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What’s in My Dog’s DNA?

On any given walk with my dog Magnus, it's inevitable that we'll be stopped by people wanting to comment favorably on his appearance. It's a...

Julia Szabo  |  May 19th 2011


On any given walk with my dog Magnus, it’s inevitable that we’ll be stopped by people wanting to comment favorably on his appearance. It’s a good thing the boy is so modest, or he’d be quite conceited by now! I’ve said this before: Outings with this dog tend to be conversation-starters. His novelty hasn’t worn off.

Mostly, Magnus gets compliments on his unusual look: the blue-gray coat combines with the matching blue-gray eyes and nose to make him resemble a pewter statue come to life. “I’m obsessed with Magnus,” my neighbor Lauren wrote on my Facebook wall after recently meeting him. She sounded like the sweetly starstruck fan of a silver-screen matinee idol.

Some passersby don’t bother to question the origins of Magnus’s movie-star-quality uniqueness. But most are curious to know what kind of dog he is, so I always say he’s a mix, a mutt. To my mind, the M-word is a fine compliment. A bit of mystery keeps things interesting, in dogs as in people, does it not?

The mention of the word mix tends to prompt lively speculation as to what Magnus is a mix of – what may or may not be in his genetic makeup.

Most folks agree that Magnus is partly or mostly pit bull. But it’s that tough-to-pinpoint other ingredient – the one that makes him so big and drooly, like some kind of mastiff – that seems to elude everyone. I’ve rescued and lived with many pit bulls, but none has ever possessed this dog’s majestic yet quirky stance.

I finally decided to seek a scientific answer to this unsolved K9 mystery. Happily, modern technology can help put an end to the genetic guessing game. So yesterday, I took Magnus to the vet for a blood draw, and that sample is now winging its way through the mail, addressed to the laboratory of Mars Incorporated, makers of the Wisdom Panel canine DNA test.

The marketing copy alone is brilliant: “Discover Your Mixed-Breed Dog’s Ancestry.” Who could possibly resist?

While we await the results, Magnus and I will continue to let everybody know that we met thanks to our local dog shelter, Animal Care & Control of New York City. Not surprisingly, on our mile- and-a-half walk to the vet yesterday, we got stopped several times.

Whenever I say Magnus is a shelter mutt, people often register surprise – “Really?!” – as if someone so beautiful couldn’t possibly turn up at such a place. We wind up becoming a walking advertisement for shelter-dog adoption, my Magnus and I. And that’s important to me, because I feel that people need to know their local animal shelter really is the best place to go for a wonderful, beautiful pet. Mixed-breeds and purebreds – they’re all there, ready to be your best friend and turn your house into a real home.

I practically provide passersby with a GPS on how to get to the city shelter. I would walk there myself with anyone who needed me to! You could say I’m obsessed – with shelter dog adoption. And you’d be right. Why? Because the sad reality is that tens of thousands of dogs equally as magnificent as my Magnus are being killed there each year for lack of adopters. The place needs more visitors, because then people would finally see and appreciate the K9 treasures being overlooked there every day.

And they’d just have to bring a dog home. How could they not?

Magnus earned his handle because of his size (magnus is Latin for big). The best compliment this dog ever received came when one of his many admirers asked his name: “He looks like a Magnus!”

I couldn’t agree more.

Have you investigated your dog’s DNA? Please tell us about it in the comments.