The Dog Gene

My-owner-is-butch-and-writes-this-blogWhen Gracie meets up with another dog, she goes right to butt-sniffing. Serious sniffing. This forces me to make small talk with the other owner. At first, being a shy person, this seemed like a weird thing to do. Now it is natural. The standard questions are boy or girl (if it is not obvious), what is your dog’s name, and what kind of dog is that. I’ve learned to recognize a lot of unusual breeds and “designer” mixes.

Some owners know what mix their mutt is because they adopted the dog as a puppy and know the dam (and sire). Some owners guess based on what the dog looks like (ears, muzzle, tail, markings). Most of us are curious. To solve the mystery, I could do a DNA test and find out Gracie’s genetic material. I’d have to swab her dog’s mouth, put the results in a plastic container, and send it to the lab. A few weeks later they would tell me how many different breeds were identified, and the percentage of each breed in the mix.

When asked, I say that Gracie was supposed to be a Flat-Coated Retriever mix, but she seems more like a Border Collie mix. I haven’t done the test. What if it came back that she was a Chow/Chihuahua mix, or a Spitz/Field Spaniel mix? Would I feel differently about her if I knew her true genetic identity? What would Gracie’s results tell me? We’ve already figured out each other’s personality, routines, and obnoxious habits.

I can’t ask Gracie if she feels more like a Border Collie or more like a Flat-Coated Retriever. If she could answer, she’d probably say that she doesn’t know what a Border Collie feels like or how it is different from what a Flat-Coated Retriever feels like.  Sometimes she feels like chasing sheep (futile because we live in Manhattan) and sometimes she feels like chewing on a sawed off deer antler (possible as one is always in her toy box unless she already pulled it out). She would add that she never, ever, feels like playing fetch with a tennis ball. Then she might roll over for a belly rub, unsure of the difference between feelings and instinct.

I don’t know what my DNA test would show. Scientists haven’t found the butch gene or the transgender gene. I’ve always felt hardwired to be more boy than girl. It is an intrinsic, subconscious, pull. There is a wide range of gender expression for women to choose from, but none of it feels right to me. When I look at women on the subway I can see a lot of subtle differences in how they present themselves. Sexy, demure, conservative, punk, religious, intellectual, athletic, hipster, girly, colorful, expensive, maternal, trendy.

I’ve never seen a woman on the subway and thought “I’d like to look like that” or even “I’d like to wear that”. When I’ve had to wear women’s clothes I’ve felt like an impostor. I am comfortable with the jeans, t-shirt, plaid shirt, sweater, and hiking boot look. There are a lot of guys on the subway who wear a variation of that look. Some go for lumberjack, others for geeky/nerd. I go for “a boy and her dog”. It’s in my DNA. I’ve got the dog gene.

10 thoughts on “The Dog Gene

  1. urbanmythcafe

    We adopted our mutt from a friend who rescued him from her negligent tenants, so we don’t really know his background. Perhaps shih-tsu and poodle (shit-poo) or maybe shih-tsu-terrier-poodle (shitier-poo). Both names are good conversation starters on the street.

    This is nice writing. I like how the whole thing comes full circle.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I don’t know how they do it, but those little poodle mixes are really cute. When Gracie has a bad day (too much barking and lunging at skateboarders) I call her a borderline collie. Thanks again for reading and commenting.

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  2. Tristen

    My dog is lab/shar pei for sure. But after 4 years, I’m pretty sure there’s a dose of Australian shepherd in there too. Not that it matters, he’s my best bud – that’s what matters.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Best buddy is right. We don’t get much unconditional love except from the dogs. The main benefit of knowing the mix is that then you can blame their bad behavior on their breed (i.e. every time your dog eats garbage you probably blame the lab part).

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  3. timethief

    Hi there,
    I’m enjoying reading your posts. My dogs are three in number. One is a gorgeous little Pomeranian with an outstanding coat and a charming personality that my hubby characterizes as a “chick magnet”. The two girls are Chihuahuas I rescued from a life of whelping. They are less social but adorable lap dogs with clownish personalities. There’s no question about these dogs genetic backgrounds as they are purebreds and registered. My other dogs have ranged in breed from Irish Setters to Bearded Collies and some mutts too. They were all bigger dogs and now I’m in the world of small dogs. Big dogs can be a threat to them so I have to be on my toes when I see a big dog approaching. It riles me when I see dogs coming full speed towards me that aren’t on leashes. What part of keep your dog off my body and my dogs don’t their owners get?

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Three dogs is a lot of dog, even if they are little. Gracie weighs in at 35lbs. Even in NYC people some people will walk their dogs off leash insisting that they have total control and their dog is perfect (Gracie is not good with some dogs and I have trouble predicting which ones). A while ago I read a great article called “My dog just wants to say hi!” which dealt with people who think everyone and their dog wants to say hi to their dogs. This is the link. http://www.suzanneclothier.com/the-articles/he-just-wants-say-hi

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  4. One-in-Mind

    Wow this is a great post! i’ve been doing a lot of questioning, and trying to make sense of my gender / identity etc.. But how are we supposed to choose? Do we have to…. GAH
    We are who we are…. and looking to others for comparison only seems to cut deeper into the reality that I haven’t truly found who I am yet. I am a female assigned… but boy inside… fluid, queer, me…
    Gracie is gorgeous, and no doubt you are TOO!!
    Thanks for having courage, you have a clarity in your writing that really speaks to me.

    X
    OIM

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks! At some point when I get it clearer, I want to write a post on why can’t see myself as a middle aged straight white guy. I’m just too queer for it. But I also wonder a lot about how I can keep living with dysphoria and what else I can do to alleviate it as an alternative to surgery and/or hormones.

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