Spunky always loved the snow.
But when the German shepherd-husky-chow mix and his owner moved from Wisconsin to Texas in 2008 that — with flakes being rare in Austin — became a thing of the past.
Ashley Niels, who works as a behavior and enrichment specialist at the Austin Animal Center, says she promised Spunky, who she’d adopted in Wisconsin, that he’d see snow again someday.
When she learned earlier this month that the 12-year-old dog was dying, and made the appointment for him to be put down, she regretted that promise would go unfulfilled.
They rented a snow machine and brought to her home.
Last week, Spunky got his snow.
Niels sat in her front yard with Spunky and experienced one last snow storm — albeit an artificial one. He didn’t frolic in it, like he used to, but Niels thinks he enjoyed it.
“To be honest, he was like ‘I’m not really sure what this is.’ It wasn’t cold snow. I think he could see how excited I was, so he thought it was pretty cool,” Niels told Inside Edition Tuesday night.
“I think he felt all the love we were trying to show him.”
Spunky’s appointment with the vet the next day was canceled, and Niels hasn’t rescheduled it yet.
“As long as he’s happy, I don’t really want to take that from him,” she said. “It makes me happy to be able to spend more time with him.”
She adopted him from a local shelter in Wisconsin when he was a puppy. They lived there for four years before moving to Austin.
As of late last week Spunky was still hanging in there, according to Ashley’s Facebook page, and she was doing her best to not think about his death and savor the time together they had left.
“I try not to think about it because he’s my boy,” she said. “I get to spend this extra-special time with him.”
(Photos: Courtesy of Ashley Niels and Austin Animal Center)
Posted by John Woestendiek September 26th, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, artificial, ashley niels, austin, austin animal center, bond, bucket list, death, dog, dogs, dying, flakes, pets, promise, promises, snow, snow flakes, snow machine, snow making machine, snowfall, snowstorm, spunky, texas, video, wisconsin
The University of Southern California has added a new staff member at its student health center, and he’s already making people feel better.
Professor Beauregard Tirebiter is a black, two-year-old goldendoodle.
After witnessing the positive effects visiting therapy dogs had on students, university officials decided they should have one based in the student health center full time.
The addition of Beau to the staff makes USC one of the few universities in the United States with a full-time “facility dog” on staff, USC News reported.
We applaud the university for that — but not for the label “facility dog.”
Surely all the great minds at that institution could have come up with a better term than that.
As the university Office for Wellness and Health Promotion explained it,
“a facility dog is similar to a therapy dog, but rather than being trained to work periodically with individuals, he’s trained to work with a multitude of people on a regular basis in a facility such as a hospital, school or nursing home.”
Why not just call him what he is, a therapy dog? There should be no stigma attached to that, and no need to tiptoe around it. Everybody needs therapy, especially a student, particularly during finals.
Calling him a “facility dog” is pretty vague. Defining him by the building he works in, as opposed to his job/mission, is a little insulting, like the term “junkyard dog.”
And “facility” is so similar to “faculty” that some hastily compiled news reports are calling him the latter.
Beau did come to campus with a curriculum vitae, though. He was trained at Canine Angels Service Teams in Oregon.
He has office hours, and his own business cards, and paw prints lead students to his location at the Engemann Student Health Center.
He was purchased with money from a donation by the Trojan League of Los Angeles, an alumni group, to promote student wellness.
Beau has been on campus for a few weeks now. He goes home at night with Amanda Vanni, his handler and a health promotion specialist at the center.
In hiring Beau, the university seems to be acknowledging all the research that shows dogs can help decrease stress, create a sense of calm and well being, and that contact with them can increase serotonin, beta-endorphin and oxytocin – chemicals and hormones that make people happy.
Paula Lee Swinford, director of the Office of Wellness and Health Promotion, said Beau will also help create a sense of community at USC.
“We wanted to do something that would change our culture,” she said. “What Beau brings is a consistent relationship for students. … He will remember them.”
Speaking of culture change, the university might want to take another look at its antiquated policy that bans dogs from classrooms, university housing, offices and research areas because they can be “disruptive as well as unsanitary.”
(Photos by Gus Ruelas / USC)
Posted by John Woestendiek September 23rd, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, beauregard tirebiter, benefits, campus, canine angels, dog, dogs, engemann, facility dog, golden doodle, goldendoodle, health, health center, pet policy, pets, students, terminology, therapy dog, trojan league, university of southern california, usc
A controversial neurosurgeon in Italy said this week that he and his fellow researchers may be able to conduct the first human head transplant next year.
We suggest they start with their own.
