I spent the summer of 1973 working at the Central Missouri Humane Society, back in my pre-veterinary days. People would call asking, "Do you have any purebred dogs with papers?" Occasionally, we actually did. Most of the time we had the canine "wretched refuse of your teeming shore" (to borrow from Emma Lazarus). While there are dogs who are given up for adoption due to extenuating circumstances, the vast majority of folks giving up their pets stated simply: "Don’t want him anymore."
Under those circumstances, the dogs rarely come with pedigree, and many are of no immediately recognizable breed. So you write "mixed breed" on their paperwork. I will tell you that while "mixed breed" sounds a lot nicer than "mutt" or "mongrel", it is not an acceptable answer to the prospective adoptor in search of a dog. When they ask "What kind of dog is this?", they want an answer, and they don’t want the answer to be "I don’t know." The shelter employee must become creative. Fortunately, you spend a lot of time looking at that chart with pictures of all the AKC recognized dog breeds. There are certainly a lot of possibilities. With a modicum of imagination, you can conjure a plausible pedigree. "I think he’s probably a cross between an Irish Water Spaniel and a Bouvier des Flandres." Yeah, right. That may not sound all that plausible to you, but people want an answer. When all else fails, small dogs can be a "terrier mix" and large dogs can be a "shepherd mix".
That’s why I know that the new Wisdom Panel MX test is going to sell. It won’t be available before September, 2007, and we don’t know what it will cost, but I know it’s going to sell. Inquiring minds want to know, especially what kind of dog this is. I love this idea, but the test certainly has its limitations. Supposedly, with a blood sample for your dog’s DNA, they are going to check it against genetic markers for 130 breeds. "You’ve got an uncle who was half Dachshund and half Collie". [Don’t laugh — I’ve SEEN that cross, and the Dachshund was the father. Talk about a missed opportunity for America’s funniest home videos, or YouTube, anyway.]
The kicker is that it’s not offered for purebreds. You’re not going to prove that your dog is really a purebred Arkansas Giant Bulldog, or prove that it’s NOT a Pit-Bull where they are outlawed.
The other funny thing (to me, anyway) is that it’s offered by Mars Veterinary Care. You know, Mars, the candy bar people. Of course, in addition to M&M’s, they also make pet foods. It’s corporate diversity. I think this may be a little too much corporate diversity.
I love this quote from their frequently asked questions: What research is the Wisdom Panel MX based on? "Wisdom Panel MX is the result of years of extensive research." Pardon me, but does that actually say anything? It reminds me of the interview with the Japanese minister of justifying whale-slaughter. "We need to kill whales for research." What kind of research? "Scientific research." Yeah, right.
There will definitely be a market for this, whether or not the results mean more than me juggling the breed chart in my imagination. Think how popular it was to order your "Family Coat of Arms" back in the seventies. I think that this test may wind up with some sort of disclaimer at the bottom, like the old TV psychic ads: "For entertainment purposes only." It will be fun, though, if it’s not too expensive.