a bulldog, a German shepherd, a cocker spaniel, a poodle, or whatever.

Now, that DNA has gone to the dogs, as Early Show veterinarian Debbye Turner says, a do-it-yourself genetics kit can show your dog's makeup and give owners peace of mind. Learning of a possible illness associated with one breed may be an advantage, but the results could also backfire, Dr. Turner. If a beloved pet turns out to be a breed that the owner dislikes or has had a bad experience with, it could be a heartache.

Canine companionship entails far more than having a DNA test to learn the animal's heritage. Wannabe dog owners should know there are a few basic rules: Buy nutritious food, feed enough, but not too much; maintain a constant water source, schedule regular veterinarian visits for shots and checkups, administer heartworm pills, flea, and tick medication; assure a comfortable bed and suitable toys, take time to "talk" and walk with the dog, and plan for A-1 accommodations when you must leave the pet behind.

Being a lifetime dog owner, I could add to that list but those are the basics that declare us worthy pet owners who take the time and money to care for our animals' health and comfort. In return, they give us unconditional devotion and trust.

Considering the recent hullabaloo about Mayor Carty Finkbeiner leaving his dog, Scout, in the car, a warning against such things should be added to the list. I admit I have been guilty of dashing into a store with Digby in the car on a hot day and having people yell at me. It is also a no-no to leave dogs in cars in subzero temperatures in winter.

Concerning Carty, I personally am glad he has a pal who will stick with him through rain, through hail, through snow, and through heat. And lick his hand.



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