Dr. Sergio Canavero has been compared to Dr. Frankenstein, and called a nut, but that hasn’t stopped him and members of his consortium — from China, South Korea and the U.S. — from severing the spinal cord of the beagle above (just so they could try to reattach it) and doing the same with numerous mice.
If that’s not weird enough, Canavero and team say that before they attempt a head transplant on a live human, they will conduct some experiments on human corpses, and then reanimate them with electricity to test his technique.
We can only assume they will do so in the basement laboratory of a castle, during a thunderstorm.
Canavero is director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group. He released three papers this week, and the video above, showing how he and his collaborators had successfully reattached the spinal cords of the dog and several mice.
Canavero also claims that researchers led by Xiaoping Ren at Harbin Medical University have already performed a head transplant on a monkey – connecting up the blood supply between the head and the new body.
Canavero’s short term goal is to successfully transplant a human head. His long term goal, he admits, “is immortality.”
What’s an acceptable number of dogs to torture in a quest of that nature?
We’d say none.
Canavero says the experiments on animals prove the technique used — known as GEMINI spinal cord fusion — incorporates a chemical called polyethylene glycol, or PEG, to encourage neurons to grow toward each other and connect.
He suspects it will also work in humans to fuse two ends of a spinal cord together, or to connect a transplanted head to a donor body.
He made the claims in a series of papers published in the journal Surgical Neurology International.
The claims have been met with widespread skepticism, according to New Scientist.
Canavero first announced his plans to conduct a human head transplant in 2013 and established the ead Anastomosis Venture, or HEAVEN, project to develop the techniques needed to carry out such an operation.
His collaborator in South Korea is Dr. C-Yoon Kim, a neurosurgeon at Konkuk University in Seoul who partially severed and reattached the spinal cords of 16 mice. Five of the eight mice who received PEG regained some ability to move. The other three died — as did eight who were in a control group.
In another experiment the South Korean team nearly severed the spinal cord of a dog. While the dog was initially paralyzed, three days later the team reported it was able to move its limbs and wag its tail.
South Korea is also the birthplace of dog cloning and up until this summer — when an American company cloned a dog for a customer — it was the only country cloning dogs for profit.
It’s probably not too outlandish — given all the bizarre turns medical researchers are taking — to wonder if surplus canine clones in South Korea end up being used for other wacky experiments by mad (or at least overly zealous) scientists.
In fact, if you look at its history, creating dogs for medical research use was one markets mentioned by the developers and marketers of dog cloning.
Could it be that some of the ideas initially presented in science fiction might ought to remain in the realm of science fiction?
Canavero’s research papers don’t indicate how many more dogs might have their necks snapped or heads severed by his research team as they boldly and single-mindedly stride toward their goal.
But, again, we’d argue that — no matter what medical gains it could lead to for humans — it should be NONE.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 22nd, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, china, cloning, controversial, cord, dog, dogs, dr. sergio canavero, experiments, frankenstein, head transplant, heaven, human head transplant, italy, lab, laboratory, medical, neurosurgeon, pets, reattached, research, science, sergio canavero, severed, south korea, spinal, u.s.
When you’re homeless, you can run into a lot of Catch 22’s — those can’t-win situations that, even when you’re taking steps to improve your life, tend to make things appear even more hopeless.
Having a dog is a perfect example.
To a homeless person, having a dog (or, in the case of our Monday post, a cat) can have numerous benefits: Protection, for one. It can instill a greater will to survive and succeed. It can provide some self-esteem, emotional security, and companionship for sure — the kind that comes without judgment.
While some segments of society may be repulsed by the sight of you, your dog will always be thrilled.
But having a dog when you’re homeless can also be a tremendous obstacle — keeping you from being admitted to homeless shelters, finding the money to feed it, and making already problematic chores, like going to the bathroom, even more problematic.
Still, it’s not unusual that, when given a choice between shelter and their dog, the dog often comes first — as has been the case so far with a recently homeless woman and her boxer mix, named Cow, featured in a two-part series in the Toledo Blade this week.
“She is my whole world, my rock. I don’t know what I’d do without her.” 51-year-old Diann Wears said of her dog.
Wears, who in earlier stages of her troubled life worked as a prostitute and was addicted to crack, said it is her first time living on the streets.
“It’s totally new to me and totally scary, I’m not gonna lie,” she said. “But Cow and I, we have each other, and she gives me a lot of love and support.”
She says she tried to find an apartment that her Social Security and Supplemental Security Income would cover, but “they either turned me down because of Cow, or because I don’t make enough money.”
She has no intention of parting with Cow, she said.
