Lately I’ve been thinking that a DNA test could tell me something more about my mixed-breed dog. But because of the circles in which I travel, I am acutely sensitive about this sort of stuff. I wanted to clear this idea with the moral authorities. So I called an expert and asked for his blessing.
Dr. B. O. Ephicist (cleaning his pipe): We must begin with the obvious question. Do you have informed consent from your dog?
Me: Well, I gave him the form, but he seemed to lose interest at about page 12. And then…he started to chew on it.
Dr. B. O. Ephicist: (rolls eyes) The old “dog ate my homework” story, huh? That is unacceptable. And by the way, such a hurtful stereotype! Okay…what about oral consent?
Me: Gosh, well, he rarely barks or makes noise of any kind other than heavy panting. He is quite taciturn. But when I asked him if he would agree to let me swab his cheek and analyze his DNA to see what breeds he might be descended from, he thumped his tail authoritatively seven times.
Dr. B. O. Ephicist: (sighs) I really, really don’t like this.
Me: (confused) Why’s that, Doctor?
Dr. B. O. Ephicist: Don’t you get it, man? “Breed” is a social construct! You are appropriating the deterministic paradigm of genetic science to reify your own tragically misguided human hegemony!
Me: Really? That sounds sort of impressive.
Dr. B. O. Ephicist (exasperated): What if the DNA test says he’s descended from Portugese water dogs but he self-identifies as a shar-pei-poodle mix? Huh? What then?
Dr. B. O. Ephicist: Does he even understand the limits of these sorts of ancestry tests?
Dr. B. O. Ephicist: Is a veterinarian going to be involved?
Me: Actually, no. See, that’s the beauty of it: I can go to the pet store, buy the cheek-swab kit and I don’t have to go to the vet and pay for them to draw his–
Dr. B. O. Ephicist: (contemptuously) Oh, and I suppose you’re going to be the one to interpret his results for him, Mr. Smarty Pants.
Me: Well, I–
Dr. B. O. Ephicist: (voice rising) Listen, this is not a stool sample! This is serious! This is DNA! (collects things) Good day, sir.
Me: Dr. Ephicist, I–
Dr. B. O. Ephicist: I said good day!
Next: Guess the breed and win quasi-valuable prizes!