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Tag: book

The Neuticles story: How fake dog testicles made this Missouri man a millionaire

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Just in case you didn’t get enough of dog testicles yesterday, today we bring you the story of a man who built an empire atop them — specifically, silicone prosthetic implants than can make a neutered dog feel “whole again.”

Neuticles are nothing new.

Gregg Miller came up with idea well nearly two decades ago, persuaded a veterinarian to join him in the venture, and the rest is history.

For those interested in delving into that history, the book is entitled “Going…Going…Nuts.”

CNBC reported this week on how Miller’s idea — thought insane by most — became, after more than a few ups and downs, a viable business

In the mid-90’s, Miller’s bloodhound, Buck, ran away from home — apparently after the unneutered hound picked up the scent of a female dog in heat. He was found four days later a few miles away.

buckleashes1That’s when Miller said he realized he needed to neuter Buck, or “this is going to happen again.'”

Even before the surgery, Miller says he asked his veterinarian if anyone made implants for neutered dog. The vet told him that was “the craziest damn thing I’ve ever heard of.”

Miller said he wanted Buck to “maintain his God-given natural look.”

After the surgery, he said, Buck would would give him looks. “He was telling me, ‘They’re gone. What happened?'”

Miller eventually sold his veterinarian on the idea and they lined up 32 local investors who spent over $100,000 to develop Neuticles.

The veterinarian tested the first prototypes on 30 different pets without any problems, and the first commercially implanted Neuticles went into a dog in 1995.

Was that a proud day for his parents? Not exactly. “My parents, who were alive back then, thought I was absolutely crazy,” Miller says. “Everybody that I knew thought that was the sickest thing you could possible think of.”

Still, the product received lots of media attention, early on. It soon wore off, and Miller found himself strapped for cash.

Miller invested more, though, and began advertising in dog magazines.

“He did radio interviews around the country and offered free Neuticles to listeners. He built up a network of veterinarians, and business finally boomed,” CNBC reported.

Another problem came when customers started complaining their Neuticles-equipped dogs made a “clacking” sound when they walked.

Miller switched to making them from silicone instead of hard plastic, and that took care of that.

51P56DVC14L._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Neuticles now come in 11 different sizes to fit a variety of pets, costing as much as $469 a pair, and Miller has expanded his product line to include eye implants for animals, stays for holding up cropped ears and allergy products for sensitive pet skin.

He’s a millionaire now, living outside Independence, Missouri, in what he likes to call “The House that Neuticles Built.” He likes to drive his new Mercedes down I-70 and look at one of the six billboards across the country advertising Neuticles.

Buck has since died, and Miller now has a bulldog named Humphrey, neutered and equipped with Neuticles.

He showed off his estate for the CNBC (see video here), and dished a little too, noting that his celebrity clients include the Kardashians, who — it should come as no surprise — bought a pair a few years ago for their dog Rocky. They chose the earlier hard plastic version that make noise.

Barbara Streisand has cloned her dog twice

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Having literally written the book on the first customers of dog cloning, and having tried to keep you posted since then on developments in that morbid and exploitative business, I must report here on one of its newest customers.

Barbra Streisand.

In a far-ranging interview with Variety, the singer and show business legend revealed that her dogs Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett are both clones of her original Coton du Tulear, Samantha.

Samantha, who commonly accompanied Streisand to concerts and public appearances, and who had her own Instagram fans, died last fall at the age of 14.

In the Variety article, Streisand offered few specifics on how she made the decision to clone, or on the process itself, but either Samantha’s corpse, or cell samples from it, were sent to South Korea where they were cloned in a private lab operated by a once-disgraced scientist — the same one who was involved in the world’s first canine cloning.

Her two new pups were cloned at Sooam Biotech, using cells extracted from Samantha’s mouth and stomach.

In the process, the donor cells are merged with egg cells extracted from other dogs, zapped with an electrical current to spur splitting, then implanted in more dogs who serve as surrogates, carrying the embryos to pregnancy.

