AUDIE CORNISH, host:
Genealogy is more popular than ever and some people are no longer satisfied with knowing their own family trees. In this era of $1,000 labradoodles, puggles and cockapoos, they want to know their dog heritage too. Enter the home doggie DNA test - it was just a matter of time, right?
Sean Corcoran of member station WCAI ordered a kit hoping to discover the heritage of his own mixed breed mutt.
SEAN CORCORAN: If there's one thing my dog, Fi(ph), doesn't tolerate well it's teeth brushing. It's something we've worked out over the past 12 years - I don't touch your teeth and she doesn't try to sink them into my hand.
(Soundbite of dog panting)
CORCORAN: Come on, no. So, I was a little concerned about this kit's long plastic stick with bristles on the end, which my wife Linda told me I was supposed to move around inside Fi's mouth.
Ms. CORCORAN (Wife of Sean Corcoran): Vigorously rub and rotate the swab's bristle head against the inside surface of the cheek. Okay. Come here, woof. You're going to have to hold her head.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. CORCORAN: She likes it.
CORCORAN: She only weighs about 30 pounds - her thick black coat makes her look heavier. I adopted her from a shelter when she was about eight months old and since then we've done everything together, including hiking the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail and riding cross-country on a bicycle with Fi traveling behind me on a small children's trailer.
People always ask what type of dog is that? And I typically respond by saying pure speculation. I suspect Fi may be part Chow; she may have some Border Collie and possibly a fair amount of Schipperke, which is a rather obscure breed that isn't even included in the 38 breeds this kit tests for.
My wife and I saw an ad for this doggie DNA test in a catalog a few months ago. For about $80 and a few cheek cells, the ad said the canine heritage breed test could determine at least some of the breeds that make up my mutt. Just send back the sample and within several weeks an enhancer will arrive in the mail.
And according to Canine Heritage nearly 20,000 pet owners had done just that. Now, in Massachusetts, the state crime lab averages a year to process DNA for criminal cases. Our doggie DNA results took about six weeks. A certificate arrived in a sturdy white envelope, and we hoped some answers were inside.
Ms. CORCORAN: Come on, hurry. Let me see, let me see.
(Soundbite of gasping)
Ms. CORCORAN: What? Chinese Sharpei, chow-chow, German shepherd dog.
Ms. CORCORAN: I can't believe it.
CORCORAN: Of the identified breeds, Sharpei didn't make much sense to us but Chow did because of Fi's thick coat and the fact she has a black spot on her tongue. But as we vigorously discussed the results, Fi sat quietly at our feet notably uninterested.
It seems dogs don't care about DNA tests and scientific advances.
Fifi, come on.
(Soundbite of kissing sound)
CORCORAN: Instead it's call to the kitchen and the promise of a dog treat that gets Fi up and about doing that happy doggie dance common to all breeds.
For NPR News, I'm Sean Corcoran on Cape Cod.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.