A golden retriever named Bretagne is all over the Internet today — today being 9/11 — looking much grayer around the muzzle than she did in 2001 and being described as the only search and rescue dog at the World Trade Center who is still living.
Whether that’s accurate depends on how you define “living.”
Not to pick nits, but there’s another dog, a German shepherd named Trakr — said by some to have found the last human survivor of the World Trade Center attack — who lives on … in a way.
Trakr was cloned in 2009, after his owner, a police officer turned actor, won an essay contest seeking the world’s most “cloneworthy” dog.
It’s a long story, one you can read about in the book, “DOG, INC.,” which recounts how dog cloning became a commercial enterprise.
Here’s the short version: Trakr was the partner of James Symington, a Halifax, Nova Scotia, police officer. When Trakr was retired, Symington claimed him as his own. On Sept. 11, 2001, after seeing news reports, Symington, without authorization from his department, took Trakr to the World Trade Center.
There, as Symington recounts it, Trakr discovered Genelle Guzman buried in the rubble — the last survivor found.
Others dispute his account.
Symington later moved to California to pursue a career in acting, taking Trakr with him. When an American company called BioArts announced it was holding a “Golden Clone Giveaway,” Symington submitted an essay, and won.
BioArts footed the bill (about $150,000) and sent samples of Trakr’s DNA to South Korean veterinarian Hwang Woo-Suk, who was on the team at Seoul National University that produced the world’s first canine clone, Snuppy. He’d since been fired and opened his own laboratory, Sooam Biotech Research Foundation.
Trakr’s DNA was inserted into five “surrogate” egg cells, each of which was zapped with electricity and implanted into a different female dog.
In June 2009 five clone puppies were born and, a few months later, delivered to Symington. He named them Trustt, Solace, Valor, Prodigy, and Deja Vu, and said he planned to train them all as search as rescue dogs who would carry on Trakr’s legacy.
They seem to have fallen out of the limelight since then, and their Facebook page hasn’t been updated for a couple of years.
Earlier this year, the man who pushed dog cloning and sponsored the “Golden Clone Giveaway,” in an apparent turnaround, said cloning dogs — a service still offered in South Korea — was not a viable, profitable, or humane pursuit, noting that it took up to 80 dogs to clone just one.
Lou Hawthorne headed BioArts, and spearheaded the earliest (unsuccessful) efforts to clone dog at Texas A&M University. That research was funded by University of Phoenix founder John Sperling, who died last month.
While some of the main characters involved in dog cloning seem to be fading from public view, from Trakr’s clones to Sperling, dog cloning is not — Sooam Biotech is still carrying out clonings for customers who want duplicates of their dead or dying pets, at a price that has dropped to about $100,000.
But back to the dog who is in the news — Bretagne. She returned this week to the site of the former World Trade Center complex with her longtime handler and owner, where they were interviewed by Tom Brokaw for NBC’s Today Show.
Bretagne (pronounced “Brittany”) is one of eight finalists for the American Humane Association’s annual Hero Dog Awards, and later this month she’ll travel with her owner to Beverly Hills for the awards ceremony.
My hunch, and hope, is that Bretagne is not destined to be cloned, and that her owner realizes what many customers of dog cloning have not — every dog, and every person, is one of a kind. And one of a kind means one of a kind. That special something inside your dog can’t be re-created in a laboratory.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 11th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 9-11, 911, animals, bioarts, bretagne, cloned, clones, cloning, death, dog, dog cloning, dog inc., dogs, golden clone giveaway, james symington, laboratory, last, life, living, pets, re-creating, rescue, search, search and rescue, September 11, sooam, surviving, trakr, world trade center
60 Minutes looked at bomb-sniffing dogs in a report that, especially given last night’s other featured stories — on the Marathon bombing and the 9/11 Memorial — brought home not just how many lives they’ve saved in the military overseas, but how many more they might save here.
Reporter Lara Logan focused on the dogs of war, and the trainers that describe their canines as nearly infallible when it comes to detecting bombs.
But they’re not so infallible when explosive devices are planted after the dogs have made their sweeps, as apparently was the case at the Boston Marathon.
“Would an average police dog have found these bombs at the Boston Marathon …?” she asked trainer Mike Ritland.
“…Based on what I do know, yes,” Ritland said. “If dogs went through the areas where they were placed– you know, your average, certified police bomb dog should have found them. My thoughts are if these guys (the suspects) are paying close attention to these dogs, they’re waiting. And when the dogs leave, they bring it in, they hand– they infiltrate, essentially, they drop it right where it’s busy, and very soon after, it detonates.”
As the “60 Minutes” piece pointed out, since 9/11 dogs have been used more than ever because nothing is more effective in finding hidden bombs. Dogs in the employ of the military and FBI have sniffed out bombs, captured enemies, and one assisted Navy SEAL Team 6 when it took down Osama bin Laden. Much more of what they do, given the often secretive nature of their work, never becomes known.