Toledo’s homeless shelters — like most across the country — do not allow pets, and she was rejected, she said, by a YWCA shelter that provides haven for women fleeing domestic violence and their pets.
“They don’t think I’m in danger from my ex,” Wears said.
So Wears and Cow remain without shelter — unless you count the overhang of the bus station’s roof.
Having a dog, Wears noted, makes simple tasks, like attending a free meal, more difficult. She either has to leave Cow outside, leashed to her shopping cart, or find a friend she trusts enough to watch him.
Sometimes, she says, it’s hard to simply find a place in the shade to rest — without being told to leave, either because of the dog or because she is loitering.
She often sits on the grass at St. Paul United Methodist Church, where the pastor allows her to stay as long as neither she nor Cow causes any trouble, the Blade reported. (You can find part two of the series here.)
“We don’t bother anybody, but people judge us anyway because we’re homeless,” Diann said. “Or they’re afraid of Cow, even when she’s just lying there.”
Wears said Cow provides her some protection during the night.
Unsure as she is of the future, she is committed to two things — keeping Cow by her side and not going back to her abusive boyfriend.
“It’s hard out here, but I’m away from that at least I’ll take my chances out here. I have my dog and we’ll survive one way or the other, some kind of way.”
(Photo: The Toledo Blade)
Posted by John Woestendiek September 21st, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abuse, animals, benefits, boxer, catch 22, choice, cow, diann wears, dilemma, dogs, homeless, homeless shelters, mix, obstacles, ohio, paradox, pets, shelters, toledo, toledo blade
When singer-songwriter MadLyn filmed her latest music video she chose Salvation Mountain as the setting — a location that’s near the top of my list when it comes to American places of quirky and unnatural beauty.
And she brought her dog, Lucy, along to serve as the video’s co-star.
Salvation Mountain, built of trash, straw, adobe and and thousands of gallons of vibrantly colored paint, was one man’s tribute to his faith in God, and even though I’m not religious, I was fortunate enough to drop by and meet him twice (the mountain’s creator, not The Creator) when he was alive.
Once, for a magazine story, and once during my Travels with Ace, I spent some time with Leonard Knight — an admittedly reclusive and obsessive sort who let nothing stop him in his quest to fashion a mountain where there was none. Knight died in 2014 at age 82.
Salvation Mountain pops up like a colorful hallucination in the otherwise bleak, almost lunar, desert terrain around Niland, California.
MadLyn went there in July with her director/father and a cinematographer to film a video for her song “Will You Take Me Home” and she did all the things that people do in music videos — prance, skip, sing, twirl, look pensive, wear multiple outfits and toss her curly locks about.
In one scene, MadLyn was to stand in front of the mountain and hold her little dog as a camera-equipped drone zoomed in on them and passed overhead.
Lucy didn’t like that. She jumped out of MadLyn’s arms and took off.
Lucy had gone all day with no leash (she was playing the role of a stray), but when the drone approached for a close-up she “starts freaking out and jumps out of my arms and runs out into the desert,” MadLyn recounted.
As the sun went down, MadLyn, her father and the cinematographer searched for hours, on foot and by car, enlisting the help of Slab City’s other denizens, but Lucy could not be found and was not responding to their calls.
Because the cinematographer needed to get back to his family, they drove back to Los Angeles, a three and a half hour trip.
The next day, a Saturday, MadLyn called animal shelters located near Niland, printed up flyers, checked with the company Lucy’s microchip is registered with and sent out pleas on Facebook.
Then she and her father headed back to Niland to search some more for Lucy.
Sadly, and a bit ironicallly, what had happened in real life was exactly the opposite of what director Fred Fuster had in mind for the video.
While the song’s lyrics seemingly pertain to man-woman love, Fuster (being a father) envisioned a different, more innocent, interpretation of his daughter’s song.
“As director I insisted on having that story line — where this woman who has a hard time finding love meets this dog at Salvation Mountain and I guess falls in love,” he said.
But instead of finding a dog, Madlyn, in real life, lost one.
She later took her mother’s name, Madlyn, to honor her.
She has been active in raising money to fight breast cancer. Last year, she released the song, “I Call Her Mom,” with 100 percent of all digital sales going to the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF).
No strangers to loss and dealing with dark times, Fuster and his daughter pulled into Salvation Mountain after nightfall to look for Lucy and seek out people who might have seen her.
They went a gathering spot in Slab City called The Range, where an open mic night was being held, and showed Lucy’s picture around.
One man told Fuster that it was unlikely a small dog like Lucy — given all the hawks and coyotes in the area — was still alive after 24 hours.
That’s when Fuster sat down and began to pray.
When he opened his eyes and looked down, there was Lucy.