Often surplus clones result — those that don’t have the exact same markings. Through cloning’s development, death and deformities resulted as well. Animal welfare groups frown on the practice, because of the intrusive procedures the other dogs go through, and because it is generally quite easy to simply adopt a dog that looks like the one you just lost.

Streisand, from what I’ve read about her, seems to fit the common mold of dog cloning’s earliest customers — wealthy eccentrics unwilling to accept nature taking something away from them, who feel they have every right to get it back, no matter how much pain and suffering other dogs might go through for that to be achieved.

They weren’t all wealthy — including the very first customer — but they all were controlling sorts who often didn’t even recognize the utter selfishness of what they were doing.

They were also, early on, misled by the dog cloning companies that formed after the successful cloning of Snuppy in South Korea in 2005. Not only would the clone be an exact physical replica, but it would have the same endearing traits and personality of the original, they were told by the emerging dog cloning companies.

That part was bunk, and the companies later toned down their claims. As the process became more efficient, they dropped their prices too, from $150,000, to under $100,000, with some companies now offering a price as low as $25,000.

In the Variety article, Streisand’s two clones were mentioned as an aside, much like her husband, actor James Brolin, often is.

Along with her husband of 20 years, James Brolin, there’s no one she enjoys sharing her residence with more than her three Coton de Tulear dogs. Perhaps her biggest reveal: Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett were cloned from cells taken from the mouth and stomach of her beloved 14-year-old dog Samantha, who died in 2017. Miss Fanny is a distant cousin.

“They have different personalities,” Streisand says. “I’m waiting for them to get older so I can see if they have her brown eyes and her seriousness.”

Streisand, the article said, even suggested a cutline for the magazine to use with the photo they took of her and her dogs — Send in the Clones.

Streisand said that when the clones first arrived, she dressed one in red and one in lavender, so she could tell them apart. That’s what led to their names — Miss Scarlett and Miss Violet.

I don’t suspect Streisand looks at her new clones and sees in them the reincarnated soul of her original dog, as some early customers did.

I do suspect that original dog created memories she wanted to hold on to, at any cost.

Like the song she once sang, “The Way We Were,” asked:

Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time re-written every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? Could we?

The answer is — if you have more money than you know what to do with, if you have little regard for animals other than your own, if you have a selfish streak and an ability to delude yourself — yes!

(Photo: Streisand holding Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett, along with Miss Fanny (from left), who is distantly related and given to Streisand while was waiting for the clones; by Russell James / Variety)

The history and science of dog comes to life in … Zounds! … a comic book!

hirschcoverThink “dogs and comics” and many canine characters comes to mind:

Marmaduke and Snoopy, Underdog and Scooby Doo, Pluto and Goofy –a plethora of cartoon pooches ranging in size, intellect, shape, and colors from blue (Huckleberry Hound) to red (Clifford).

Most of them did little more than provide laughs. Some of them actually passed along some life lessons and knowledge. But none — not even the professorial Mr. Peabody — has displayed the scholarly knowledge of this one.

Meet Rudy, and the man behind him, Andy Hirsch.

Hirsch, through cartoons, words and an energetic narrator modeled after his own dog, tells the story of how wolves transformed into domestic dogs, what’s behind their behaviors and how their relationship to man has evolved in “Dogs: From Predator to Protector“.

It’s the latest title in a graphic nonfiction series from Science Comics that examines science topics ranging from animals, to ecosystems, to technology.

Through Rudy, writer/illustrator Hirsch explores what led wolves to be transformed into the diverse shapes, sizes and breeds of dogs we know today — namely, man.

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“I think it all falls under the umbrella of humans having had a profound influence on dogs. They simply wouldn’t exist without us, especially any sorts of artificial breeds, so a good portion of the book is really about our methods of influence,” Hirsch told Live Science.

The comic-science book gets into the intricacies of doggie DNA and genetics, their exceptional senses, their sociability and their capacity for cross-species communication.

“Humans and dogs have an unmatched partnership all the way at the species level, and to me that means we have a responsibility to understand and care for them,” Hirsch says.

