The DNA of Immigrant Dogs


Golden Retriever courtesy Wikimedia Creative Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Creative Commons

People pass on fragments of themselves through the generations. Since the forebears of most North Americans came as immigrants, we’ve lost  track of our origins. Well, no doubt the DNA of other mammals also sifts through the generation. Our dog Rocky’s certainly did.

A  dog of varied lineage, Rocky wandered up our porch steps one day and plopped himself down on our son Bill’s foot. Bill took one look at Rocky’s broken tooth and welcomed him into the family.

A beast of wondrous craftiness, Rocky stayed always two steps ahead of us. We’d open the car window five inches before we briefly left him. Rocky, eight inches wide, would have vacated the car when we returned. He’d soon lope back and we’d be on our way.

One winter weekend we stayed at a friend’s house in upstate New York. We shut Rocky in the basement and left for a day of cross-country skiing. Aching and ready for rest, we arrived home to find Rocky asleep on the living room couch. He’d turned the basement door handle with his teeth and found a softer perch.

Eventually we noticed not scratches, but gashes on the dining room table. Arriving home one day, I looked in the window and noticed Rocky asleep in the middle of the dining table. We never caught him there, he always managed towelcome us at the front door.

One afternoon I read an article about medieval feasts in the baronial halls where the tables groaned under the weight of suckling pigs, lambs, and all manner of provisions. But the meat always mysteriously disappeared. Enterprising serfs had bred a line of dogs to serve as thieves. Sneaking to the edge of the groaning board, these dogs would rise on their hind legs, grab the suckling pig or the lamb, and sneak away.

They must have been Rocky’s sly forebears.

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