Six readers correctly guessed the name of the town to which Ace and I have moved.
And while I promised an autographed copy of my book to the one who guessed first, I’ve decided all six should get “DOG, INC.,” which exposes the stranger-than-truth story behind man’s cloning of dog.
The decision comes from my heart, with additional input from my back.
Book writing is a little like dog cloning that way — both are often exercises in selfishness that carry the risk of ending up with a surplus of unwanted editions.
I’ve sent all the winners emails to get their mailing addresses, but in case you missed them and see this, get in touch with me Cristina, Barbara Thompson, A.C., Maryjane Warren, and Bill Garrett.
You, too, Southern Fried Pugs — and since you’re going to sell them to raise money for your rescue, we’ll chip in three copies.
We’ll also be sending one along — assuming we get an address — to Vida, a frequent ohmidog! commenter who said she couldn’t bring herself to Google the answer because she felt that would be cheating.
That kind of honesty must be rewarded.
That advice may not be applicable to every situation, but it’s what Ace and I did over the weekend when we departed from what turned out to be the final stop on our year-long trip around the country — the apartment of my birth.
In September of 2010, 50 years to the day after John Steinbeck and his poodle started the journey that would become “Travels with Charley,” Ace and I left the author’s former driveway in Sag Harbor to duplicate, more or less, his route.
We circled the country, stopping at places of dog significance, Steinbeck significance, or no significance at all, traveling more than 20,000 miles before we returned to Baltimore.
There, having moved out of our home before the trip, we squatted and mooched off friends for a little while, and then rode a little more.
We backtracked to North Carolina, where, planning to linger a few months, we lived in the basement of a mansion in Winston-Salem. After little more than a month, Ace developed back issues and, on our vet’s advice, we started seeking a place to stay that didn’t have stairs.
I was on an outing with my mother when I asked her to show me my birthplace — the tiny apartment she, my father, and sister shared in what’s known as College Village.
Just about the time I was wrapping that up — except for the pesky getting-it-published part — the landlord who owned my unit told me he was selling it, and that I was required to leave my birthplace.
It was a little sad — in part because of the sentimental value of the place; in part because of leaving the friends, dog and human (and one cat) we’d made; in part because it would mean lifting numerous heavy objects.
With little spring in our steps, Ace and I went looking at apartment complexes, only to be turned off by their cookie-cutter sameness, and their silly pet rules — from arbitrary weight limits and breed restrictions to ridiculously high, non-refundable pet fees.
Even when they had swimming pools, we couldn’t manage to get very excited about any of them.
It had a green tin roof, a working fireplace, a shed out back and a front porch that seemed to be crying out for two rocking chairs.
It’s outside of town, but also inside of town, which we’ll explain tomorrow. In any event, we moved in over the weekend.
Friends in College Village held a goodbye party before we left — not a surprise party, but pretty surprising. That four women in their 20s would hold a get-together for a man all-too-rapidly approaching 60 says a lot about them, and possibly even more, I think, about that man’s dog.
Ace got a giant bone, an azalea bush that, once planted, he will be allowed to pee on, and a bandana that says “I’m smarter than your honor student.” Everyone at the party agreed that, in addition to being funny, it is probably also true.
Even before I started packing, Ace realized something was up and got stressed. Ace loves to hit the road, but he also loves having a familiar routine. He became extra needy, extra clingy and followed me around the house, except when I was making too much noise. Then he’d seek refuge in the bed, or ask to go outside.
There, he seemed even more eager to see the friends he was always excited to see, run to and lean on.
Perhaps, too, he was sensing the nostalgia swelling up in me. Even though I’d only lived in the apartment for my first year of life, and had no clear memories of it, it was where I was conceived, where my parents lived when I was born and the subject of much of my mother’s reminiscing.
The only thing that came close to seeming familiar to me was the door ringer — a hand cranked brass bell that, whenever it rang, gave Ace a thrill (because it meant company) and me a vague sense of déjà vu. Either I remembered it from infancy or it reminded me of a school bell.
When I left, I asked the new owner if I could take it, and he said okay, so I unscrewed it from the door and threw it in a box.
In a way, we’re not closing any doors, just opening — and perhaps modifying – some new ones.
