Take a good, long look at Gertie.
She was adopted from the Allen County Animal Rescue Facility in 2010, and has become a fixture on the Lehigh Trails with her human, Brenda Bumgardner.
She’s a very distinctive-looking little dog.
She looks “like a sawed-off German shepherd,” with her black-and-tan coloring, long snout, big ears, fluffy tail and short little corgi legs.
The humans they encounter in their travels often think Gertie looks like a Swedish vallhund, a breed that nearly went extinct. Swedish vallhunds are a cousin of the corgi and known as the “Viking Dog.”
Bumgardner was curious to know more about Gertie’s history and a little bit excited at the possibility her dog was a rare, ancient breed. She decided to test Gertie’s doggy DNA.
“She’s a designer mutt,” Bumgardner said with an affectionate laugh.
Gertie is a mixed breed with about seven identifiable breeds in the mix.
The least surprising result: Gertie’s mother likely was a Pembroke Welsh corgi mix.
Gertie certainly has a corgi look, even though her legs are just a little longer than a purebred. She’s highly intelligent, and a good watchdog.
As for Gertie’s dad…
Well, you’re never going to guess.
Certainly, a rottweiler mix. But a rottweiler. You know, one of those gentle giants used to herd livestock and pull carts back in the day.
It’s hard to believe.
Bumgardner has tried and tried to see the rottweiler traits. The closest she can get is the slight bend in the tip of Gertie’s ears.
Also in the mix: English setter, 14.48%; white Swiss shepherd, 11.51%; black Russian terrier, 7.72%; German shepherd, 7.41%; and curly-coated retriever, 2.74%.
BUMGARDNER first met Gertie when she volunteered at ACARF in 2010.
She had come home after a painful divorce and was in-between working her seasonal job at Yellowstone National Park. She thought walking dogs would help.
That was early in ACARF’s history, and things were different then. The facility didn’t have the sizable fenced-in area it has today to allow dogs to run, so volunteer dog walkers had to stay with them to make sure they didn’t venture close to the highway.
When Bumgardner volunteered, Gertie became her favorite. Gertie would come up to her, put her paws on Bumgardner’s lap and bury her head in her stomach.
“They say dogs choose you. I never believed that until I met Gertie,” she said.
Staff didn’t have much history on Gertie.
She’d been found near Gates Manufacturing, south of Iola. She was walking toward the city with seven or eight pups. All of her puppies had been adopted by the time Bumgardner met her. Gertie spent seven months at the shelter.
Gertie was estimated to be about 2- or 3-years old, which would make her about 13 now.
On Bumgardner’s final day at ACARF, she realized she couldn’t leave her. Never mind that she was getting ready to head back to work at Yellowstone, and wasn’t sure how a dog might fit into her lifestyle.
“It worked out fine. It took away a lot of my sadness from the divorce,” Bumgardner said. “She loved Yellowstone.”
Gertie especially loved the outdoors and the Yellowstone River. Her short legs make her better at wading than swimming, but she enjoys being in the water. Bumgardner watched in amazement as Gertie hopped from boulder to boulder with some sort of innate coordination and balance.
Testing Gertie’s DNA was a very simple process, not unlike the human ancestry tests that are quite popular.
Bumgardner did her research and found a company she liked. They sent her the equipment, she swabbed the inside of Gertie’s cheek, placed it in a tube and sent it back. A few weeks later, the results were available online.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Bumgardner said of the results. “All those different breeds, and she comes out like this.”
FINDING out your dog’s DNA is more for curiosity than anything, but there are good reasons to get such a test.
Especially if your dog is a purebred, it’s good to know what kind of health issues are typical for those breeds.
ACARF director Brittni Israel said that’s the most useful reason to get a test, beyond satisfying someone’s curiosity.
She had her dog tested and found out it has traits of Great Pyrenees and chow, both breeds known for hip dysplasia.
“You can look out for those issues and head off problems before they get too bad,” she said.
ACARF doesn’t have funds available for widespread DNA testing of its animals, “but once in a while, someone will donate to have a certain dog tested,” Israel said.
She shared a story of two people connected to the shelter who separately had their dogs tested. Turns out, their dogs were brothers from different litters.
DNA testing also is used as evidence in court cases in cities that have breed restrictions, a representative of Red Barn Veterinary Clinic said. Both Humboldt and Yates Center have bans on pit bulls, so a test can be used to determine if a dog is or isn’t a pit bull.
Red Barn does DNA testing for those kinds of court cases. Last year, they did two.
Both Red Barn and ACARF can give recommendations on testing companies. ACARF typically uses Embark; Red Barn uses Wisdom Panel.
A doggy DNA test can cost anywhere from about $50 to $200.
Bumgardner is sharing her story not just to encourage more people to find out about their dog’s history, but to promote pet adoption for mixed breed dogs.
In general, mixed breed dogs are healthier because recessive genes that carry health problems are buried in the mix.
Adopting a mixed breed dog also helps remove animals from shelters, and you aren’t supporting puppy mills.
Typically, it costs less to adopt a dog than to purchase a purebred animal from a breeder.
And, Bumgardner notes, mixed breeds are a lot of fun.
They’re very unique, with a combination of breeds and traits.
So, go ahead and get a doggy DNA test.
See if you can predict where that mutt comes from.
And just like Bumgardner, you’ll probably be surprised.