Does anyone really need to know the full and detailed genetic makeup of their dog? I mean, average family pet owners have a dog of mixed parentage. Do any of us really need to swab their saliva and send it off for a full workup?

I would argue not.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

In fact, it might be that dog DNA kits are sort of the ultimate “first-world” indulgence, elbowing out avocado toast for top spot in the list of shame.

It’s utterly unnecessary, but it’s also kind of fun and it isn’t really hurting anyone, right? Point being, it is totally going down at my house.

In the tsunami-sized wake of grief that followed the recent loss of our two elderly dogs, a painfully short six weeks apart, we adopted a dog.

While it is fair to say we humans were devastated by the loss, our remaining dog was absolutely wrecked. We’ve always had dogs, almost always rescues, and she wasn’t loving being a solo dog. We were pretty clear in our own minds what sort of dog we were looking for, but the reality is, so long as the dog was kind, it was a done deal.

Which brings us back to the DNA test.

Our new dog is a mystery breed, what my parents used to call a “Heinz 57.” This does not bother us. However, it does present an opportunity.

In the process of applying to adopt, we got up close and personal with just how many really, really great people there are in our community working really, really hard to find loving, caring forever homes for dogs in need.

Coincidentally, my extended family recently reaffirmed our decision, made a few years back, to refocus our own holiday observances on connections with each other and charitable giving instead of presents (except for the kids), all while the new COVID variant and rising numbers are rapidly undoing our hopes to be together this holiday season.

So we have launched a family-wide game. Family members log their best guess on the new dog’s lineage. All guesses have to be in by mid-month. For every household that plays, the sweetie and I put another $10 in the pot. The winner (the guess closest to the official DNA test results) gets all the money donated in their name to the shelter from which we adopted our dog.

The thing is, it’s working! We are all having a blast discussing certain traits, examining photos for clues, tossing theories back and forth. There have been a lot of texts with photos of beloved dogs long gone, remembrances of holidays gone by and funny moments from our day-to-day. There’s been a lot of laughing. In the end, the rescue will get a donation, a winner will claim victory and we’ll all be a bit more connected to the minutiae of each other’s lives. When you come down to it, it is the small stuff, the little moments, that knit the bonds between us.

I grant this example might be a tad specific to us, but I am willing to bet there is a similar opportunity in all our lives, a way to connect to the people you love and the community around you, despite the social distances. Whatever holiday you celebrate, may you find your moments and may this season bring you joy.

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