I’d like to install the old bell on my new front door. It would be a way of bringing some of the sentimental value of the old place into the new one. It would make my mother’s eyes light up when she saw it.
And every time it rang, it would startle Ace, make him bark once, and lead him to stand at the door, tail wagging in anticipation over who — old friend or new one — might be on the other side.
(Tomorrow: The new place, disclosing our undisclosed location)
Posted by jwoestendiek April 4th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, blog, book, college village, dogs, door, door bell, friends, john steinbeck, moving, north carolina, ohmidog!, packing, pets, ringer, stress, travel, travels with ace, travels with charley, website, winston-salem
Vick was set to tour during the off-season to promote his autobiography Finally Free.
But online threats, made on bookstore websites and on Facebook, led the publisher to reconsider.
“While we stand by Michael Vick’s right to free speech and the retailers’ right to free commerce, we cannot knowingly put anyone in harm’s way, and therefore we must announce the cancellation of Mr. Vick’s book-signing appearances,” Byron Williamson, president of Worthy Publishing, said in a statement.
“We’ve been assured these threats of violence, which have been reported to the police, are being taken very seriously by local authorities,” Williamson added.
The publisher canceled planned signings in Atlanta, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Vick was convicted in 2007 and served 19 months in prison for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring
According to Philly mag.com, recent threats against him includes these remarks:
“I would go there to slit your throat knowing how you treat animals.”
“Hope your kids don’t fall in a pool with a battery.”
“I would snap your neck if I met you, your [sic] a piece of trash.”
PhillyMag.com reports Vick has received an increasing number of threats since acknowledging he and his family had brought a dog into their home.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 14th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, autobiography, book, book tour, bookstores, canceled, cancels, dog fighting, dogfighting, dogs, facebook, finally free, football, internet, michael vick, nfl, online, pets, philadelphia eagles, publisher, publishing, quarterback, threats, vick, worthy publishing
The problem with wall calendars, if you’re like me, is that you hang them on the wall and then realize, around July, that you haven’t flipped the pages since February.
The way to get around that is to buy one with artwork so irresistible you can’t help but remember to turn the page on the first of the month.
The underwater dog photography of Seth Casteel, which we told you about earlier this year — before it became a book, or calendar — fits that bill.
Casteel got intrigued with photographing dogs under water, posted some of the shots on his Facebook page and watched as they went viral. They show a side of dogs we don’t often see, and now you can give them a place of honor on your wall, or coffee table.
You can buy the calendar here.
You can buy the book here.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 3rd, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 2013, animals, book, books, calendar, calendars, dogs, pets, photographer, photography, seth casteel, underwater, underwater dogs, underwater dogs book, underwater dogs calendar
Sergeant Rex, a bomb-sniffing dog who finally returned from duty in Iraq earlier this year and was reunited with his former handler, died Saturday at the age of 11.
Rex was assigned to Cpl. Megan Leavey in 2006 when, on a patrol in Iraq, the dog alerted his handler of a nearby bomb. Both tried to run away, but it detonated, injuring them both.
Leavey left the Marine Corps in Dec. 2007, but Sergeant Rex continued to serve. She tried to adopt the dog, but was unable to for years because he remained on duty after recovering from his injuries.
This year, when Rex was retired due to facial paralysis, Leavey renewed her efforts, receiving support form U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and an online petition that received more than 20,000 signatures. In March, Leavey received permission to adopt him. They were reunited in April.
Leavey, who lives in New York, announced Rex’s death last week on her Facebook page:
“Unfortunately today at 10:56 a.m. Rex passed away. I was faced with the decision that no pet owner wants to hear, but I know I made the right choice. This is all very sudden and thankfully he did not suffer for long, this all came about late last night.
“I am so grateful for the last eight months I got to spend with my partner and my best friend. Rex got to swim in a pool and play with my other dogs. He got to roam the yard and bark at deer, play with as many toys as he wanted all day everyday, sleep in a cozy bed next to me every night, chase and eventually make friends with my two cats, enjoy and play in his first snowfall … and so much other great stuff that he would have never had the chance to do if he was never retired.
“He knew I was with him the whole time and I laid next to him and held him and spoke to him and he was at peace in the end. He is now my guardian angel … even though he already was. So thank you to everyone who supported me and made it possible for me to spend those precious 8 months with my best friend.
