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The Sassy Sandpiper: An Extraordinary Mix

She’s baaaaack! The Sassy Sandpiper is back for an occasional column. Today, she mulls the beauty and grace of mixed breeds.

By M.R. Wilson, Columnist, TB Reporter

Maybe you haven’t heard the expression “Heinz 57 dog.” It is a waggish (pun intended) reference to any mixed breed. Thank Henry Heinz, who named his famous sauces, pickles and ketchup company using his favorite number.

Condiments of various ingredients and dogs of various bloodlines? A stretch, I know. Bear with me.

I am privileged to know a champion Heinz hound named Cayenne and her human companion, Nancy Stephens, 63, of St. Petersburg. We met at Joe’s Creek Greenway Park. Cayenne is a striking creature with a lush reddish coat, happy face, and perky ears. I had to ask what kind of dog she was.

The answer intrigued me.

Cayenne's DNA | Sassy Sandpiper | Dog DNA TestingNancy, convinced there was more to Cayenne’s ancestry than border collie and shepherd, completed a mail-in DNA test through Mars Veterinary in 2008. The fee was about $75. A canine cheek swab seemed a bit daunting; but, lo and behold, the results revealed Cayenne’s genetic legacy included chow chow, Siberian husky, Australian shepherd, and shar pei.

Cayenne is nine years young. She walks with a bounce in her step, spared disorders that often afflict pure breeds. Clearly, she got the best characteristics of her forebears, including a sweet, calm disposition.  Maybe she realizes her good fortune, saved from imminent euthanasia when she was yet a puppy at nine months old.

Cayenne wasn’t Nancy’s first choice, either. Fortunately, her rival (a black Lab named Lucy) was adopted the morning Nancy visited Pet Pal Rescue.

“You don’t always get the dog you want, but you get the dog you need,” Nancy said.

Cayenne has been her steadfast companion through many of life’s trials, including her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease. Toward the end, she sometimes didn’t recognize Nancy, but she always knew Cayenne, who comforted many residents during daily visits to the Menorah Manor care facility.

“This dog has been my lifesaver,” Nancy said.

Cayenne just smiled and wagged her tail. It was time to get back home and play with her feline friend, Betty, aka “Evil Betty.”

Betty deserves her own story, but here are a few heart-warming tidbits: Nancy is not a “cat person.” Tell that to a scrawny stray who camped out in her driveway for two weeks. Then came the outrage of capture and vet visit, which revealed Betty was microchipped. Owners didn’t want her. By then, Betty had wrapped her little gray paws around Nancy’s heart; with a quick change on the microchip, Betty officially had a new home and wasted no time asserting herself. If Nancy spoke when kitty wasn’t quite in the mood for conversation or stole a photo op, Betty flashed a glare well documented on Facebook.

“She’s like a thug,” Nancy remarked. Hence the nickname “Evil Betty.”

You’d never know, seeing Betty and Cayenne frolic on the living room rug or snuggle together for a nap.

Let’s dispense with “mutt” and “mongrel.” May your next pet be a Heinz 57 dog.

Photo of Nancy Stephens and Cayenne by M.R. Wilson, TB Reporter Correspondent. DNA test results courtesy of Nancy Stephens.

Sassy Sandpiper | M.R. Wilson | Dogs | Pets | Cats | Dog DNA | Tampa Bay News | TB Reporter

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The Sassy Sandpiper: An Extraordinary Mix
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The Sassy Sandpiper: An Extraordinary Mix
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She's baaaaack! The Sassy Sandpiper is back for an occasional column. Today, she mulls the beauty and grace of mixed breeds.
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TB Reporter
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