It’s a cute and cuddly little idea.
So why does it give me horror-show-like chills?
I was thumbing through the latest issue of The Bark magazine – print version — when I came to a page devoted to spotlighting new products, including “Cuddle Clones, one of a kind plush animals made to look just like your dog! Capture the essence of your dog in this adorable product…”
Having written a book on dog cloning — the kind that takes place in a laboratory, with pet owners paying $100,000 or more to get genetic duplicates of their dogs – Cuddle Clones struck me as far less expensive, less intrusive and much more innocent way to have your pet re-created. Yet the concept was still mildly troubling. Leave it to me to find the ominous in something as harmless as a plush toy.
I think, as with real cloning, there may be — in regards to what it says about the essence of dog, and the essence of us.
For starters, you’re not going to recapture the essence of your dog in a stuffed animal, or by stuffing him, or by cloning him.
I’d even go so far to say that, even the most expert of breeders, even if they do manage to ensure many of the same traits are passed from one generation to the next, can’t recapture “essence” — a fuzzy term that, in this case, may be most synonymous with “personality” or ”soul.”
One can breed for looks and traits, but the essence of your dog — what makes him him — is uncapturable. Part of the reason for that, I think, is that what makes him him is all that he has experienced, including, and perhaps in largest part, you.
With cloning — real cloning — I arrived at the point where I viewed it as a selfish pursuit, most popular among wealthy and stubborn people who refuse to to accept that the rules of nature apply to them and their dogs. And I wondered whether, as much as having a dog re-created from a single cell might seem an homage to the original, it’s really an insult, like telling your dog, “You’re instantly replaceable; I can quite easily, if I pay enough, have another you fashioned in a laboratory.”
In reality, the clone, while a living, breathing genetic duplicate, is not the original dog. Though some customers believe otherwise, the original dog’s soul does not occupy it anymore than it would a freeze-dried version of his corpse — another alternative for those who insist on keeping a physical, though unmoving, version of their dog around the house.
Cuddle Clones, being toys, are far less creepy — and if it weren’t for the name I’d probably have no problem with the product. A plush toy that roughly replicates your living or dead pet is not all that nefarious. And the plush toy company, unlike the real cloning companies, hasn’t directed its marketing strictly at bereaved, or soon-to-be-bereaved pet owners.
That does come up, however, in the “Top 10″ reasons the company gives for buying a Cuddle Clone. (Expect to pay $300, or, for a life-sized version, as much as $850, depending on weight.)
Those reasons, according to the Cuddle Clones website, include:
”Your pet is so cute or unique looking that you must clone him or her immediately.”
“Your pet has passed away and you miss hugging him or her.”
“Your daughter can’t bear to leave her best friend behind when she leaves for college or the military.”
“You lost the pet custody battle in a breakup.”
“You’ve wanted to scientifically clone your pet for some time now but can’t quite afford the $50,000 price tag.”
“Cuddle Clones can go places real pets can’t go (work, vacation, the grocery store, nursing home).”
Cuddle Clones aren’t going to wag their tails (at least not yet), or greet you at the front door. For that you’d require a real clone, though we’d advise against it, even if you do have more money than you know what to do with.
Those are manufactured in South Korea, and the price has dropped from the $150,000 the earliest customers were charged to around $100,000.
(How dog cloning came to be, how it was marketed, and the experiences of the first pet owning customers are detailed in my book, “DOG, INC.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Pets Launched the Commerical Dog Cloning Industry.”)
Only one South Korean lab is still offering cloning to pet owners, and it’s working on broadening its customer base — mostly American — by holding a contest in England that will reward a discounted cloning to the person who has the most “special and inspiring” reason for cloning their dog. Contestants are invited to submit essays, photos and videos, and the winner will get a 70 percent discount on the $100,000 price.
It’s sponsored by Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, which is headed by Hwang Woo Suk, the former Seoul National University veterinarian who headed the team that produced the world’s first cloned dog, Snuppy. Hwang also claimed to have cloned a line of human embryos, but he was fired after those claims turned out to be fraudulent.
After starting his own lab, Hwang teamed up with an American company that held an online auction for six dog clonings and an essay contest in which a free cloning was awarded to a man who said his former police dog found the last survivor of 9-11.