“He was one hell of a dog, one tough ass Marine, and one very special soul. He will no doubt be greatly missed and never forgotten.”
A book about Rex came out this year, entitled “Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog.” It was written by Mike Dowling, another one of Sergeant Rex’s handlers.
Rex searched more than 6,220 vehicles while stationed in Iraq, the Marine Corps says.
The publishers of the new book noted his passing in a Facebook post this week:
“Rest in peace Rex and thank you for your service and sacrifice. Once a Marine, Always a Marine … Semper Fi,” they wrote.
(Photo of Rex and Leavey from tribute posted at Findagrave.com)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 27th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: bomb, bombs, bond, book, death, died, dog, handler, handlers, ied, iraq, megan leavey, mike dowling, military, reunion, reunited, sergeant rex, sniffing, war
It’s a children’s story, centered around an aging boxer named Snort and the two children who love him.
But it’s a tale that applies to any grieving pet owner, serving to remind us, when that sad and difficult time comes, not to dwell on what you have lost but to celebrate the dog you got to have, and reflect on all he taught you.
In reasoned tones, and without relying once on that old fallback, ”The Rainbow Bridge,” it tells the story of a family that loses their dog, works through their grief and honors him in healthy and respectful ways.
The book centers on a boxer named Snort, and the two children, Savy and Sunne, who worry when he gets too sick to chase his ball.
Savy’s parents explain that Snort will need to leave their family because it’s the only way that Snort’s pain will go away.
Savy accepts that, but isn’t so sure how she will cope without her best friend.
In “Snort’s Special Gift,” Savy and her family explore different ways to grieve for and remember a beloved pet — from planting a tree in his memory to crafting tributes, like the one Savy composes in his honor.
In the end, Savy discovers that all the gifts Snort shared with her in life will, like his memory, always be there.
The author of the book, Suzann Yue, lives with her two adopted children and husband in Medina, Minnesota , where she coaches martial arts and is a photographer. She has won eight world karate championship titles, and started a karate school specializing in training children with attention deficit disorders.
The remarkable illustrations were done by Lin Wang, who received a bachelor of fine arts degree from Guangzhou Academy and a Masters degree from Savannah College of Art and Design. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and children.
(For all our news and reviews of dog books, visit our “Good Dog Reads“ page.)
Posted by jwoestendiek September 17th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, beaver pond books, book, books, books on dogs, childrens book, death, dogs, gift, gifts, good dog reads, grief, grieving, lin wang, loss, mourning, pets, review, savy, snort, snorts special gift, sunne, suzann yue
Leave it to director Tim Burton to get across the point — in his characteristically gothic manner – that I’ve been trying to make for two years now:
You can’t bring your dead dog back to life, at least not without running into some trouble.
At least that’s a point I selfishly hope his new full-length, 3-D animated movie, “Frankenweenie,” will make when it comes out in October.
As the author of a book on the brave new world of dog cloning, and being generally opposed to the practice, I’ve got some confused feelings about Burton’s new movie, which comes out — unlike his 1984 short film of the same name – at a time when dogs, deceased and otherwise, are being “re-created” in South Korea.
Science has caught up with science fiction, it seems, and sometimes brings equally scary results.
In the movie, a boy named Victor, grieving the death of his beloved dog, Sparky, conducts a science experiment to bring him back to life “only to face unintended, sometimes monstrous, consequences.”
Based on that summary, Burton’s new movie, like the classic work of literature upon which it is based, could have a few things in common with today’s reality, in which the cells of dead dogs are merged with egg cells from donor dogs, zapped with electricity and, after being implanted in surrogates, come to life. The going price is $100,000.
Do bereaved pet owners get the same dog — a reanimated version of their deceased one? Of course not. Do they think they are? Sometimes.
When I started researching “DOG, INC.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry,” the first book I read, or re-read, was “Frankenstein” — given all the parallels between that classic story and cloning.
Both featured grief, selfishness and laboratories, borrowing parts from one being to assemble another, and plenty of mistakes and deformities along the way. Both relied on a zap of electricity to spur things on. Both related to the stubborn refusal of humans to accept death, and the powerful drive, among some, to bring a being, or at least a semblance of it, back to life.