After a tearful reunion, Fuster and MadLyn put Lucy in the car and gave her some water. The 18-pound dog drank 24 ounces, MadLyn says.
MadLyn, as you can see in the video at the end of this post, clearly considers what happened a miracle.
“Lucy was missing in the desert of Salvation Mountain for 24 hours completely by herself, and through the grace of God alone, she came back,” she wrote in an email to ohmidog!
She says the video is “dedicated to all shelter and foster animals looking for a loving home.”
I have a feeling Leonard Knight would like this story.
I know I do.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 20th, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, california, dedication, dog, dogs, faith, filming, fred fuster, god, leonard knight, lost, lucy, madlyn, miracle, miracle dog, music, music video, niland, pets, rescue, salvation mountain, shelter, singer, songwriter, will you take me home
The true story of how a street cat named Bob changed the life of an alcoholic street musician in London came out in book form three years ago .
Now the movie version is coming — in which Bob is played (mostly) by Bob.
James Bowen’s autobiographical book telling the story of his struggle with addiction and of his life on the streets, in homeless shelters and in supported housing sold millions of copies.
Its focus was on the bond he formed with Bob after the cat found his way into Bowen’s room in a subsidized housing complex.
The pair went on become inseparable, winning fans across London.
Luke Treadaway stars as Bowen, a street musician overcoming a troubled childhood.
But in most of the scenes featuring Bob, that’s the real Bob you’ll be seeing.
The film is scheduled for release in early November.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 19th, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: a street cat named bob, addiction, alcoholism, animals, bob, book, busker, cat, cats, changed, homeless, james bowen, life, luke treadaway, movie, musician, pets
Just as the earliest efforts to clone a dog in America didn’t make a huge splash, news-wise, neither did the recent birth — nearly 20 years later — of the first made-in-America canine clone.
ViaGen, a genetic preservation company in Texas, announced at the end of July that the first successful cloning of a dog in America had led to a birth, and that the Jack Russell terrier pup had been delivered to clients.
Chances are you haven’t read about it — because hardly anyone has written about it.
Including me — the guy who wrote that dog cloning book.
I received an email Monday containing the press release announcing the successful cloning. It came from Andrew Lavin, a public relations consultant in New York who handles publicity for ViaGen. It was dated Sept. 12 and included the photos of the clone, named Nubia, that you see here.
When I checked online to see what news coverage the announcement had received, I found almost none — only an “article” in Pet Age magazine (actually a verbatim reprint of the company press release) in July.
When I called ViaGen’s Austin offices to clear up some of my confusion I was told the press release had originally been issued at the end of July, and they didn’t know why the one I received had been re-dated to Sept. 12.
When I asked why the announcement had not received greater news coverage, the person on the phone said only, “It was a soft press release.” She didn’t explain what that meant.
(I can only guess it means a press release sent to a limited few, vague and fuzzy on the details, and accompanied by a “we’re not going to answer any questions” attitude — one that is low-profile enough to not arouse any detractors, such as the many animal welfare organizations that frown on cloning pets, saying it is cruel to animals and exploits bereaved pet owners.)
When I asked ViaGen for more information about the cloning, I was told, “all media requests go through Andy,” meaning Andrew Lavin.
He eventually returned my call and answered my email, explaining that he had “updated” the original press release — and therefore changed the date on it.
He did seek answers to my questions and sent me ViaGen CEO Blake Russell’s responses to them. Russell sidestepped far more than he answered.
Their original dog is deceased, but they were able to have her cloned with tissue samples taken by her vet when she was spayed.
Asked where the other dogs that are needed to produce a successful clone came from — dogs in heat from whom egg cells are harvested, and female dogs who serve as surrogates — Russell said ViaGen Pets purchases oocytes from an unnamed provider and that “ViaGen Pets uses a production partner to supply the needed surrogates.”
Presumably, the merging of egg and donor cells and the surgeries necessary were performed at ViaGen labs in Texas.
Texas, by the way, is where the whole crazy idea got started — though it wasn’t pulled off until scientists in South Korea cloned the world’s first dog.
Here’s the condensed version:
Shortly after the birth of the world’s first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, in 1996, the wealthy founder of the University of Phoenix, John Sperling, decided that cloning his girlfriend’s dog, Missy, would make for a lovely gift.
He teamed up with his girlfriend’s son, Lou Hawthorne, to find a learning institution that would be interested in cloning the world’s first dog.
They chose Texas A&M University and funneled millions into the project.
For years, from 1998 to 2002, researchers there tried to clone a dog. They were able to clone the world’s first pig, cat, bull and goat, but dogs, they found, were extra difficult.