It’s the Texas author’s first nonfiction book, based on his own research, and advice from science consultants including Julie Hecht, a canine behavioral researcher and adjunct professor at Canisius College in New York.

Readers follow Rudy, and his bouncing ball, through a lively series of discussions dealing with the history and science behind how dogs live and behave.

“Maybe it’s something of a cheat to let a tennis ball bounce 25,000 years between panels, but that’s the magic of comics!” Hirsch said. “… The tennis ball was a good way to, well, bounce from one thing to the next. Rudy is our friendly narrator, and though he’s very knowledgeable, he still has the distractible nature of an average dog. That means the bouncing ball never fails to move his attention from one topic to the next.”

Hirsch2-banner“This isn’t a textbook, so when there’s the opportunity to present some facts through an entertaining narrative aside I let the story follow it.”

Rudy is modeled after Hirsch’s own dog Brisco, who he and his partner (all shown at left) adopted.

“Rudy was his first shelter name, and it’s a good fit for a comic book dog,” Hirsch said. “If you get a chance to draw a book full of dogs, of course you’re going to make yours the star.”

We’ve looked at dogs from all sides now — or have we?

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Just when you think that photographers have captured dogs from every angle and in every situation — from under water to free falls, from dogs looking skeptical to dogs shaking off water — comes this: A series of images from a Lithuanian photographer that focus on the canine undercarriage.

Andrius Burba uses a specially made glass table to take photographs of the dogs from underneath, against a black backdrop, showing us a side of dogs we don’t usually see, except maybe during belly rubs.

Granted, it may not be their most photogenic side — given the dangly bits and such — but it’s a novel concept that provides some unique viewpoints.

Sometimes the paws alone make for a stunning image:

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Burba is an advertising and fashion photographer whose earlier work, Unter Katzen (Under-cats) went from Internet hit to a hardcover book. His dog photos are now a book as well, published in German under the title, Unter Hunden (Under-dogs).

He has also photographed rabbits and horses from underneath, and is planning a series involving wild animals such as tigers and elephants.

You can find more information about his work with other species and his merchandise (calendars, prints and books) here. Meanwhile, here are a couple more from his series on dogs, as viewed from below:

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(Photos by Andrius Burba, from the book Unter Hunden)

Size matters: The dog Guinness says has the longest tongue in the world

A fluffy, mostly white St. Bernard named Mochi has licked and drooled her way into the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest tongue of any living dog.

It’s 7.31 inches.

Mochi will be featured in the 2018 record book and in a new Guinness book, Amazing Animals.

Her owner, Carla Rickert, says the recognition is a huge honor: “It’s going to make all of the water and slobber we’ve cleaned up over the last six and a half years well worth it.”

She and her husband Craig adopted Mochi from a Colorado rescue organization called Big Dogs Huge Paws that rescues and rehomes dogs over 100 pounds.

The couple and Mochi live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Mochi loves peanut butter, which was used to show just how far that licker can extend when a crew from Guinness filmed the video above last year.

brandyMochi doesn’t have the longest dog tongue ever recorded. That honor belongs to a boxer named Brandy who lived in Michigan and had a 17-inch tongue. That’s nearly as long as a giraffe’s. Brandy died in 2002.

The longest tongue of any mammal, in relation to its body size, is said to belong to the tube-lipped nectar bat. Its tongue is is 3.3 inches — 1.5 times longer than its body — and is so big it must be kept inside the animal’s rib cage when not in use.

The longest human tongue — no surprise here — belongs to a stand-up comic.

According to Guinness, Nick Stoeberl, of Monterey, Calif., has a 3.97-inch tongue — unimpressive by dog standards.

Guinness determines tongue length in dogs by measuring the distance from the tip of the tongue to the snout; a human tongue, meanwhile, is measured from the tip of the tongue to the middle of the top lip.

Stoeberl took the title in 2015, ending a 13-year reign by Stephen Taylor, a 50-year-old British man whose 3.86-inch tongue could, when extended, hold five donuts.

