Welcome to Swampton County, S.C., where the sign in front of the Cattywampus Church of Christ reads: “All dogs go to heaven, so there’s hope for you, too!”
Jimmy Shakes believes there is an inverse correlation between dog and man: the more a person loves their dog, the less they like their spouse. Ever since Momma Shakes used her stimulus check to buy that full-blooded French mini-poodle purse dog, his quality of life had gone downhill.
While he ate leftovers, the dog got that fancy food from the refrigerated section of the pet store an hour’s drive away. While he couldn’t even get his wife off the couch to hand him a roll of toilet paper through the bathroom door, she picked the dog’s poop up in little baggies and saved it for the vet.
The week Momma Shakes told him they couldn’t afford to replace his bald truck tires, the dog went off to obedience school -- no, Canine Academy, she corrected him -- and she paid full tuition, no scholarship!
The day he told her he desperately needed new work boots, she logged into Amazon Prime and ordered The Pocketbook Princess a matching sweater/collar/leash ensemble from some boutique in California, then loaded the animal up and took her to the spa for a puppy massage.
Something just ain’t right here, Jimmy told himself, looking down at his little toe poking from the hole in his work boot, and then over at the dog eating something that looked like caviar out of a gold can.
“Honey,” Momma said, “did you know that they have an Ancestry genealogy thing for your pets? For less than a hundred bucks, you can send your dog’s DNA off in the mail for testing and find out all about your pet’s breed and where they came from, including any notable ancestors! It’s called Muttcestry.com.”
“You have got to be pulling my leg,” Jimmy said, applying duct tape to his toe-hole. “I don’t give a hoot about my own ancestors, much less some mutt!”
“Well, I think it’s cool,” she huffed, “and I’m doing it.” And with that, she began fiddling with her smart phone.
Less than 48 hours later, the Muttcestry.com kit arrived on the porch. Momma Shakes jiggled with excitement as she ran to fetch it, then scooped up her fur child. She swabbed the dog’s mouth and anal glands with the cotton swab provided, then dropped them into the bag as instructed and placed it into the shipping envelope.
“Here, seal this up and run it to the post office,” she ordered her husband.
“I hate that dog, and I hate my life,” Jimmy said to himself, as he climbed into his bald-tire truck and drove to town. On a whim, he opened the sample bag and spit into it before sealing it up and dropping it into the mail chute. “That ought to give them some good DNA,” he grinned.
Two weeks later, a letter arrived from Muttcestry.com. It read:
“Dear Mrs. Shakes,
Here are the results of your MuttcestryDNA analysis. We found your dog’s DNA samples to be both intriguing and troubling, so we ran a full battery of tests beyond the basic package you paid for.
On one side of your pet’s DNA strain, she is descended from pure, noble French bloodlines. In fact, one of her ancestors, a wolf-hound named Sir Fiest, once served Phillip II, King of France, and fought alongside brave knights, spilling much Anglo-Angevin blood during the invasion of Normandy before throwing himself onto a lance to save the life of a French lord. That brave, loyal dog is buried with full military honors in a royal tomb in Paris.
The other side of your dog’s DNA strain, however, is a little less noble. We traced that earliest known ancestor to an Irish-Scotch man named Willie Shakes. Apparently a notorious criminal, Mr. Shakes broke several English laws and was the reason several new laws were written. He was once convicted for eating a stolen chicken while riding on a stolen horse, and sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead, but he stole the rope and escaped.
Fleeing the hangman, a half-dozen creditors, a dozen pregnant noble ladies, and an unknown number of less-than-noble but equally swollen common lasses, Mr. Shakes stowed away aboard a Dutch ship hauling prisoners to the penal colony of Georgia. During the voyage, he was discovered stealing rum, tobacco and other supplies and apprehended. It was also discovered that he was such a degenerate that he had to be locked up and separated from the sheep and goats down below to protect the animals from….”
At that point, Momma Shakes couldn’t read any more. She burst into tears and ran off to her room, sobbing. Jimmy kicked back in his recliner and grinned.
But a short time later, she emerged, wiping her eyes, and then scooped up her beloved puppy and gave her a big hug.
“I guess there is a king and a scoundrel in every one of us, isn’t there, my precious fur baby?” She gave the dog a kiss. “I don’t care if you aren’t really full-blooded, you deserve royal treatment! That just makes Momma love you even more. Come on, let’s go shopping!”
(Michael M. DeWitt Jr. is the managing editor of The Hampton County Guardian, an award-winning journalist, humor columnist and outdoor writer who has been published in several magazines around the South, and the author of two books. His column is made available by the S.C. News Exchange to the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C.)