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The Black Oracle

I spend a lot of time staring into this face:


“What are you?” I ask it.

I cup my palms on the chiseled cheekbones and gently tug on the excess skin around the thick neck and jaw. I pull the ears into a bat-like erect state. I trace the little wrinkle along the top of the skull, which reminds me of my childhood dog Prowler.

Then, I run my hands through the fur. It’s velvety soft all over, but the length and density vary.

On the face, the hairs are short and thick. From the nape of the neck, the black threads grow longer, maxing out at about two inches around the shoulder blades and coming in slightly shorter and less densely all the way to the tip of the tail.

There is not a single white or brown patch anywhere.


The body itself is lean, long and athletic. The chest does not protrude. There is webbing between the toes.

Friendly licks are delivered by a pink-and-black speckled tongue.

I can see a lot of things in this dog.


Charlie Machete reminds me of a Rottweiler, a Chow and sometimes even a Shar Pei. I also think he looks a bit like a panther.

black panther picture

Could Charlie Machete be part cat? (Photo courtesy:

Mostly, when I look at my foster dog, I see a black Labrador retriever + something with a square head and a lot of love to give.

One thing is for sure: Identifying dogs based on looks alone is a tricky business, and it can have dire consequences for mislabeled animals in areas that ban certain breeds.

For more on this topic, check out the “Misjudging Mixed Breeds” article at While you’re there, be sure to look at the picture of Rocky, who was listed as a pit bull mix but whose DNA test revealed a mix of 10 breeds, none of them bully.

We might get Charlie Machete DNA tested someday.

But no matter the results, he will always be the same thing: a dog.

If you or someone you know is interested in adopting Charlie Machete, check out his Midwest Adopt-a-Bull profile.

Share a story about your favorite mutt in the comments!

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