Does your mixed-breed dog have anything in common with this Xoloitzcuintli? (Wikimedia Commons)

Things are a little bit different for city dog owners this year: The District’s health department, which handles pet licensing, has made some changes to its system, and owners are being sent letters explaining them.

Most of the changes seem perfectly reasonable: Owners need to show proof of up-to-date rabies and distemper vaccinations, for instance, and the city is combining its dog license and dog park access tags into one.

Then there’s this: “Our new system requires a primary breed be entered. If your dog was previously entered as a ‘Mix,’ the pet is now entered as a Xoloitzcuintli (a rare, hairless dog).”

Say what?

The letter explains that the breed identifier is “used only to help us get the dog home to you if your pet becomes lost.” But it’s not at all clear how listing a non-Xoloitzcuintli dog as a Xoloitzcuintli — that’s pronounced show-low-eats-QUEENT-lee — will help anyone find anything.

Najma Roberts, a health department spokesman, was not immediately able to explain Wednesday why officials defaulted to the rare and difficult-to-spell breed, also known as a Mexican Hairless, but she said it is “very important that owners take a guess at the dog’s breed.”

Alan Heymann — a communications executive for the Humane Society of the United States and the owner of Clea, a beagle mix— got the letter Tuesday and was “a bit taken aback.”

“I laughed,” he said. “My wife laughed. I worked in District government for eight years, and I’ve never seen a letter quite like this.”

And, for the record, Heymann believes it unlikely that Clea has any Mexican Hairless blood in her: “I think if you looked at our house or the backseat of our car for a minute, the answer to that question would be no, or very, very little.”