Burton’s new movie itself is a reanimation. “Frankenweenie” was originally a 30- minute short film. Now he’s done what he originally wanted to do — make it a full-length feature. Here’s the official synopsis:
From creative genius Tim Burton comes “Frankenweenie,” a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life—with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students, teachers and the entire town all learn that getting a new “leash on life” can be monstrous.
While much has been written about the making of the movie, and about the stars providing the voices — Winona Ryder, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau, among others — what message it delivers hasn’t been written about much. (Not that it must have one, or that it must be the one I’d like to see.)
The original short film — we’ve posted it here — was fantastical and charming. In it, the reanimated dog, though humans outside of his immediate family fear and misunderstand him, goes on to save Victor’s life and become beloved by all.
“The reason I originally wanted to make ‘Frankenweenie’ was based on growing up and loving horror movies,” Burton explains in the new movie’s press materials. “But it was also the relationship I had when I was a child with a certain dog that I had.”
“It’s a special relationship that you have in your life and very emotional,” he adds. “Dogs obviously don’t usually live as long as people, so therefore you experience the end of that relationship. So that, in combination with the Frankenstein story, just seemed to be a very powerful thing to me -— a very personal kind of remembrance.”
The original short film didn’t go into the folly and dangers of attempting to bring the dead back to life, and — being fictional, being fanciful, being art — it, and it’s lengthier animated 3-D remake, shouldn’t be required to.
It should need no “don’t try this at home” warning.
It should be allowed to just be fun, and not be subjected to hand-wringing reminders that resurrecting dead dogs, or at least what’s portrayed as such, is actually going on, or the moral and ethical issues surrounding it, or the sometimes horrific results.
And, or course, not being my movie, it shouldn’t have to make my point — one that wasn’t even necessary to make in 1984:
A dog’s death is final, and cherishing a dog’s memory (not to mention the dog while it is still alive) is a far more meaningful pursuit than trying to artificially recapture its essence in a laboratory.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 17th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 3d, animals, back to life, book, clone, cloned, cloned dogs, clones, cloning, death, director, dog, dog inc., dogs, entertainment, experiment, fantasy, frankenstein, frankenweenie, gothic, grief, horror story, message, moral, mourning, movie, pets, reality, resurrection, science, science fiction, sparky, tim burton, victor
That sound you hear is the collective bile rising in the throats of hundreds of thousands of Michael Vick-haters, who — if his new clothing line and new book aren’t distressing enough — will surely blow their tops, or lunch, upon hearing this news.
Michael Vick says maybe he’ll get a dog.
And, worse yet, at the end of this month — when the no-dog clause of his sentence for dogfighting expires — he legally can.
Vick makes the comment tonight, during an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN.
Above is a segment of what will be airing (with apologies for the 30 second commercial).
In the interview, we’re told, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback “speaks candidly about his fall from grace in 2007 when he was implicated and convicted of participating in the operation an illegal dog fighting ring.”
In his new book “Michael Vick: Finally Free, An Autobiography,” Vick expresses his love for dogs, despite taking part in training them, killing them and watching them fight to the death.
As part of his sentence, Vick was banned from owning a dog for three years, but this month the ban expires.
During the interview, Morgan asks Vick if he will get a new dog.
He says he would — for his children:
“I can’t take that dream away from them. That’s selfish on my behalf. You know, so, gotta find a way to make it right and, you know, I put everything in God’s hands to make it right.”
When Morgan asks Vick what kind of dog he would adopt, Vick replies “I would let them pick it out. Certainly wouldn’t be a pit bull.”
The interview airs at 9 p.m.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 18th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, autobiography, book, children, cnn, conviction, dog, dogfighting, dogs, finally free, getting a dog, interview, michael vick, michael vick getting a dog, ownership, pet, philadelphia eagles, piers morgan, pit bulls, pitbulls, prison, quarterback, vick
A Shetland sheepdog removed from the suburban New York home of a hoarder four years ago is back in town, and performing in a different kind of packed house — in a stage production of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”
Colt was one of 23 dogs removed from the home of a woman in Wesley Hills in 2008, according to the Journal News.
Ramapo police and members of the SPCA wore gas masks to enter the home, the condition of which was described as squalid, and the homeowner was charged with hoarding and neglecting the animals.
At some point, before her trial, she got Colt back, and he quickly tried to escape, getting struck by a car in the process. The accident left him with a broken back that required surgery and a body cast.
