Opinion | The Surprise in My Dog’s DNA Test

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Walking along the strand together near the Boylan cottage in Ballyferriter, in County Kerry, I felt a profound sense of belonging.

I wonder, though, if someone told me that M.J., after all, is no blood relation, would I lose my sense of connection with her? Would it really be so unlike the situation with Chloe, if the person I love turned out to be someone other than I had thought?

What question is it we are trying to answer, when we set off in search of our ancestors?

Clearly it has something to do with connection, with the wistful hope that learning about where we come from will help us understand who we are.

My friend Tim Kreider, adopted at birth, found his half sisters several years ago, and went with one of them to the National Air and Space Museum to touch the moon rocks.

“Touching that piece of lunar basalt,” he writes in an essay, “brought from a quarter-million miles away was not stranger or more marvelous to me than the touch of my sister’s finger. What gives us that faint interplanetary chill of awe is not the commonplace matter but the knowledge that it’s come back to us from such an abyssal distance, from some place that was torn from us long ago, a place we’ve always looked to with wonder and yearning, but never dreamed we would ever really go.”

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And yet I’m still left with the suspicion that the question of who we are will always remain a mystery, not least because we are so much more than our genes. There is no one who can tell us who we are except ourselves.

Chloe, for her part, is unconcerned. You really don’t know who you are, or why you’re here? she says to me with her soft brown eyes.

We are here to love one another, and to be loved.

Wait, what were we talking about?

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