Sunday, August 03, 2008

identity crisis

Apparently we've gone to the dark side and adopted out a - gah! - golden retriever mix. It was an accident, I swear. When word gets out, we're sure all of Marin County will be rushing to our website to find their next friend.

Breed identification is always a crapshoot, especially when dealing with puppies. Readers might remember when we let ourselves get suckered into this situation back in January '07. The high school kid that found this pup did the right thing and, rather than try to sell or give it to his friends at school, he contacted his local humane society in Marin for help. They don't typically take pit bulls and were honest enough to tell him that his foundling was probably a goner in their org. So he googled up BR, and sent this photo with one hec of a heartfelt plea for help. Ack! --- How can you say no to those two faces? So the story of Tank, now Owen, began.

A reputable pit bull kennel took too-young Tank in to be mothered by her litter-experienced bitch and guessed that he was probably full-breed. We shrugged and just hoped that he would grow into a nice dog that sorta kinda looks and acts like a pit bull. After all, it's embarrassing to grow a non-pit when you specialize in pit bulls, but Heartbreak City if a pup doesn't mature with the right wiring to be a steady little ambassador.

So, 18 months later, the verdict is in: Tank-now-Owen grew into a wonderful dog as hoped. His body and personality turned out to be much more 'random yellow-dog mutt' than pit bull, tho.'

Owen lacks a certain something that we're used to seeing in pit bulls. He's just ... so different. But despite, he has a sweet & likable, if not somewhat dingy personality. His new person Debbie loves her handsome boy, but curiosity got the best of her and she submitted a blood sample for a Wisdom Panel DNA test to figure out what the hec she had. She shared the results in an email: "AmStaff and Golden Retriever are the more recognized breeds, and in the mix was Bloodhound (I can actually see that one in him), Weimaraner (yuck), King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, and Bedlington Terrier (ha!)" ...We're blaming Owen's dinginess on the Golden Retriever genes, btw.

The accuracy of these tests is suspect, however Tyson scored big and strong as a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and we weren't at all surprised.

This strange sort of confusion has shelters talking. With so much cross-pollinating going on our streets, how do we know when a dog is really a pit bull? After reviewing several DNA test samples, the Animal Rescue League in Boston is ready to toss the whole breed ID mess out the window in exchange for more generic labeling. It's a fascinating puzzle and has the potential to throw a real wrench in evil BSL plans.

The results of the testing have been so startling that the Animal Rescue League is planning to stop making educated guesses about mixes and will instead label all mutts as American shelter dogs. The shelter the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals runs at Angell Memorial Hospital is considering a similar change. Boston Globe Article

The American Shelter Dog label would certainly help dogs like this big BIG boy now at Oakland Animal Services (photo below). Named 'Oso' by whoever loved him then lost him, he's probably from the mutant wannabe pit bull lines now exploding in SoCA. We call his type the red-headed bastard stepchild of the rescue world: He's not enough AB or APBT to fit in full breed groups, but way too much beef for most all-breed groups. What do you do with a dog like this when he's not really anything but a cartoon character stereotype? His head size alone is enough to get his owner evicted. Even when we do take dogs that are less-than-pit bull - like Roller here - stigmas and BSL can still hurt them. Roller was returned to BR when his person was forced to return to Australia to tend to a dying relative. He's not nearly a pit bull to us, but just enough to outlaw him in so many places.

This is a rock and a hard place dilemma. All we have to go back on really when we stare at homeless dogs is temperament. When evaluating, we constantly ask ourselves: Does this dog demonstrate the qualities that are spelled out in the UKC/AKC/ADBA breed standards? Our yardstick might actually be longer than many show judges' because, while we don't mind a bad underbite or cowed hocks, our dogs have to be as smooth, solid and stable as the biggest star in Westminster. Maybe it's better to say that we aren't looking for classic pit bulls as much as we're looking for classic family dogs (which happen to look like pit bulls).

While Owen the golden/pit mix is not your typical pit bull gusher-type, he's a SuperStar in his own right and he just earned his Canine Good Citizen certificate. Congrats Debbie!


Kari in Alaska said...

Regardless of what Tank/Owen real heritage he is still a beautiful dog with a happy ending. The happy endings are the highlight of my day and I cannot wait to see more on the happy ending pages (there are lots on the stay tuned list!)

Boris said...

