One interesting development that has happened in Rain’s life as we’ve been waiting out this pandemic is that she has now officially joined the Dog Aging Project (DAP) “pack!” The Dog Aging Project is a study involving research universities in Washington State and Texas, seeking to study aging in dogs. They recruited a huge cross-section of dogs, varying in age, size, breed, geographic location, and more. After waiting through some project updates the onboarding process got rolled out last summer, and Rain officially became Pack Member 1750. Woof!
That onboarding process required answering some lengthy questionnaires to get Rain’s health history, describe her physical and behavioral characteristics, complete contact information and consent, and more. At the very end of that epic morning, just as it looked like it was done, a final assignment: requesting complete charts from our veterinarian!
Since Rain was born at home and my family had her mother as well, I thought she could be academically interesting to the researchers but I was a bit sheepish about contacting the vet for all the records. It worked out though, with some patience. A few weeks later I was able to upload Rain’s complete vet charts to their website (except now they’re technically out of date, as she has had a check-up since then). I also couldn’t help but have a peek at them myself for a little trip down memory lane.
The vet charts were fairly pedestrian, aside from noting the switch from hand-written to computerized records in 2017. One golden nugget from Rain’s early puppyhood stands out though. On Rain’s very first vet visit separate from her littermates, our vet described her thusly: “Spunky but sweet.” This is possibly the best-ever description of Rain’s personality I’ve ever read…in three short words!
Meanwhile, over at the Dog Aging Project website, I got a behavioral chart after completing the behavioral questionnaire:
That’s Rain! Of course some (many?) of the levels Rain excels or underperforms in are part of the fact that Australian shepherds are bred to be a certain way. Rain is arguably spot-on if you read the ASCA breed standard, aside from what I think would be some fault in her markings.
A few months ago the Dog Aging Project also opened the Dog Park, a forum where DAP humans can connect to ogle cute photos of participants’ dogs, console “pack” members who have had what DAP calls a life event (major illness, lost limb, death), or argue about things that dog nerds like to argue about. I logged in the first day and haven’t been back.
Will Rain ever be selected for a smaller study in this project? Will they scrutinize her records behind the scenes for their needs and we’ll be none the wiser? Only time will tell, but since we can’t volunteer for Yale’s Canine Cognition Center, and Rain’s too old to donate blood through the DoveLewis blood bank, this is what we’ll have to settle for, at least for now.