If you do a Google image search for the rather generic search term “dog,” the very first image you’ll see (out of 128 million others) is a photo you’ll swear has been Photoshopped. It’s an image of a big, muscular dog that looks like it has been given a pile of steroids. In fact, some captions say that this particular pooch is the “strongest dog in the world.”
Alas, the photo is NOT a hoax. The pictured dog is a whippet named Wendy. Why the heck is this dog so ripped (looking something like a canine Arnold Schwarzenegger, or an Incredible Hulk of Hounds)? Well, turns out poor Wendy has a rare genetic problem, known formally as myostatin. She’s basically “double muscled,” and weighs twice as much as she should.
She’s bulging from all quarters, and has not just six-pack abs but something more akin to a 24-pack!
“Bully whippets” like Wendy are currently the subject of frantic scientific research. These normally sleek dogs (cousins to Greyhounds) have a fearsome, knuckle-dragging “I’m gonna kick yer freakin’ ass!” appearance, but Wendy’s owner says she’s friendly and enjoys nothing more than a good back scratch.
Although the famous dog photo is no fake, there is a bit of a myth going around on the Internet: namely, that Wendy is some sort of covert canine spy for the Russian Army. That’s just ridiculous. Wendy and her human companion, Ingrid Hansen, live in British Columbia (Canada).
“She doesn’t know she’s got a genetic defect,” says Ingrid. “She might give you a nasty lick, that’s all.”
I spoke with Ingrid by email last year, and Wendy, soon to turn 9 years old, is still doing well. Here’s what Ingrid told me:
“Wendy is doing great. She slowed down a little over the winter, but now with the good weather is gearing up again. She does still like to play and wrestle with my two poodles, and acts like a puppy when she’s doing it. Mostly she does what she has always done; sleep, eat and play whenever she feels like it.”