Hey Cousins and Godma,
This posting like the managerie inside all of us Bullies captures the combination of breeds, outlooks, issues, personalities and names. You got to appreciate diversity and what can come from it. Maybe that is the message the AmbassaDog program champions. And, like breeding should be, you enjoy the view but score on the temperment.

Dirk-man, If you remember my story, as a pup I was destined to be a backyard stud-muffin. I have to tell you I still enjoy my greenballs and got the retrieve-chew down. Get the air out so they don't bounce around so much making them easier to chase.

I understand you do the frog lay too. I'm not sure where I developed that inverted dead-frog
back lay, as I even fall asleep in that pose. Some think it is to get my lips to dry-out from all the mastiff slober. Others think it is my trance to conjure up channels that communiicate across the rainbow bridge. I just think it is another way to cool my chest off.

White Bear, my email/nickname is Orso which means Bear in Italian. So, let's call you Orso Bianco and I can still be Boris Bear, Boris Baby, Boris Orso. But you are one mixed-up looking SOM (Son of a Mutt). The great think about muscle-heads like us (and we can include Tank in that company) we are great 'eye-candy' and sure fun to hug.

Tank-now-Owen, I appreciate your family trying to find what makes up that 'inner-space'. However like a lot of those discovery journeys, you and your people probably new what you had before you started. Namely you share a special companionship, a bond, built on a long lineage of dog-with-people starting back from us rummaging in their trashing.

I'm not sure folks want to know what is inside me. It has some necrotic elbow bone, some pieces of dead squeakers, fluff, and all sorts of nasty stuff. My head may be too big, Uncle Buck's nose too long for GodPa Tim, and O' Jake might have boxed to get those warts. All that 'spirit lives' live through MY Sempre Famiglia.

Not sure I like that American Kennel Dog Label. That's it, I'll become the USA Internet Dog (U-ID). Other than enjoying dumping on concrete, I think I'm a lucky one who has gotten-over the American kennel system with the help of BadRap.

I'm still the first and only Boris-Baby-Orso. We'll let the WEB readers figure out where my 'check-back' came from.

So a unbalanced floppy-ear tweek, crooked tail-wag, twisted elbow play-bow-stretch, bright green eye-stare, and big-mouth yawn to YOU ALL this morning.

Boris-Baby-Orso U-ID

Anna Cluxton said...

Tank is gorgeous and looks allot like my own dog Sparky! The ambiguity of labeling a dog based on physical appearance, any dog, who does not present with a pedigree in paw, and mom and dad around, is a HUGE reason as to why BSL does not work! Even the fact thte the dna testing is coming up with some surprising results makes good support as well (so maybe cities shouldn't be using even dna testing to determing if a dog is vicious). HELP FIDO is doing a research project accruing folks who have pups labeled a bully breed member who have gotten dna testing. For more info see our blog: or contact us directly!

Kirsten said...

It sounds like the breed ID confusion could be a step in the right direction to kerb breed stereotyping, and, as you say, judge dogs on temperament. As long as good dogs w/ potential are getting opportunities to find new homes... I guess that's the main mission statement. :)

Anonymous said...

Ah, Dirk. What a beatiful boy. His "cousin" Boris is 73 lbs. as well and we couldn't have hoped for a more friendly, loving dog. We do, however, watch his weight as Mama scarfed him up to a hefty 78 lbs... a little chunky so now we are back on track and couldn't have a better member of the family. I see a lot of Boris in Dirk so whoever takes him into their family, walks, walks, walks. Even when he's lazy some days.

Boris' Mom

Anonymous said...

Here is an interesting article...the opposite of an identity crisis, this lady knows exactly what she's getting...

Angela said...

Oh my god Oso! He looks like pure sweetness. What a friendly smile, and his ears are adorable. Thanks for helping him. Even if he's not on standard, he has enough bully traits that he would face the same biases of any other "pit bull" in the shelters.

A & D said...

Donna: "Weimaraner (yuck), "

What's your problem with Weimaraner's?

Donna said...

Hi a&amp

I think Debbie was kidding when she made the yuck remark about her dog's DNA. She works with all kinds of dogs and treats them the same.

Boris said...

Check out some Dixie vids.
No mutt-stake or miss-identity - this Miss has got the sweetie gene in her D-N-A. Anyone in Houston area need a companion for you or your dog, look to Dixie.

Boris had a great play session with her making mud-masks from his slobber. Dixie cleans-up real good as the pictures show:

Boris' OEL