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Aisle Seat: Dog DNA, Yea or Nay?

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

By Naomi Serviss / New York City

Pound for pound, the author's dog Janis is rescue royalty. But will her doggie DNA test prove that?

Why would anyone spend a hundred bucks on a DNA test for a dog?

I know, I know.

It’s a touchy subject, and a First World concern

by any standard.

Some dog owners relish reeling off and regaling friends with Miss Thang’s bone-a-fides.

Others are happy to adopt a pound mutt or acquire a pup from friends or through word-of-mouth.

Their attitude? Pedigree, Shmedigree.

Does it matter from which bitch our pets popped?

Who cares what percentage of shepherd or poodle is in the mix?

It’s a wash, gauging by the result of my unofficial Central Park Dog Friends Survey.

Curiosity is the driving factor.

Lily's DNA test showed that she is a happy blend of breeds

My friend Eve adopted irresistible Lily, a smallish dog with a curly ginger coat, framing

expressive eyes and an endearing underbite.

Lily lived with a family unable to keep her and after Eve took one look, the deal was sealed.

Eve decided to have Lily’s DNA tested after her cousin Ellen traced her own rescue and relayed how much fun it was to learn what breeds her pet descended from.

Eve was soon intrigued, then ordered a test for Lily.

“I was curious about her history,” Eve whispered, like she was spilling state secrets.

“And it sounded fun,” she added.

Lily, who looks poodle-y, isn’t!

Au contraire.

Lily comes from a motley stew:

Bichon, Yorkie, Pekingese, Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu.

“I was convinced she was part poodle!” exclaimed Eve.

The DNA test, Embark, requires gently swabbing your dog’s mouth for 20 seconds with a Q-tip-like device.

The swab is placed in the pre-stamped envelope included in the kit and off it goes to the lab.

Results are emailed.


Dog adoptions went through the roof at the pandemic’s peak.

Shelters were swamped with needy dog lovers armed with multiple references and applications.

Sometimes home visits by the agency were required!

Strict requirements and a lengthy vetting process made it more difficult to adopt.

I should know.

I’d been searching for an apartment-friendly pup for a few years. Every morning, I’d scour, hoping for “The One” to pause my search.

Not so lucky on Petfinder, but when my friend Janice suggested the Humane Society, I realized it was the one shelter I had overlooked!

After a few weeks, I was matched last November with a 10-pound Maltese (so I was informed) named Petunia.

Petunia had been removed from the home of a “Queens woman who had too many dogs,” I was told

by the Society’s Manhattan director.

That was all the information offered.

Frankly, I scoffed at the idea of a purebred from a shelter. No offense intended!

But I couldn’t have cared less about the tribe(s) this squirmy, whitish dog with eye stains came from. She was bedraggled, her coat unkempt.

Petunia wasn’t a beauty, but her tiny stature was perfect for one-bedroom apartment life.

Her gregariousness and social butterfly personality made her a favorite at the shelter.

My application vetted, references checked,

I passed the audition and soon this pint-sized pup would join our tribe.

Neither my husband Lew nor I were sold on keeping her original name.

We made the tough decision to replace it.

Fortunately, she quickly mastered her moniker change and now responds to:

Janis (spelled in honor of Ms. Joplin)

My spunky little rock star, wins two- and four-legged friends alike during our Central Park outings.

Janis sparks joy in everyone she meets and greets.

Eve, a park pal and fellow dog owner, suggested that I join the DNA club for fun. I balked, but curiosity won out.

Park friends (with pure-bred dogs) suggested Janis was probably part Havanese or Bichon.

Definitely not a pure-bred. From a shelter?

Possible, but unlikely.

So, my husband and I took the plunge, holding Janis still enough to twirl the swab

around her inner cheeks for 20 seconds.

Sounds easy.

It was a two-person job.

Janis could be a Heinz 57 Varieties mutt and we wouldn’t bat an eyelash.

This entire episode reminded me of my mother’s claim to Jewish Spanish royalty,

We theoretically descended (maternal side) from Spanish royalty expelled during 1492.

And we’re Sephardic Jews.

My grandmother’s surname was Janis.

That fable was repeated ad nauseum for years (with great gravitas) sans documents, corroboration or photos.


But still, it was a romantic notion, having a storied pedigree.

What if there were an iota of truth to the fable?

Fun bragging rights! (Unspoken, of course.)

Which explains why I decided to take a 23andMe DNA test.

A royal connection would be a novel conversation starter during my upcoming 50th high school reunion!

I could casually mention the Royal Family’s woes, what with Princes William and Harry on the outs.

Then segue into, “You guys won’t believe this, but…”

Regardless, ‘tis not to be.

My DNA results:

100% Ashkenazi Jew

On the other hand, Janis’ results?

100% Maltese.

Go figure.

The author and Her Majesty hold court at a nearby Manhattan bistro

Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including



Sep 07, 2022

Such a fun article!! Loved that Janis is doggie "royalty" purebred, and you are. . .well. . .you are not. . .We love you anyway and in fact, we love you even more. Heck, if you were of royal blood, I would probably have to learn to curtsey and bow or kiss your ring or something. . .what a pain that would be! 😘

Sep 07, 2022
Replying to

We're completely outclassed by Ms. Joplin! I would NEVER ask you to curtsey!

Kiss my ring......maybe!🤣


Sep 01, 2022

DNA yea!

Loved the article. 😊

Sep 07, 2022
Replying to

So glad you enjoyed Janis's backstory!


Aug 31, 2022

This story has a great angle. I love the author's sense of humor.

Sep 07, 2022
Replying to

Thanks so much! Laughter truly is the best medicine!

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