The woman later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct, relinquishing ownership of all but one of her dogs and paying a $125 fine.
Colt became the ward of the Hudson Valley Humane Society, living in the Manhattan and Stony Point homes of its acting president, Ann Marie Gaudio.
This spring, though, Gaudio got a call from the Antrim Playhouse — located about a half-mile from the house Colt had been hoarded in. They were looking for a canine to play the role of the bunkhouse dog in its production of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”
Gaudio suggested the producer and director audition Colt.
“Colt has the best bio of all of us,” Director Brooke Malloy Ortiz told the “He’s real sweet, a retired therapy dog. He’s not old, so we changed the dialogue to talk about how he has this wound on his leg and his back is broken. And we wet down his fur to make him look a bit more worn.”
In Steinbeck’s story of two itinerant farm workers, an old handyman named Candy has an old dog that one of the men, Carlson, constantly berates and abuses, eventually persuading the boss to let him put the dog out of its misery — an act that foreshadows what’s ahead.
Candy is played by Gordon Wolotira, who, under the director’s orders, was the only one allowed to pet or feed Colt during rehearsals.
The actor who plays Carlson, who yells at the dog several times in the play, wasn’t allowed to bond with Colt at all.
As a result, “Every time that Carlson has to pull the dog away from Candy, Colt growls at him and sometimes sits down and will not budge,” the director said. “We didn’t even train him to do that. But there’s a lot of shouting on stage, so he just wants to stay with Gordon, who has treats for him.”
Colt spends about a dozen minutes onstage, but he provides “some of the most engrossing moments of the play and it certainly gets the audience’s attention,” Wolotria said. “By the time they drag him off, it’s heart-breaking.”
Posted by jwoestendiek June 21st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, ann marie gaudio, antrim, antrim playhouse, book, candy, carson, colt, comebacks, dog, dogs, f mice and men, hoarded, hoarder, home, hudson valley humane society, john steinbeck, mercy killing, new york, of mice and men, pets, play, plays, production, role, seized, shetland sheepdog, stage, wesley hills
“One Nation Under Dog,” the new HBO documentary, doesn’t sound a whole lot like “One Nation Under Dog,” the book from which it borrows its catchy title and inspiration.
But, just as the book was worth reading, the documentary might be worth watching.
The Washington Post calls it “a revealing but difficult documentary about our deep bonds with canine companions,” and, in the reviewers view, its content is at times ”nearly too awful to watch.”
The documentary, which airs tonight (Monday) at 9 p.m., is divided into three themed sections – love, betrayal and loss.
While it covers much of the same ground as the book — the burgeoning pet care industry, the heights we go to in pampering our pets, the depths of our grief when our dogs die – the documentary does its own reporting, lingers longer in the darker areas and presents its findings in a tone less light and breezy than you’ll find in Michael Schaffer’s book.
With plenty of warning to viewers, the documentary shows dogs being euthanized with gas. The scene comes in the “Betrayal” segment, which focuses on overpopulation, abandonment and puppy mills, the importance of spaying and neutering and the work done by shelters and rescue organizations.
In the ”Loss” segment, the documentary looks at fancy pet funerals and the other lengths bereaved pet owners go to, including cloning. One of the stories told is that of the Florida couple who cloned their Labrador, Lancelot.
Each segment includes several stories, and each was overseen by different teams, with different directors.
It sounds like a lot to keep track of – from the tale of a suburban New Jersey man whose five Rhodesian Ridgebacks were accused of terrorizing their upscale neighborhood as they ran unleashed and bit at least two people, to that of a New England rescuer who goes to Tennessee to pull dogs scheduled for euthanization.
“The film grew out of a desire we had, as dog lovers, to explore America’s obsession with dogs and to answer some questions that intrigued and concerned us,” said Ellen Goosenberg Kent, who directed one of the segments.
“We realized that, ultimately, we were doing a film about how far some people would go for a dog — a question we often asked ourselves.”
Posted by jwoestendiek June 18th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abandonment, abuse, animals, bereavement, betrayal, bites, book, cloning, documentary, dog, dogs, dogs in america, euthanasia, grief, hbo, loss, love, michael schaffer, one nation under dog, overpopulation, pets, puppy mills, rescue, shelter, television