As dog cloning hit the marketplace — actually doing so before dog had even been cloned — some of those who would become the first recipients of clones were chosen at least in part because of their heartwarming stories, which served to put a warmer, fuzzier face on the cold science of cloning.
Small stuffed dogs, all identical, were handed out as a promotional tool by one of the labs. Customers shared their stories, sometimes in exchange for a discount, and marveled at how much their clones resembled the originals. Then there were the best ambassadors of all — the puppies. Whatever fears and concerns surrounded cloning — from animal welfare issues, to where it will all lead, to the utter lack of government regulation, especially in South Korea — images of nursing and frolicking puppies had a way of pushing them aside.
Cuddle Clones — even just the marriage of those two words — could similarly, if unintentionally, serve to make real cloning more palatable to a public that may not know that dog cloning isn’t cute at all.
It involves the use of numerous dogs for egg harvesting. After the cells of the donor dog are merged with those and — with help from an electric jolt – begin dividing, more dogs yet are needed to serve as surrogates. More than 1,000 egg cells were harvested to clone the first dog. While the process has grown far more efficient, multiple attempts are still required to ensure an exact lookalike is born — into a world where dogs are routinely put down because of overpopulation.
The American company selling clonings — all carried out by Sooam – later shut down for reasons that included concerns about whether proper animal welfare protocols were being followed in the South Korean labs. RNL Bio, the company that cloned the first dog for a customer, has stepped away from dog cloning, citing negative public opinion as one factor.
But canine clones are still being churned out at Sooam, and the price — once $150,000 a shot — is continuing to drop, meaning more people will be able to afford a laboratory-produced replica of their dog.
For those who can’t, there are Cuddle Clones – soft and huggable plushies, filled with synthetic fabrics, that seem to send the message that clones are adorable.
And clones may be just that – both the real ones and the stuffed ones.
Dog cloning, though, when it comes to the process, is not so pretty, not so heartwarming, and not so cuddly.
You might even say – though it would be too late — that it’s nothing to toy with.
(Photos: Top three photos courtesy of Cuddle Clones, bottom two photos, of dogs being cloned at Sooam, by John Woestendiek)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 23rd, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adorable, animals, book, books, cloned, clones, cloning, cuddle clones, custom, dog, dog cloning, dog inc., dogs, huggable, lookalike, pets, plush, replicas, resemble, sooam, sooam biotech research foundation, south korea, stuffed, toys
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.
Most of those who venture onto this website know the lingering pain of losing a pet, how hard it is to let go of their memory — and how, often, we never do.
Some even know that the author of this website wrote a rather bizarre book about it, looking at the ways we try to hold onto a piece, or more, of our departed pets after they’re gone — in particular the newest and perhaps most outlandish of those, dog cloning.
Instead, most recent portrayals — of services ranging from cloning to freeze-drying – have been formulaic and superficial reality TV-type programs that fail to dig at all, or at least not as deep as the grief they’re focusing on.
So I’m eagerly awaiting, and have high hopes for, a new documentary called “Furever,” scheduled to premier next month as part of the Cleveland International Film Festival.
Director Amy Finkel traveled the country to look at the assorted — some might say sordid – routes we take to memorialize our dogs, or recapture a semblance of the life that once ran through them.
Her stops included a taxidermist in rural Pennsylvania, a religious group in Utah that mummifies pets, and various other parts of the country where entrepreneurs offer everything from jewelry to tattoos, made from the ashes of our dead pets.
She even popped in on Ace and me (though I’m told we don’t appear until the end of the film).
Endings are what the documentary is about, and our refusal, sometimes, to accept them — at least not without a freeze dried statue of our pet, a genetic twin created in a South Korean laboratory, or a trinket or shrine to remember them by.
Sixty-two percent of Americans own pets, spending nearly 53 billion dollars on them annually — most of that, fortunately, while their dog is still alive, but a lot of it, sometimes, after they’re gone.
The avenues they take, while they seem sane and fitting to the pet owners, sometimes strike others as bizarre.
Finkel’s examination, judging from time I spent with her, promises to be a non-judgmental one, and one that I expect , unlike other recent looks at pet preservation, doesn’t feel the need to inject additional melodrama. Often, there’s enough there already — so much that we don’t look beyond the outrageousness to see what we might learn.