Stoeberl said long tongues — and showing them off — run in his family. His father used to do Gene Simmons imitations, and he and his brother frequently stuck their tongues out at each other. Stoeberl also uses his to paint, earning him the nickname, Lickasso:

“Dog’s Purpose” has solid opening weekend

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“A Dog’s Purpose” opened over the weekend to protests, mixed reviews and box office receipts that, while impressive, were slightly less than those it expected before controversy arose over the treatment of one of its canine stars.

The film pulled in $18.4 million over the weekend — less than the estimated $24 million expected before a video was leaked showing a German shepherd resisting efforts to have him perform a stunt.

After the video appeared on TMZ, PETA called for a boycott of the movie.

Initially, many of those involved in making the movie — including its director and actor Josh Gad — said the video was disturbing.

Gad, who supplies the voice of the continually reincarnating dog in the movie, posted on Twitter that the footage left him “shaken and sad … As the proud owner of a rescued dog and a fervent supporter of organizations like PETA, I have reached out to the production team and studio to ask for an explanation for these disturbing images.”

The days leading up to the movie’s release saw a scheduled press preview canceled, Gad go silent, and a well choreographed defense of the movie that included appearances by its star, Dennis Quaid, who insisted no animals were harmed and that the video was misleading.

Even the American Humane Association, which monitors the treatment of animals in TV and movie productions — after suspending the monitor assigned to the film and before its investigation was finished — came out in support of the movie in a PETA-bashing letter published by its CEO.

The studio provided additional footage of the dog willingly performing the stunt during rehearsals to support their stance that he was not being mistreated. The movie’s makers also questioned why the video was leaked a year and a half after it was made — and the week before the movie’s opening — suggesting something nefarious was going on.

Dog lovers, generally a united bunch, found themselves on both sides of the issue — some saying the video showed the dog was pushed too far and supporting the boycott; others saying the leaked video lacked context, that the stunt was eventually called off for that day after the dog resisted, and that nothing cruel took place.

For many fans of the best selling book, there was a feeling that the movie’s sweet, dog-loving message didn’t deserve to be tarnished by a video they viewed as dubious.

Forty-five seconds of the video shows the German shepherd being urged to get into the pool, and dipped into it against his will. Another shorter piece of the video — believed to have been recorded on a different day — shows him struggling in the water and going under.

The water in the pool was being churned by outboard motors to create the effect of river rapids.

While the dog had willingly jumped into the pool during rehearsals, the location of where he was entering the pool was changed on the day of filming.

On opening night, there were small protests, including one outside the Arclight theater in Hollywood. Dozens of protesters held up signs that read, “A dog’s purpose is to be loved. Period” and they chanted “There’s no excuse for animal abuse! Dog’s aren’t props!”

PETA and others argued that the effects the movie makers were after could have been achieved with computer graphics, but the movie’s makers said that would have been too expensive.

Amblin Entertainment and Walden Media’s film was released by Universal Pictures, and its weekend receipts were nearly enough to cover the estimated cost of making it, about $22 million.

“A Dog’s Purpose” came in second to M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split,” which tells the story of a man with dissociative identity disorder who takes three teens hostage.

Industry consultants say the leaked video and boycott had some impact on the film’s opening, but apparently a minimal one.

“A Dog’s Purpose is based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron, which has spent longer on USA Today’s best-selling book list than any dog book since “Marley & Me.”

(Photo: Patrick T. Fallon / For The Los Angeles Times)

Hercules and the heart of the matter

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As I suspected when the story broke, video of a frightened dog being … let’s say, strongly encouraged, to get into a pool during the filming of a “A Dog’s Purpose” has led to an explosive response from dog lovers on the Internet.

What I didn’t suspect was so many saying we should withhold judgment.