Hawthorne had high hopes of turning the cloning of pet dogs into a big business, and it was during this time that he launched Genetic Savings & Clone, a company that, like Viagen, stored the cells of pets whose owners thought they might someday want a clone.The research project at Texas A&M, eventually, was dropped, but the quest was picked up by Seoul National University in South Korea, which produced the first dog clone, Snuppy, in 2005.
The thousands produced since then — most often for bereaved pet owners seeking a duplicate of the dog they lost — have all been made in South Korean laboratories.
At one point, two Korean companies were producing dog clones for customers, and one American company was selling dog cloning, too.
Bio Arts, a company Hawthorne started in hopes of cloning dogs on its own, ended up teaming up with one of the Korean companies, Sooam, led by former Seoul National University scientist Hwang Woo Suk, to provide clones to American customers.
Among the first of those shipped back to the U.S. was a clone of Missy, which he presented to his mother, Sperling’s girlfriend.
She noted the puppy was ill-behaved, and said she didn’t want it.Hawthorne later pulled out of the partnership with Sooam, citing, among other reasons, his concerns that accepted animal welfare protocols — or at least those accepted by most Western countries — weren’t being followed by the South Koreans.
“A cloned dog contributes to the happiness of a family but I do not think it is possible to do it without a huge amount of suffering to hundreds of others,” Hawthorne told The Mirror, which was reporting on the first dog cloning for a customer in the UK.
In an interview with the Mirror, Hawthorne referred to the vast numbers of dogs that it took — up to 80, he said — to clone just one. And he confirmed that, as my book reported, Korean cloning researchers borrowed dogs from dog farms — farms where dogs are raised for their meat — for the process.
Today, only one of the Korean companies is still in operation.
Another Korean company that paved the way for cloning pet dogs — and provided the first clones to an American customer — pulled out of cloning pet dogs in 2011, not long after the publication of my book, “DOG, INC: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
ViaGen’s successful cloning of a dog lessens the likelihood of dog cloning fading away; instead it brings the process to American shores, and offers it at a much reduced price — $50,000 instead of the initial $150,000 the Korean companies charged.
ViaGen Pets says it is now the only American company offering pet cloning services — and says they are doing so “in full compliance with all U.S. regulatory standards and humane pet care practices.”
The are no federal laws against cloning dogs, or for that matter, humans, in the United States.
ViaGen,a long-time cloner of livestock, produced its first cloned cats for customers last year and it has been banking the cells of pets for more than a decade.
The company says the birth of Nubia will likely increase demand for cloning and genetic preservation of companion pet DNA.
President Blake Russell said the company has already genetically preserved almost 1,000 pets and that there is a waiting list for the cloning procedure.
“The potential to have an identical twin to something that was very important and special in your life is an unprecedented opportunity and has brought a lot of joy to pet owners,” Russell says in the press release.
In addition to the cost of cloning, ViaGen charges a $1,600 fee and $150 a year to store tissue samples from pets whose owners may someday want to clone them.
The cloning procedure involves injecting cells harvested from the original dog into egg cells harvested from female dogs, a jolt of electricity to help them merge, and implanting the resulting embryo into a surrogate mother dog who carries the pup to birth.
ViaGen says a cloned puppy or kitten is “simply a genetic twin born at a later date, and should share many of the original’s attributes, including intelligence, temperament and appearance.”
The South Korean company guarantees only that the appearance will be identical, or nearly identical — but they often achieve that by producing multiple clones.
Many of dog cloning’s customers have come from the U.S. and the U.K. — and up to now they have been turning to Sooam Biotech to clone their dogs.
Most animal welfare organizations oppose the practice, pointing to the number of other dogs it takes to produce a clone, the intrusive procedures, the creation of surplus clones, and the sometimes nightmarish results. They also say pet cloning companies are exploiting the grief of bereaved pet owners.
There has been little outcry from them about the fact that dog cloning is now being done in America. Then again, it’s a development of which many people — possibly having missed that “soft” press release — aren’t aware.
In any case, it appears an American-born idea has finally — for better or worse — come to fruition in America.
(Photos of Nubia courtesy of ViaGen Pets; photos of Snuppy and a cloning underway at Sooam by John Woestendiek)
Posted by John Woestendiek September 16th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, banking, cells, clone, cloned, cloning, cloning dog, cloning in america, dna, dog, dog clones, dog inc., dogs, first dog cloned in america, genetics, john sperling, jolt, laboratory, made in america, nubia, pets, preservation, science, seoul national university, shock, snuppy, sooam, storing, texas A&M, viagen, zap