“FUREVER is a documentary about the people looking to hang onto the memories of their four-legged loved ones, and the booming trade that is providing services that are an equal amount of creativity, empathy, and opportunity,” Finkel writes on the film’s website.
“FUREVER isn’t just about an industry that provides methods of pet preservation; it is also a study of how the relationship between owner and pet has grown throughout the centuries into a full-fledged family unit. Whether you’re a pet parent yourself, or friends with some, FUREVER gives you an intimate look into the gratitude and grief that goes with loving your pet.”
Amy Finkel earned her B.A. in Theater from Connecticut College and her M.F.A. in Design and Technology from Parsons School of Design. She lives in Brooklyn and works as a designer, photographer, documentary filmmaker, and writer.
Finkel’s project began almost five years ago, when she read a newspaper article about Mac’s Taxidermy and Freeze-Dry in Loudon, Pa., whose services included freeze-drying and preserving deceased pets — sometimes in part, sometimes in whole. One potential client wanted the ears of a Dalmatian to be preserved, and another brought an amputated dog leg.
From there she moved on to visiting the Summum, a religious group in Utah that mummifies pets, and people.
The film also looks at cloning — now available, for $100,000, in South Korea, at technology being used to turn animals’ ashes into diamonds, and at pet owners who get tattoos with ink that’s mixed with their animals cremated remains. Her brother has gotten several of those, made from the ashes of his pit bull, according to a New York Times article about Finkel’s movie.
“This is about the human-pet bond, and it’s also about mortality,” Finkel said. “We shy away from discourse on death. It’s uncomfortable and stigmatized, but maybe through talking about pets, we can open up the dialogue.”
The documentary will have its premier at Cleveland International Film Festival, with screenings on Thursday, April 11, at 7:20 p.m.; Saturday, April 13, at 3:40 p.m. and Sunday, April 14, at 11:45 a.m.
(Photos by, and courtesy of, Amy Finkel)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 12th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: amy finkel, animals, ashes, cleveland international film festival, cloning, cremation, dead, director, documentary, dog, dog inc., dogs, film, freeze dried, furever, ink, jewelry, mac's taxidermy, memorials, movie, mummification, mummified, pet preservation, pets, premier, shrines, stuffed, summum, tattoos, taxidermy
As that annual parade of the pedigreed known as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show unfolded at Madison Square Garden, there has been a debate over purebred dogs going on in the pages of the New York Times, at least its digital ones.
It’s worth checking out, especially, in my view, two of the opinion pieces from two of my favorite dog experts.
Alexandra Horowitz, professor of psychology at Barnard College and author of “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know,” hits on several important points in a piece focused mainly on the link between breed standards and inherited disorders.
She cites research showing that, among the most popular breeds, almost every one has developed some type of inherited disorder stemming from breed standards that prescribe how a dog should look.
Bulldogs and pugs have broad and shortened heads that lead to obstructions in breathing. Many large breeds have debilitating hip and elbow dysplasias. Shar-Peis, because of their wrinkly skin, are prone to eye ulcerations. The Cavalier King Charles spaniel may have a brain that grows too large for its skull, an extremely painful condition called syringomyelia.
By changing the breed standards — making them more health-contingent than looks-contingent, the health of dozens of breeds could be improved, she notes.
Horowitz also addresses the matter of personality. Although AKC breed standards make it sound like a dog’s personality is genetically determined, that’s not the case, she says.
” … A dog is not merchandise whose behavior (outside of a few hard-wired ones, like pointing) can be predicted ahead of time.
“While many owners may see breed-typical personalities in their dogs (we humans do tend to spot just the evidence which supports our theories), there is simply no guarantee that a dog will behave just so. Witness the cases of cloned — genetically identical — pets who have, to their owners’ great surprise, quite different personalities.”
Making it sound like the personality of all dogs can be predicted by what breed they are is problematic, she notes.
“When a dog does not behave in accordance with her ‘billing,’ owners call this a ‘behavior problem’ — the single greatest reason for relinquishment of a dog to a shelter. Thus, inadvertently, breed standards lead potential adopters to treat them more like products with reliable features.