“The best of them serve with U.S. Special Operations and they’re in a league of their own,” Logan noted. “It’s nearly impossible to get anyone to talk about them publicly because much of what they do is classified, but we were able to talk to the people who train them for this story. We took the opportunity to ask about what might have happened in Boston while getting a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of America’s most elite dogs.”
(One member of the “60 Minutes” team — in a segment not shown on the air but featured on 60minutesovertime.com – even volunteered to be chased down by a military dog in training in Texas. Producer Reuben Heyman-Kantor, in the video above, tried to outrun the dog, but was brought down quickly.)
In her interview with former Navy SEAL Ritland, who now finds and trains dogs for Special Operations and top tier units in the FBI, Logan asked, ”What can these dogs do on the streets of America?”
“The very same thing that they do for our boys overseas in that they detect explosives– they are a fantastic deterrent– they use their nose to find, you know, people as well,” Ritland said.
“Everybody knows that dogs can smell better than humans but what they don’t realize is that if you and I walk into the kitchen and there’s a pot of beef stew on the counter, you and I smell beef stew. A dog smells potatoes, carrots, beef, onion, celery, gravy, flour. They smell each and every individual component of everything that’s in that beef stew. And they can separate everyone one of those. You can’t hide anything from them. It won’t work because you can’t fool a dog’s nose.”
Ritland now trains dogs on his 20-acre ranch in rural Cooper, Texas, runs the Warrior Dog Foundation for retired war dogs, and is the author of “Trident K9 Warriors: My Tale From the Training Ground to the Battlefield with Elite Navy SEAL Canines.”
Ritland says its important — amid these days of budget cuts — to remember what lifesavers the dogs can be, both in wars and at home.
In Afghanistan, according to the report, 42 dogs have been killed in action. They’ve become so effective that the enemy is singling them out. A Taliban commander told “60 Minutes” that on his last operation they were ordered to open fire on the American dogs first, and deal with the soldiers next.
Logan visited what she said was one of only three breeders in the U.S. who produce dogs — almost always the Belgian Malinois — for top tier military units.
She also interviewed Green Beret Chris Corbin who, along with his dog Ax, almost died on their final mission in Afghanistan.
Corbin said he missed a signal from the dog while searching for mines. Ax was alerting to Corbin’s foot, but Corbin realized it too late. He lost both his lower legs. Ax was not wounded. Both returned to duty.
Ax was at Corbin’s side during the interview, and rarely took his eyes off his former partner as he described their first reunion after the blast.
“I just said something simple. ‘Hey, where’s my boy at?’ and he stopped. He froze. He looked around. And he went into a panic until he found me and he jumped on my legs. Painful. Just– I was just happy to see him. I didn’t care how much it hurt.”
Posted by John Woestendiek April 22nd, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 60 minutes, 911, animals, ax, belgian malinois, bomb, bombing, bombs, boston marathon, budget, chris corbin, cutbacks, detecting, detection, dog, dogs, explosive, fbi, green beret, homeland security, ied, lara logan, law enforcement, mike ritland, military, mines, navy seal, news, nose, pets, searches, security, smell, sniffing, special operations, sweeps, training
A friend sent me this photo, taken at the Barnes & Noble in Towson, which shows “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend” getting some pretty decent display (at least better than the bottom shelf of the astronomy section, as was the case at an area bookstore that shall remain nameless).
I can think of no other sign I would like my book to be under — except maybe ”New York Times Bestseller.”
Alas, it’s not there yet, but it did rate the “Page 99 Test,” a website by Marshal Zeringue dedicated to the proposition that the quality of a book can be judged by turning to, and reading, its 99th page.
I lucked out in that page 99 of “DOG, INC.” contains a revelation — namely who it was that located Genelle Guzman, the last survivor found after 9/11, and held her hand until she could be freed from the mound of debris she was trapped under.
(Clue: It wasn’t the volunteer firefighters who took credit for rescuing her on CNN)
If you’re wondering what this has to do with cloning dogs, you can click the link to Marshal’s blog or, better yet, buy the book and allow your thoughts — and perhaps more — to be provoked.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 15th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 9-11, 911, animals, author, barnes & noble, best in show, book, books, bookstores, cnn, display, dog books, dog cloning, dog cloning book, dog inc., dogs, firefighters, genelle guzman, genelle guzman-mcmillan, ground zero, john woestendiek, last, marshal zeringue, new york, page 99, pets, rescue, revelation, sales, sign, signs, survivor, thought provoking, towson, westminster, world trade center
This tribute was put together by The Dog Files, honoring the more than 300 search and rescue dogs that responded to 9-11.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 12th, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 2001, 9-11, 911, attack, dogs, remembering, rescue, search, search and rescue dogs, terrorist, tribute, world trade center
Leave it to us to be in Arizona when the big news is in North Carolina.
