Zeke, shown here retrieving a stick from the surf at Lambert's Cove, Martha's Vineyard, is an aussiedoodle – a cross between an Australian shepherd and a poodle. I did an informal survey there over the course of a week, and estimated that approximately 70 percent of the dogs on the beach harbored poodle genes.
Diverse doodles share the trademark tight curly fur, but vary in size, color, head shape, and behavioral and other traits. Several websites list 50+ variations on the poodle hybrid theme, including the bassetoodle, bernedoodle, chipoo, doxiepoo, Irish doodle, poochon, rottle, and shihpoo.
Why poodles? The breed evokes such effusive descriptions as "confident yet affectionate, but also active and deceivingly athletic. What's not to like about the dignified and elegant Poodle?" The mixes are deemed highly intelligent, although I can't imagine any of my cats chasing a stick, let alone retrieving it.
Perhaps I was witnessing a biased sampling, and the doodles simply have a combination of gene variants that somehow makes them love running in the sand. I watched, transfixed, as a goldendoodle followed a seabird far out into the surf, upsetting the human observers and revealing a superior avian intelligence.
To continue reading, go to DNA Science, where this post first appeared.