“Dogs are individuals, and should be treated thusly.”
In another piece presented in the Times “Room for Debate” feature, James Serpell, the Marie Moore professor of animal welfare at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society, looks at what kennel clubs, dog shows and the breed standards they espouse, has led to.
For one, inbreeding, as a way to produce dogs that most closely fit the written standards, or in some cases the interpretation thereof.
“Not only were the original gene pools of many breeds very small to begin with, but breeders have also accentuated the problem by selectively breeding from relatively small numbers of “champion sires” and/or by mating together closely related individuals.
“Nowadays, many breeds are highly inbred and express an extraordinary variety of genetic defects as a consequence: defects ranging from anatomical problems, like hip dysplasia, that cause chronic suffering, to impaired immune function and loss of resistance to fatal diseases like cancer. The only sensible way out of this genetic dead-end is through selective out-crossing with dogs from other breeds, but this is considered anathema by most breeders since it would inevitably affect the genetic “purity” of their breeds…”
“When standards do more harm than good, they should either be revised or abandoned altogether. We owe it to the dogs.”
A compelling argument is also made by Mark Derr, an author who was among the first to bring attention to the problems that have been created in the quest for purity and predictability: “It is long past time to make changes to standards that improve dogs’ lives or discontinue their breeding,” he concludes.
Less in line with my thinking — but I”ll point you to it, anyway – was a piece submitted by Lilian Barber, who breeds, judges and writes about Italian greyhounds.
Barber, president of the Kennel Club of Palm Springs, Calif., argues that breed standards are about more than appearance.
“Breeding dogs that fit a written standard isn’t just about appearance. Different breeds have different traits. It’s like choosing a vehicle. In many cases a two-door sedan will suffice, but sometimes a truck is needed.”
She continues, fortunately shifting out of the motor vehicle analogy:
”Most breeders of purebreds support research regarding the genetic health of their breeds and plan their matings carefully to insure that the offspring will be healthy. It would make little sense to put time, effort, money and passion into breeding unhealthy dogs … Those dogs are a huge and vital part of our lives.”
You can find links to all the opinion pieces here.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 14th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alexandra horowitz, animals, breed standards, breeds, cloning, debate, dog, dog shows, dogs, experts, genetic, genetics, health, inbreeding, inherited, james serpell, kennel club, mark derr, new york times, opinions, personality, pets, problems, purebreds, room for debate, standards, traits, westminster
Having drawn my line in the technogical sand — though it’s subject to being moved — I am managing to get through life for now without texting, or using any mobile apps at all.
But I’ll admit I sometimes wonder what — other than being annoyed more often — I’m missing out on.
If this app is any indication, not much.
“Ever wondered just what your pet would look like as a baby?” read a press release sent to ohmidog! “Well wonder no more.”
Now, thanks to a new app called Petbaby, we can turn a picture of our dog into one of what he or she would have looked like had he or she been born human.
According to the press release, the new cellphone app allows you to “take a photo of your favourite furry friend and turn it into a little human with the simple click of a button! Whether your pet is a dog, cat or even a rabbit bring your pet to life with Petbaby!!”
I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that, or what we’re supposed to do with the finished product. Frame a copy for our desk at the office? Use it on our Christmas cards? Nor do I understand why Petbaby thinks our dogs, already pretty lively, have to be transformed into humans to be “brought to life.”
Merging animals and humans has a long history, most of which, fortunately, is in the realm of science fiction and fantasy, and now apps. Let’s hope — in a world where dogs are being cloned, where human “furries” dress up and pretend to be animals at conventions, where technology has a way of trampling right over reason — it stays there.
Because the result of such morphing — even if it’s just taking place on your iPhone — is creepy.
Even Fierce Mobile Content, a website that keeps up with apps, named Petbaby a “worst entertainment app,” called it “an exercise in extreme stupidity,” and noted in its review the parallels to Dr. Moreau, the fictional mad doctor who created new beings from vivisected animals:
“There’s nothing cute or cuddly about slapping Fido’s eyes and snout on a random baby’s head. In fact, if you saw some half-infant/half-schnauzer mutant on the street, you’d kill it with fire and not a jury in the land would convict you. Babies? Cute. Dogs? Even cuter. But Pet Baby? Ugh. It’s the most warped photo-warping app on the market.”
