What’s That Mutt: Is Nanai a Pit-Shepherd mix … or something more?

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nanai.JPGWhen Nanai was picked up as a stray and brought into NYC Animal Care & Control’s Manhattan shelter, where I was a volunteer, everyone thought she’d be adopted right away.

After all, she didn’t look that much like a Pit Bull, compared to the other dogs at the shelter; she was on the small side, about 50 lbs. (again, relatively speaking); and she had a one-ear-up, one-ear-down thing that gave her a permanently quizzical expression. Plus she was friendly and calm and easy to walk.

But for whatever reason, no adopters wanted Nanai, and through an administrative twist of fate, she ended up in the shelter’s version of solitary confinement. For weeks. She began a downward spiral: With no social interaction, her behavior in her cage worsened, and as her behavior worsened, it became less likely that a rescue group would pull her and place her in a foster home.


Nanai with my husband and Champ before my mother adopted her

Eventually, her time at the ACC ran out. But I remembered how sweet and calm she’d been when we volunteers had been allowed to walk her, and I was able to pull her from the shelter at the last minute and take her home as a foster.

Once we got her home, we quickly realized that she fit into our household. She seemed to really want to do the right thing, and would stare at you intensely waiting for instructions. She quickly bonded with our dog, Champ, and loved hiking in the woods and crashing out on the couch.

BUT. Nanai had two major flaws. Unlike Champ, who, like most Pit Bulls, is completely useless as a guard dog (he loves everyone), Nanai barked so fiercely at strangers that our dog walker — no wimp — wouldn’t go near her.

And she had terrible separation anxiety and howled all day if we were gone — something our apartment neighbors didn’t appreciate. Nanai just didn’t seem cut out to be a New York pet, and I was afraid we’d never find a home for her.

She needed someone she could protect, someone who was home all day … and then it hit me: She’d be perfect for my mother! Nanai has been protecting Mom from squirrels and mailmen in suburban Philadelphia for three years now, and it’s been a great fit.

However, we’ve learned some things about Nanai that made me wonder if she really was the Pit-Shepherd mix she appears to be. First of all, she LOVES water. Second, she has a high prey drive and can kill a mouse with lightning speed (as we witnessed one unpleasant night when she came to visit us in Brooklyn). Third, she loves to track and will follow a trail for blocks. Fourth, when she’s around a group of people that starts to break up, she actually tries to herd them!

What breeds could be in this odd little dog’s family tree that could account for this bizarre mix of instincts? (It’s worth noting that my mother swears Nanai also points, but I haven’t seen that myself.) We wiped the inside of her cheek with a swab from Canine Heritage, mailed it in and eagerly awaited the results!

To be continued …

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Thanks to our partner Canine Heritage for donating Nanai’s breed test.
For more information on how to test your dog’s DNA, visit the Canine
Heritage Web site