Fearing for the safety of his “dawgs,” a rural North Carolina man called 911 to report he’d had a confrontation with Bigfoot; and the one-sided, slightly slurred conversation with the dispatcher that ensued is worthy of the 911 call Hall of Fame.
Authorities in Cleveland County released a recording of the call, made by Tim Peeler, who claimed to have sighted a 9-to-10 foot tall Bigfoot around his home near Casar.
The area, known as Carpenter’s Knob, is the site of repeated sightings of a similar creature in the 1970s, who locals eventually took to calling “Knobby.”
In the call, Peeler describes a “beast thing” whose presence got his dogs a barkin’.
Operator: What did it look like?
Peeler: It looked like a giant ape with a man’s face. But I was afraid to kill it. And it made a whistling sound. But I just wanted ya’ll to know, I have not shot one or killed one.
Operator: Okay, was there more than one or just the one?
Peeler: Just the one.
Peeler: He was about nine, ten foot tall. With real long arms. And…I’ve had experiences with ‘em before in the deer stand. but this one, somehow, I go out there, it gets gone, I come back in the house it gets there again. And my dog’s is just raising… heck.
At one point he asks, ”Would I get in any trouble if I shot and killed this beast? This animal or whatever it is? Would I get in any trouble?”
Throughout the call, Peeler seems most concerned about his dogs.
“I got bear dawg, hog dawgs, this thing for some reason tonight is comin’ down messin with my dawgs, tryin’ to get towards my back porch.”
Cleveland County is located west of Charlotte, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, an area that’s no stranger to moonshine. We’re not saying Tim’s brewing his own, but … still. Maybe we’ll try and stop for a visit on our way back east.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 21st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 9-1-1, 911, animals, audio, bigfoot, call, cleveland county, dawgs, dogs, emergency, knobby, moonshine, news, north carolina, pets, phone, police, recording, sighting, strange, telephone, transcript, video, weird
A hunting dog on a walk with her owner in Minnesota led him to a 94-year-old neighbor who was unconscious and frozen to his driveway.
Brett Grinde and his German shorthair, Effie, were on a late afternoon walk Monday when the old hunting dog suddenly began pulling to the right, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Grinde, a Pine County sheriff’s investigator, let Effie off the leash and she ran to a driveway 40 yards away, stopping at the body of Grinde’s neighbor, William Lepsch, who apparently had fallen while retrieving his mail.
Lepsch’s wife, Marjorie, who uses a wheelchair, had looked outside and seen her husband on the ground. She tried dialing 911, she said, but had repeatedly misdialed out of panic.
“Nobody’s around and I’m out there hollering ‘Somebody please help me!’ but there was no one,” she said. “In the meantime this dog ran up and began licking his face.”
Grinde called 911, then started CPR. Lepsch initially regained consciousness and was taken to North Memorial Medical Center.
Update: A North Memorial nursing supervisor says Lepsch passed away Wednesday morning.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 14th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 911, animals, brett grinde, died, dog, dogs, driveway, effie, frozen, german shorthair, hunting dog, leads, minnesota, neighbor, news, owner, pets, pine county, rescue, rescues, saves, sheriff, unconscious, walking, wiliam lepsch
Taz — the last New York City police dog called into service after 9/11 that was still on the job — has died.
The German shepherd, almost 2 years old when he joined other K-9s searching for survivors and cadavers at the World Trade Center, died of cardiac arrest last Sunday, the police department said.
The New York Times noted his passing yesterday.
Taz, who would have been 10 years old on Oct. 31, served in the Canine Emergency Service Unit, where his duties consisted of searching for evidence, suspects and missing persons.
Dogs, the Times article notes, have served the New York Police Department since 1908, when, in what was a novel idea at the time, five dogs were promoted to be full-fledged members of the department.
The article also notes that a Times article back then noted “the possibility that the dog unit could be laughed out of official existence.”
The department currently has around 40 dogs, mostly German shepherds and bloodhounds.
During the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attack, an average of eight dogs were on duty at a time, working 12-hour shifts every day, according to the Police Department.
In a statement, Taz’s handler, Officer Scott Ryan said, “His passing is not just a loss to me, my family and fellow K-9 officers, but to the city that Taz and his K-9 comrades so proudly and courageously served.”
Officer Ryan added, “I will ride with my partner Taz for the last time, as I head to Hartsdale Pet Cemetery to bring his ashes home.”
Posted by John Woestendiek October 3rd, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 911, dead, death, died, dog, german shepherd, K-9, k9, last, new york times, police, recovery, rescue, scott ryan, search, taz