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Tag: booger

“Dog, Inc.” — Uncanning an excerpt

The agitated American was back.

She’d stood before the same ticket agents at the United Airlines counter in Seoul-Incheon International Airport the day before, and the one before that – pleading in tears one moment, loudly threatening lawsuits the next. She and her five nearly identical puppies needed to get home to California and putting them in the jet’s cargo area – as the airline was insisting its rules required – was, to her, out of the question.

Even after she presented them with some dubious “official” certificates stating the pups, despite their tender age, were service dogs, the airline officials held firm. She could carry one in her lap. The other four, they insisted, would have to travel as cargo.

“But I have three handicaps,” Bernann McKinney countered, big blue eyes staring out from under blond bangs. “I should be allowed to take at least three dogs, one for each…”

From Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend

When airline officials refused to let Joyce Bernann McKinney and her five dogs board the cabin for a flight from Seoul to San Francisco, she took some drastic steps. That’s the kind the former beauty queen with a scandal in her past has always been prone to taking — the cloning of her dead pit bull Booger being perhaps  a prime example.

McKinney, who, like other customers, banked her dog’s cells before the cloning of dog was even achieved, would wait for years — first for the science that brought us Dolly the sheep to get around to dogs, then for her laboratory-made replicas to be born.

When, as the first customer of commercial dog cloning, she went to meet the newly born clones, things went smoothly at first. She and her dogs would have a moment in the spotlight — but stepping into it would bring some other things back to life as well.

She’d be recognized from video of the press conference as the woman who, 30 years earlier, had been charged with abducting a Mormon missionary in England, and accused in court of having her way with him. (Her trial never took place because she fled the country then, disguised as a member of a deaf mime troupe.)

Getting Booger cloned — and all this is just part of the “uncanny” referred to in the book’s title — was a similar mission in many ways, marked by the same single-minded persistence and her refusal to take “no” for answer as she crossed an ocean, and a number of other boundaries, to be reunited with her true love. In 1977, it was Kirk, the Mormon missionary. In 2008, it was Booger, the dead pit bull.

When she returned to Seoul a second time to pick the Booger clones up, her problems – once she refused to permit the pups to fly in the cargo hold — continued.

What she did next was one of the scenes I used to open my new book, “DOG, INC.: The Cloning of Man’s Best Friend” — an excerpt of which, for those of you seeking a preview, I’ve just added to the book’s website: Dogincthebook.com.

Once she’d picked up the dogs in Seoul, she sought travelers who would be willing to pretend they were handicapped and take one of the “service” pups aboard the cabin with them. She went to the airport every day, offering free airfare to anyone willing to take part in the ploy. But she found no takers.

Eventually, her money and patience and energy running out, she began bringing the dogs to the U.S. one at a time — leaving four in a Seoul kennel, flying one to San Francisco, leaving him in a kennel there, then flying back to Seoul to pick up another.

Not until her third trip there did she find some willing accomplice. She managed to get all five clones to her home in Riverside, Calif. But there would be more troubles ahead.

In addition to being one of the main characters in my book, McKinney is the focus of a new Sundance-bound film by documentary-maker Errol Morris, called “Tabloid.” It focuses on the 1970s-era “Manacled Mormon” scandal, the feeding frenzy it represented for the British press and the toll that took on McKinney.

“DOG, INC.” delves into Mckinney’s background, as well as those of pet cloning’s other customers, including a police officer-turned-actor who says his German shepherd found the last survivor of 9/11, and a Texas rancher who learned the hard way that the clone of his unusually tame bull Chance, Second Chance, wasn’t the same gentle soul. It looks too at those who funded and researched the effort to clone a dog, and those who sought, and are still seeking, to make cloning pet dogs a profit-making business.

(This Saturday, Feb. 5,  I  — along with my dog Ace (no, he’s not a clone) — will hold a book signing for “DOG, INC.” at the Book Escape, 805 Light Street, in Baltimore’s Federal Hill neighborhood, from 1 to 3 p.m.)

Dog, cat and rat

Meet Gregory Pike — currently homeless in Santa Barbara, California — and his dog, cat and rat.

Most days, Pike can be found on State Street there, along with his dog Booger, his cat Kitty, riding atop the dog, and his rat Mousey, riding atop the cat.

