Digging Up a Dog's Family History

Did you ever wonder about the lineage of the family mutt? Baltimore Sun reporter John Woestendiek did. And he wound up writing about his efforts to track his dog's origins, including his genetic history.

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John Woestendiek got asked this question just one too many times. Hey mister, what kind of dog is that? And so the Baltimore Sun reporter decided to investigate the roots of the mutt he adopted from the city's animal shelter, including its genetic history.

He is serious about his quest to find Ace's lineage - Ace is his dog - and has been running this week in the Sun. John Woestendiek joins us on the line from his cubicle at the Baltimore Sun. Welcome to the program, Mr. Woestendiek.

Mr. JOHN WOESTENDIEK (Reporter, Baltimore Sun): Thank you. It's a pleasure to be on it.

YDSTIE: Now, first of all, how do you do this test?

Mr. WOESTENDIEK: It's basically just like a big Q-tip and it's got kind of a bristly toothbrush-like into it. And you just swab the inside of your dog's cheek and pop it in the mail, and after a month, they get back to you with the results.

YDSTIE: Amazing. What exactly does Ace look like?

Mr. WOESTENDIEK: He's about 115 pounds now, a pretty big dog.

YDSTIE: He's a big dog. Yeah.

Mr. WOESTENDIEK: He's brown and tan. Most people guess that he's German shepherd and something. But he also has a curly cute tail so that's what threw me off and threw a lot of people off.

YDSTIE: You've also been trying to find out just how Ace wound up at the animal shelter before you adopted him. Any luck in solving that mystery?

Mr. WOESTENDIEK: Part of the story was going back to the shelter. The director of the shelter - she was going to call the person who turned him in, the person who supposedly found him on the street and called Animal Control and see if that person would talk to me, but that person never did call back. And so she ended up just giving me the zip code. So Ace and I went out to the zip code and, sort of, wandered around and see if he could sniff anything down or if anybody recognized him. We met some characters and then he made some new friends, but we didn't…

YDSTIE: He didn't rush up to one door (unintelligible).

Mr. WOESTENDIEK: No. And through another story I've been working on earlier, I had interviewed a woman who was an animal communicator who says she can telepathically talk to dogs and hear what they're saying.

And according to her she said that Ace was in a family with three children, and it was very loud and hectic, and she seemed to think that the family had gotten him as a puppy thinking that maybe he was part pit bull and that he could be like a fighting dog, and that when he turned out not to have that temperament, they, you know, lost him either on purpose or by accident.

YDSTIE: So, I know you're waiting until Sunday's edition to actually publish what you've discovered about Ace's ancestry, but I wonder if you can give us a little clue here.

Mr. WOESTENDIEK: You want a hint?

YDSTIE: We want a hint.

Mr. WOESTENDIEK: Boy. I really wish I could tell you but I can't.

YDSTIE: John Woestendiek, thanks for talking with us.

Mr. WOESTENDIEK: Thank you, John. I enjoyed it.

YDSTIE: Reporter John Woestendiek of the Baltimore Sun. Give our best to Ace.


YDSTIE: This is NPR News.

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