December 14, 2020

They say our dog is all Labrador

By haziqbinarif

On the other hand, maybe it would turn out that Archie was a doggy Oliver Twist. Separated from his litter as a puppy, Archie was just awaiting the unlikely sequence of events that would reveal him as the Earl of Lonsdale, rightful heir to a vast fortune.

I was not expecting what actually happened: The canine genetics company said that Archie is 100 percent Labrador retriever.

“No way!” My Lovely Wife exclaimed, spitting out her Prosecco.

It’s not that this wasn’t a possibility. We knew Archie was Lab-adjacent. We got him from a Lab rescue organization, after all. And we love Labs.

But Archie doesn’t look like a Lab.

He has a houndlike face, with droopy flews. He has a weird bump toward the back of his skull. There’s a strip of hair along his spine that bristles when he’s agitated (which is not often). He has a big chest and a narrow waist, with oddly compelling muscle definition on his flanks, like something in an anatomy textbook. And bringing up the rear: a narrow, ratlike tail.

I’m making it sound like Archie is some messed-up freak, a Frankenstein’s monster composed of spare bits from the butcher’s bin. In fact, whatever look he’s got going, it works for Archie. Everybody who meets him loves him. He just doesn’t look much like a Lab.

And that’s why we sprung for the DNA test. We thought it would be fun to learn what else he was. Was there some hound in there? Some Vizsla? A bit of antelope?

Nope. One hundred percent Labrador.

My wife, Ruth, doesn’t believe it. She says I shouldn’t have uploaded Archie’s headshot when I signed up for the DNA test kit and shouldn’t have mentioned we’d gotten him from a Lab rescue organization. To her, that’s like revealing intimate family details to a phony mind reader who then just tells you what you want to hear.

There’s a lot I don’t understand about dogs and the categories humans put them in. On Thanksgiving we watched the National Dog Show on TV. This was before we’d gotten the DNA results back, so each dog breed we saw prompted musings about whether Archie shared any characteristics. When the Lab came on, we said, “Well, at least we know he’s not that.”

The American Kennel Club divides dog breeds into such categories as the Sporting Group, the Working Group and the Herding Group. But isn’t herding a form of working?

There’s a Toy Group and a Terrier Group, even though a lot of terriers are pretty small. I guess the powerful terrier lobby agitated for its own group.

Given the dogs I’ve owned, it’d be more descriptive to have the Scooting Group, the Humping Group and the Flatulent Group.

For the past month, Archie has been in the Bedrest Group. He came to us heartworm-positive, and the treatment for the nasty, mosquito-borne disease is pretty rigorous. He had to stay overnight at the vet’s, where he received a couple of shots.

The injections hurt, we were told, so he’d need to be dosed with daily pain relievers. Steroids, too. And because a rapid heart rate and sudden movements could send bits of worm into his lungs (ugh), Archie would need to be on tranquilizers.

When we picked him up at the vet’s, Archie swayed at the end of his leash like a drunk sailor. His face has always been prone to goofiness, but whatever he was doped up on intensified that effect. If someone was casting an all-canine version of a Cheech and Chong movie, Archie would have been a shoo-in.

It was only last week that we began tapering off his medication. Archie’s back to being the same dog he was before. Well, not exactly the same. We haven’t told him he’s 100 percent Labrador retriever yet. I kind of think he won’t care.

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