Here’s an example from my own Facebook page — a comment in response to either my ohmidog! post, or a previous comment from a reader who had decided not to see the movie. It urges viewers of the video not to “rush to crucifixion”:

“I also know that there are HOURS of footage to the contrary which this was conveniently edited from, and calculatedly released just prior to the film’s premiere. A PETA plant, I believe. I also personally know several people behind this film. I know how shocked, appalled, stunned, mortified they were. I know they immediately sought answers, spent all of yesterday viewing all TRUE, raw film from this exact scene shoot as well as several prior rehearsals … Closed minds, open mouths, soapboxes, rushing to judgment, social media & MEDIA are DANGEROUS TO GOOD PEOPLE.”

dogspurposePeruse social media and you’ll find, for every 10 people expressing outrage, at least one saying the video was edited (as it clearly was), that there’s a conspiracy afoot (as is likely) and that we shouldn’t have an opinion about what we see on the video until we see it “in context.”

Guess what? I don’t, in this case, need context. Show me hours of footage of Hercules, the German shepherd, being pampered by his handlers and it won’t make a whit of difference.

Even the author of the best-selling book the movie is based on, while admitting mistakes were made, is spinning things as positively as possible.

“…When I was on set, the ethic of everyone was the safety and comfort of the dogs,” W. Bruce Cameron wrote on his Facebook page. “I have since viewed footage taken of the day in question, when I wasn’t there, and it paints an entirely different picture.”

“The dog was not terrified and not thrown in the water — I’ve seen footage of Hercules earlier that day joyfully jumping in the pool,” he added.

Again, it’s the argument that the dog was mostly treated right. That’s good to know, but not the least bit relevant.

The 45 seconds showing the handler nudge, push and lower the dog in the water against his will make it clear he was frightened, resistant and stressed — and that should have been enough to call off the stunt, at the outset.

That eventually they maybe did, for that day, or for that dog, doesn’t change the 45 seconds.

The producer, the director, and one of the stars have all said they found the video disturbing. The American Humane Association agrees, and they’ve placed the representative they assigned to monitor the movie on leave.

And yet the apologists — motivated maybe by their love of the book, or by their hate for PETA, or by their ties to industries that exploit dogs — keep saying it is too early to say anything bad occurred.

That said, what the video shows is only borderline abuse, if it’s abuse at all. Hercules was not physically harmed. In the history of animals in the entertainment industry, far worse things have happened, which is why this IS a story and why vigilance and monitoring are necessary in movie productions involving live animals.

Pursuing criminal charges, or a boycott of the movie (as PETA is calling for), may be over-reactions. I won’t say what the video shows meets the legal definition for animal cruelty.

But stating this is not proper treatment for an animal in a movie? I have no qualms with doing that. And I have no problem pointing out perfectly realistic results could have been achieved with computer graphics.

After Hercules went in and out of the churning water — outboard motors were used to create the effect of river rapids — the video cuts to another scene showing a German shepherd in the water, and going under it, for long enough that someone on the set shouted “cut it” and handlers rushed to his aid.

Some reports suggest that part of the video was taken on a different day, and could have even involved a different dog.

That second part of the video, I’d agree, though it does seem to convey a little bit of alarm on the set, is so short and blurry that it does require some context.

But pointing out flaws in the video, or the questionable motivations of those who provided it to TMZ (probably for a fee), does nothing to excuse the behavior on set — or the movie maker’s bottom line responsibility for it.

Cut through the haze of Internet hubbhub, sparring, intrigue, and guesswork and what we can see in the first part of the video — in or out of context — is enough to remind us that animals in the entertainment industry need to be protected, and that they should never be forced to pursue stunts against their will.

That, I suggest, should be step one in sorting through this episode — seeing the underlying concern, not obfuscating it — whether you were a party to it, or just watching from the outside.

Step two? The movie’s makers need to accept responsibility, and none seem to have gotten anywhere close to doing that.

Instead, they almost all seem to be saying “I was disturbed by video. I didn’t see it when it happened. I wasn’t there. Mistakes were made. I would have stopped it. Why was the video just now leaked?”

Movie fans, dog lovers, and most of all Hercules, deserve something better than that.

(Photo: Amblin Entertainment)