Late on the evening of Nov. 22, Sadie’s DNA test results arrived via email.
As I opened it with great trepidation, I braced myself for the worst. I certainly did not expect to see the words, “Congratulations! Sadie is a Shih Tzu, Yorkshire Terrier Mix.”
First I was dumbfounded, then I burst out laughing. In all the times I’ve speculated about Sadie’s bloodlines, not once did Shih Tzu enter my mind. Every rough-and-tumble, grizzled species has been up for grabs, but not the princess of dogs.
When Sadie was a puppy, I was vaguely hopeful she might be a Yorkie mix, but as she grew into her final proportions, I realized it was highly unlikely.
Of course, out of eight great-grandparents, five of Sadie’s are mixed breeds. The Yorkie great-grandparent “married” outside the family, choosing a beautiful stranger of questionable origins. The Yorkie-mix grandparent also chose a mixed breed partner.
Two great-grandparents, however, were purebred Shih Tzus. Their offspring, also purebred, ran off, I suppose, with the neighbor’s mutt, producing Sadie’s mom or dad. The greatly diluted Yorkie-mix parent met up with the Shih Tzu mix, and the result was Sadie.
Along with the genealogy came a short history and character traits of the Shih Tzu and Yorkshire terrier. I did not know the Shih Tzu is a cross between the Lhasa Apso and Pekingese breeds brought about when the Dalai Lama gifted the emperor of China with a Lhasa. A Pekingese living in the emperor’s palace mated with the Lhasa and the Shih Tzu breed was born. This was in the 17th century.
The history of the Shih Tzu nicely dovetails with Sadie’s, or in other words, “The heart wants what it wants.”
The next question is what breeds make up the mixed breeds in Sadie’s ancestry? Here things get murky.
“A portion of Sadie’s ancestry was predicted to be mixed beyond three generations,” the report said. No surprise. I really expected the results to show no purebred dogs in her ancestry.
Based on the analysis of Sadie’s DNA, the company listed the breeds most likely to have contributed to “the genetic makeup of her ancestors.”
No. 1 is the bloodhound, which at first glance seemed ridiculous. Then I remembered the loose folds of skin at Sadie’s neck that I never understood.
No. 2 is the Xoloitzcuintli, formerly known as the Mexican hairless. It is called Xolo (pronounced Show-lo) for short. Google an image of the Xolo and you will find Sadie’s body shape: barrel chest, wasp waist, rounded rump. It works for the Xolo, not so much for Sadie.
I can accept these two but a Welsh Springer spaniel, Coton du Tulear or Jindo (what’s that?) — I just can’t go there. OK, maybe the spaniel.
As I suspected, the answers have raised more questions, most of them unanswerable.
I have found the answer to one behavioral question I posed in the latest column on Sadie’s DNA: Why does she know “sit” when I have a treat in my hand but not when I’m empty handed? The Shih Tzu’s “stubborn tendencies may be lessened by using reward-based training involving small treats,” the report says. In other words, keep buying the liver treats.
I’ve found it’s just as much fun knowing “what” Sadie is as guessing. Is that single long strand of white hair her Shih Tzu ancestry coming through? So the beard isn’t schnauzer, it’s Shih Tzu or Yorkie. The folds are bloodhound, and all the colors are mixed breeds meeting up throughout the generations producing, I hope, a resilient dog.
Jan Hearne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.