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by Judy Lore

Ark-Valley Humane Society

Perhaps we are genetically predisposed to loving dogs, according to a fairly recent study conducted using 85,542 twins from the Swedish Twin Registry – the world’s largest twin registry.

From that total, 8,503 owned dogs. The study states that studies of twins who share their entire genome or 50 percent of their genes (fraternal twins) can help researchers determine certain behaviors that are the result of environmental or genetic influences. It’s amazing to think some folks might carry the predisposition to loving animals, and dogs in particular, in their inherited DNA.

You might want to check out your ancestors for dog lovers to see if they may have been responsible for you loving your dogs so much. We can’t discount environmental factors though. If you are raised with dogs or closely associated with them, it would make sense you would tend to love dogs as a natural part of your youth and continue to do so as part of your adult lifestyle.

The twin study concluded that genetics and environment play about equal roles in determining dog ownership. I would like to read more about this before getting carried away and stating that I can thank my love of dogs and animals in general to my maternal grandparents. I have little to base that on, but I like to think they may have had something to do with my affection for canines.

Giuseppe and Seraphina emigrated from Italy in the early years of the 20th century to seek a better life. I was told they both were shepherds in central Italy. Goats? Sheep? Not sure which, as my family didn’t discuss the past much.

I have no personal memories of my grandfather, but he settled in Tin Town, Pennsylvania, with Seraphina, who came over a bit later. They were married in the U.S. and Giuseppe worked in the coal mines.

My grandmother worked raising their eight children and making “pizza” – so my mother told me – from the bread she baked and topped with tomato sauce. I can’t claim there is much reason for my thinking they instilled a love of animals in me except that I wish their influence to have been real.

I can’t offer any evidence on my father’s side. Those grandparents died before I was born. I only saw photos of Thomas and Matilda. Only one aunt on my paternal side had a dog that I recall. He spent a lot of time in the general store my aunt and uncle owned. I liked him. His name was Rags, but they lived far away and I rarely interacted with Rags.

I can’t dismiss environmental factors. Growing up, my brother and I had a dog named Meatball. He was a wonderful dog who died too soon. I had a kitten whose name was Kitty but she disappeared. My closest friends had dogs and I spent time with them and was quite taken with them. I say that counts for influencing me and my brother as adults to have several dogs over the decades.

Whether wishful thinking or real influences, it doesn’t really matter which. I just very much love dogs.

Judy Lore is a volunteer writer for Ark-Valley Humane Society. She and her husband have had 11 dogs since the 1970s – sometimes three and four at a time.