The Mayor of Santa Barbara reportedly found it so heartwarming a scene that she had it videotaped and sent it out as a holiday card. We find it to be right up there with the elephant and dog story out of Tennessee.

We also find it more than a little ironic that, if you go to the comments section beneath the dog-cat-rat-getting-along video on YouTube, you can find dozens of petty, mean-spirited, bickering comments from humans who seemingly can’t.

The best factual account of Pike and his animals we could find was in The Bottom Line, a bi-weekly newspaper sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Pike, originally from Telluride, Colo., says he has been studying animal habitats and psychology for about 30 years, has worked with animal rescues and rehabilitation centers for mountain animals, and has a diverse background in animal training.

Pike says the act started ten years ago “when someone said it couldn’t be done.”

“I understand animals and why they do things. I understand some of the barks, and the meows, and what the different ways they do it mean. I’m not a Doctor Doolittle, but I know what they’re asking for.”

Pike told The Bottom Line that he has some insights into what makes people tick as well, and with his act hopes to be able to catch the attention of people to pass on his messages of peace and humanity to the human species. “Peace can happen anywhere — if they can do it why can’t people?” he said.

Pike reportedly hopes to someday open a free pet adoption and rescue center, which is why he keeps a can out for money.

Cloned dogs’ owner on Today

Bernann McKinney, the California woman who had her pit bull cloned, appeared on NBC’s Today show this morning.

McKinney, soon to return from Korea, where the cloning took place, won’t get custody of the clones of her dog for a month or two. She said she plans to bring three of five clones born last week home, and hopes to someday start a training center for service dogs, known as “Booger’s Place.”

McKinney says Booger, a dog she rescued from the street, saved her life when she was attacked by another dog 12 years ago, then went on to become her assistance dog.

Five little Boogers

  Here’s a photo of all five “Boogers” — the first puppies cloned from a household pet for a customer not associated with the biotech industry.

  Bernann McKinney, a California woman who says the original Booger saved her when she was attacked by another dog, then became her service dog, is expected to bring three of the dogs home in a month or two.

  The pups were unveiled at a press conference in Seoul, Korea yesterday by the company that cloned them, RNL Bio.

 ( Photo courtesy of RNL Bio)

Five Boogers: Pet cloning a success

 Former beauty queen Bernann McKinney met the five clones of her deceased pit bull Booger in Korea today — three of which she plans to take home to California as pets.

 ”It’s a miracle!” McKinney repeatedly shouted when she saw the cloned Boogers at the Seoul National University laboratory where the first dog in the world was cloned in 2005.

 My story on McKinney, and the ongoing dispute over dog cloning, appears in today’s Baltimore Sun.

 The arrival of Boogers one through five marks the first cloning of a  household dog for a private customer. The dogs were unveiled at a press conference in Seoul today.

  McKinney agreed to pay $150,000 for the cloning of her beloved Booger, who she says saved her from an attack by another dog and went on to become her service dog as she recuperated from her injuries.

 The company that cloned her dog, RNL Bio, later agreed to reduce the fee to $50,000 in exchange for her cooperation in publicizing the achievement.

 Seoul-based RNL Bio said the puppies, cloned in cooperation with a team of Seoul National University scientists, were born last week.

 ”Yes, I know you! You know me, too!” McKinney said joyfully, hugging the puppies, which were sleeping with one of their two surrogate mothers, both Korean mixed breed dogs.

 The team of scientists working for RNL Bio is headed by Lee Byeong-chun, a former colleague of disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk, who scandalized the scientific community when breakthroughs he claimed to have made in cloning human stem cells were revealed as fake in 2005.

 Hwang now runs his own foundation and has joined forces with an American company, BioArts International, to clone dogs. BioArts disputes that Booger was the first commercially cloned dog. Its CEO, Lou Hawthorne, has three clones of his family dog, Missy. It also claims RNL Bio is infringing on its cloning patents.

 RNL Bio, which also maintains it is the sole company authorized to clone dogs, said that its cloning of Booger was the first successful commercial cloning of a canine, and that they expect it to lead to more orders.

 ”RNL Bio is commencing its worldwide services with Booger as its first successful clone,” the company said in a statement.

 RNL Bio’s president, Ra Jeong-chan, said his firm eventually aims to clone about 300 dogs per year and is also interested in duplicating camels for customers in the Middle East.

 To see a BBC video of McKinney and the pups, click here.