Over the past month, I’ve begun to obsess on whether Lucy might be considered a genetically modified organism. GMO’s are illegal in Mendocino County. We could be breaking the law by harboring her.
Fun Fact: On March 2, 2004, Mendocino County became the first jurisdiction in the United States to ban the “cultivation, production or distribution of genetically modified organisms.”
People here take this GMO stuff very seriously. I once saw a man outside Safeway dressed as a tree with vegetables hanging from his limbs and a sign across his trunk that declared GMO’s ARE BAD. In order to avoid confrontation with people dressed as vegetable trees, Lucy would have to be disguised as an old Finnish woman on our daily walks.
After I expressed my concern to our son Harrison, he sent us a Wisdom Panel 2.0—a breed identification DNA test. Who knew such a thing existed? The packaging offers “DNA-based insights towards optimizing your dog’s overall care and training needs.”
I’ve always believed the care of dogs was fairly basic: feed, bathe, brush, exercise, and take to obedience classes so you can earn a certificate to legitimately boss them around. Will the results of Lucy’s DNA test cause me to rethink this routine? She might prove to be such a sensitive combination of breeds that we’ll have to learn how to punish—I mean “correct”—her without screaming when she chews the ends off and rips the stuffing out of sofa pillows.
The Wisdom Panel 2.0 also claims that it “covers 200+ breeds and varieties.” What if it turns out that Lucy is a genetically modified combination of all 200 of them? Will she get a prize? Like a million dollars?
The kit contains two white swabs that look like pipe cleaners on the end of six-inch plastic wands. The instructions say to “firmly roll the swab’s bristles between the inner surface of the cheek and gums for about 15 seconds. Repeat with second swab.”
I imagined Gary and I would be about as successful at getting Lucy to refrain from eating the swabs as we are at getting her to stop eating pillows or digging tunnels in the yard. (She’s up to something spectacular out there—we’re hoping it’s part of a complex re-landscaping effort.)
I made an appointment with our vet. Lucy let Phil, the Zen-like vet assistant, swab the inside of her cheek without incident. He helped repackage the swabs and I dropped them in the mail.
Three weeks later, we got the results.
Lucy appears to be a conglomeration of Australian Shepard, Miniature Poodle, Cairn Terrier, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon and Labrador Retriever. Oh, and a thing called a Catahoula Leopard Dog.
My daughter Laine remarked, “You said you wanted a poodle, now you’ve got one.”
None of these breeds make any sense whatsoever. What kind of mutant creature do we own? (It’s suddenly clear why GMO’s are outlawed in Mendocino County.)
And what the hell is a Catahoula Leopard Dog?
Not only does Lucy look like a Catahoula Leopard Dog, she shares many of the same characteristics: oddly piercing “glass eyes” in vivid shades of light blue or goldish-brown, a fierce independence that sometimes borders on being standoffish, bouts of stubbornness, and domineering of other pets.
Fun Facts: In 1979, the Catahoula Leopard Dog became the official state dog of Louisiana; hence, its name was changed to Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog. Louisiana Governor Earl K. Long (1895-1960)—an eccentric politician whose wife had him removed from office and placed in a mental institution until his legal advisor sprang him and put him back in office—was partial to the Catahoula breed and collected them.
Long’s devotion to the breed is memorialized in an annual competition known as Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Trials. These trials are held during the third week of March (dang, we just missed them!) in Winnfield, Louisiana and involve boars, Catahoula Leopard Dogs and another exotic breed called the Blackmouth Cur. This event regularly draws a crowd of 5,000 with people traveling from Canada, England and across the United States.
According to Wikipedia, “…dogs are judged on their containment and control of the boar and their style of baying. If a boar runs from the dogs, they may nip the boar to make him stop, however ‘catching’ the stock is prohibited.”
Now that I’m aware of Lucy’s heritage, I’m obligated to train her for next year’s Hog Dog Trials. I’ll need a boar. Please let me know if you have one I can borrow. In the meantime, I can substitute our cat Little Mister.
I’ve learned that GMOs are considered to be any organism with DNA that has been modified by human intervention. Given the number of dog breeds found in Lucy, her DNA was modified by generations of human non-intervention. She’s relieved to no longer pretend to be an old Finnish woman.