Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Pepper and The Genetic Test


“What kind of dog is she?” asked the friendly woman at the kennel where I take Pepper for Doggy Daycare. She was picking up her dog too. I’ve only been asked about a thousand times, and I never have just the right answer. “She is – a black dog. We tell her all the time that she won the genetic lottery,” I said, smiling, as Pepper jumped up on me, joyfully celebrating our reunion. Pep then proceeded to make friends with the woman and her yellow lab, and we walked out to our cars together.

“It would have been nice if you could have refrained from jumping up on that lady,” I told Pepper driving home.

“But she was nice! And I could tell that she liked me!” Pepper enthused.

About a month ago, my husband ordered a genetic test for Pepper – one of those tests where you swab the cheek for saliva and send it to a lab. We’d acquired Pep as a 5-pounder from a shelter and had often wondered what circumstances led her to walking the streets, with her 6-pound sister, when they were tiny pups.

The results came back, and we were surprised.

We’d thought, given her silky coat, that she might be part spaniel. We’d thought, given her athleticism and body shape, that she might be part border collie. We had been almost certain that she was part lab, given her face.

We learned that Pep is a lab-pit bull mix. A bit more lab. With some German shepherd and Boxer for seasoning.


I have nothing against pit bulls. I understand that they are loyal and fierce family dogs. But – you know, their their loyalty and ferocity have been abused. They’ve got a bit of a reputation.

“Peppy,” I told her. “You need to sit down. We’ve gotten the results back from your genetic testing.”

“Okay,” she said, getting cozy on her favorite small sofa in the kitchen.

“You are a lab-pit bull mix,” I told her. “Isn’t that – fascinating?”

“I’ve always thought I was a lab mix!” she exclaimed – then her face fell. She paused, and continued more quietly. “But you always said I looked like a spaniel. And a border collie. I’m not sure about being half pit bull.”

I sat down on a chair beside her and stroked her beautiful face, her beautiful strong body. 

“Am I… dangerous?” she whispered.

It was my turn to pause.

“Yes, you are dangerous,” I whispered back, my head close to hers. “You are dangerous because you are strong and fierce and true. You have love in your heart – and courage. At my best, I am dangerous, too,” I told her.

“Then we can be dangerous together,” she whispered back, and all was well in the world.

*       * 

*      *      *

Note: My vet and other experienced professionals in the field question the results.



  1. I’ve missed you, Pepper! I think your friend Hutch will be thrilled to hear about your German Shepherd seasoning! And I don’t know if the genetic test revealed it, but I believe your particular mix makes you an excellent judge of which people would enjoy a full-on jump hug. 🙂

  2. There’s danger in all of us. Beautiful story. I’ve got a tear in my eye.

  3. I got our dog Banner at the Avery County Animal Shelter in North Carolina, and he’s beautiful inside and out. When people ask “What kind of dog is he” I say, “good dog”. That even throws the Vet a curve.

  4. So beautiful, Jennifer! You are a very special storyteller. As another friend of mine says, “Some days I am more wolf than woman and I am still learning how to stop apologizing for my wild.”

  5. Love, love your Pepper stories! Dogs, books and people – can’t tell what’s on the inside by looking at the outside. I always thought our Lily – who looked a bit like Pepper – was a black lab/border collie mix.

    • I am so glad you enjoy these stories, Heather! And – the mystery of Lily’s heritage will remain a beautiful mystery. It actually feels a little strange to have this new knowledge about Pepper! xoxo

  6. Wonderful post! Moved my thinking about pit bulls.

    • Thank you, Julie! I’m still a little bit in shock that she’s got so much pit in her. Now that I know to look for it, I can see it in the shape of her body and in a certain squareness of jaw… xoxo

  7. Hi! I am a Memphis lover of both books (currently Beth Ann Fennelly’s “Heating and Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs”) and bacon (Wright’s, currently with lettuce and Cherokee Purple tomatoes, the mayonnaise so tomato juice-heavy it drips off my chin onto my shirt). I also really enjoy your blog.

    I’ve tried clicking on the “Contact” link several times, but it’s gibberish on my iPhone and laptop. What am I doing wrong?
    Thanks, Suzanne

  8. Great story Jennifer! Our daughter has a full-blooded Pitt bull dog named Butterschotch. She is a sweetheart! She might lick you to death but she has no mean bone in her body. We love her! You’re in good hands with Pepper.

  9. Great story! I love the way you write for Pepper.

  10. Love your storytelling! We are what we believe!

  11. One of your most beautiful, poignant posts ever. Thank you.

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