Posted by jwoestendiek November 30th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: android, animals, app, apps, babies, cellphone, cloning, dogs, furbabies, furries, humans, iphone, morphing, pet baby, petbaby, pets, photos, technology, warping
Another movie about a supernatural dog has been released — this time, a vampire dog – but apparently it has skipped theaters and gone straight to DVD.
From the trailer, you can maybe see why.
Given that movies with dogs that talk, and movies that portray dogs as monsters (even lovable ones) are not among our favorite genres, you may ask why even post about “Vampire Dog?”
Partly because, having written a non-fiction book on dog cloning — a practice I see as selfish, ill-conceived, fraught with animal welfare concerns and maybe a little supernatural itself — I feel the need to stay on top of both the real world attempts to make dogs eternal, and any artsy representations thereof in the entertainment industry.
Partly also because we spot a trend, or maybe the beginning of one, or maybe just two of something.
Coming out next month, in theaters, is Frankenweenie — a remake by Tim Burton of his short film about a dog who is reanimated by his young owner.
“Frankenweenie” looks to be a lot more enthralling, and artsy, than ”Vampire Dog,” whose storyline begins when a boy named Ace inherits a dog named Fang from his grandfather in Transylvania.
Fang is not just a “vampire dog,” but also a talking dog (voiced by Norm MacDonald). I’m pretty sure he doesn’t actually survive on blood (either Fang or MacDonald), and that he (Fang) is more comedic than scary.
According to a synopsis on IMDb, Fang arrives as Ace, the boy, is working to fit in at his new school. There’s a mad scientist involved, named Dr. Warhol, who along with her bumbling assistant tries to capture Fang and steal his DNA in hopes of developing the latest anti-aging technology.
Fang, while evading his pursuers, forms an enduring friendship with Ace and the two discover that together they can face their fears and be unstoppable.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 21st, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, cloning, dog cloning, dogs, entertainment, eternal, fang, forever, frankenstein, frankenweenie, movies, norm macdonald, pets, reanimated, resurrected, supernatural, tim burton, trailer, trailers, vampire dog, vampires, video
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
Lancelot Encore, cloned in South Korea in an American company’s online dog cloning auction three years ago, is the father of eight pups, born on the 4th of July to another Labrador who was artificially inseminated with his sperm.
And they are for sale, at a price yet to be announced. (AKC registration is not a possibility because the organization doesn’t recognize clones as purebreds.)
Lancelot Encore’s owners, Ed and Nina Otto, have set up a website called labraclone.com which offers “future pups from the past” and will be used to sell seven of the puppies.
The Florida couple bid $155,000 to get the original Lancelot, who died of cancer, cloned in an online auction held by BioArts, an American company that attempted to clone the world’s first dog, then partnered with one of the South Korean scientists who was the first to pull the feat off.
Not long after Lancelot Encore settled in their home, with their nine other pets, the Ottos began thinking about breeding him.
Mrs. Otto said they paid several thousand dollars for a lab to inseminate a female Labrador, named Scarlett, with Lancelot Encore’s sperm.
Nina Otto said she was “tickled pink” that the babies had arrived naturally, the SunSentinel.com reported.
“I am keeping one and we are hoping to find good homes for all the other puppies,” she said.
Given the litter’s birthdate, the Ottos gave all eight pups patriotic names: Glory, Liberty, Star, Allegiance, America, Patriot, Independence and Victory.
While some news outlets, The Daily Mail in London included, call Lancelot the first dog to be commercially cloned (so do the Ottos), he’s not. Lancelot Encore is the first single birth commercial clone. The first canine clones delivered to a paying customer were five pups manufactured from the cells of a dead pit bull named Booger, by another South Korean company.
The full story of dog cloning can be found in the book, “DOG, INC.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry.”
You can read an excerpt here.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 26th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, artificial insemination, biology, biotech, canine, clone, cloned, clones, cloning, commercial, dog, dog cloning book, dog inc., dogs, ed otto, fathers, florida, industry, john woestendiek, labraclone, labrador, lancelot, lancelot encore, natural, nina otto, pets, puppies, pups, selling, sires, website
“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
But I just can’t.
Part two of the program, which aired Monday on TLC, followed two potential dog cloning customers and recounted the experiences of a Florida couple who were among the first to get their dog cloned.
All in all, it was, like the first installment, another quasi-documentary that avoided the harsh realities of dog cloning — at least when it comes to all the dogs used in the process of cloning just one.
Instead, reality show style, it reconfirmed how wacky people can get, especially when it comes to their pets, and the lengths they will go to get what they think, or at least let themselves believe, is a live version of their dead dog.
In reality, it’s not, though the show kind of glosses over that, and more, repeatedly referring to cloned dogs as resurrections of the original, and describing their first meetings with their owners as “reunions.”
Given that, the second installment, like the first, was high on melodrama, low on context and served little purpose other than building interest in a service that, while still on the fringes, continues to draw customers.
My opinion — formed in the process of writing a book about the subject — is that pet cloning is almost always best avoided.
It, for starters, is mostly a selfish pursuit. Clients seeking to clone dogs are mostly delusional, at least when it comes to what they expect — the exact same dog, in terms of looks, behavior and personality. Only the first of those can really be achieved, and often only with repeated tries. But beyond that, cloning dogs, at least as practiced in South Korea, raises a host of animal welfare concerns, ranging from the intrusive procedures involved, the number of dogs it takes, both to serve as egg donors and surrogates, and the fact that many of the dogs used in the process have been farm dogs, raised in South Korea for their meat.
Amid all the melodrama in “I Cloned My Pet 2,” there was little discussion of any of that. But amid all the silly moments, there were a few telling ones, some of them even believable.
“Yes, it is the same dog,”” Nina Otto insists in the show. “Yes, it is the same personality. Yes, we got more than we ever bargained for, and we were thrilled to death.”
Nina and her husband Edgar, the grandson of a NASCAR co-founder, had their dog Lancelot cloned three years ago as the highest bidders in an online cloning auction sponsored by an American biotech company. Lancelot Encore was born in a Korean laboratory and delivered by the American company, which has since moved away from dog cloning.
While happy with the dog, Edgar Otto came close in an interview on the show to admitting that their belief Lancelot Encore is the same dog may be a delusion: “Maybe we’ve set ourselves up wanting it to be the same dog, and it probably is not the same dog. Just leave us alone in our beliefs; we’ll be happier.”
The Ottos in 2009 bid $155,000 for the cloning — one of five winning bids in the auction – leading to the dog’s creation at South Korea’s Sooam Institute, the only facility in the world now cloning dogs.
Our favorite part of the show came when a Los Angeles woman named Myra, still grieving the death three years ago of her basenji, Kabuki, debated whether or not to proceed with cloning him.
Her boyfriend thinks it’s a bad choice. She wants it more than anything. Seeking guidance, she contacts a medium who gets in touch with the spirit of Kabuki, a dog whose ashes now rest in a decorated cardboard box in Myra’s bedroom.
It was — if you believe in that kind of stuff – the first time a dead dog was asked his opinion on whether he should be cloned. And he said no.
According to the medium, Kabuki advised Myra to, more or less, get on with her life.
The show’s third main character was Dr. George Semel, a Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon, whose Chihuahua was killed by a Rottweiler last year while on a walk.
While struggling to come up with money for the cloning, he eventually works out a payment plan with the Korean lab and receives three copies of his Chihuahua.
Along the way, he holds a “cloning party,” selling his skin cream to raise money, and has a song recorded about cloning his dog. It does not become the viral hit he hoped for:
(Photo: Nina Otto and Lancelot Encore / TLC)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 23rd, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, auction, basenji, beverly hills, chihuahua, clients, clone, cloned, clones, cloning, cloning book, cloning song, copies, customers, dark side, dog cloning, dog inc., dogs, duplicates, edgar otto, egg donors, farm dogs, genetic, genetics, george semel, i cloned my pet, installment, john woestendiek, kabuki, laboratory, lancelot encore, meat dogs, myra, nina otto, online, part two, pets, plastic surgeon, resurrection, reunion, second, sooam, south korea, surrogates, television, tlc, video