A golden retriever named Bretagne is all over the Internet today — today being 9/11 — looking much grayer around the muzzle than she did in 2001 and being described as the only search and rescue dog at the World Trade Center who is still living.
Whether that’s accurate depends on how you define “living.”
Not to pick nits, but there’s another dog, a German shepherd named Trakr — said by some to have found the last human survivor of the World Trade Center attack — who lives on … in a way.
Trakr was cloned in 2009, after his owner, a police officer turned actor, won an essay contest seeking the world’s most “cloneworthy” dog.
It’s a long story, one you can read about in the book, “DOG, INC.,” which recounts how dog cloning became a commercial enterprise.
Here’s the short version: Trakr was the partner of James Symington, a Halifax, Nova Scotia, police officer. When Trakr was retired, Symington claimed him as his own. On Sept. 11, 2001, after seeing news reports, Symington, without authorization from his department, took Trakr to the World Trade Center.
There, as Symington recounts it, Trakr discovered Genelle Guzman buried in the rubble — the last survivor found.
Others dispute his account.
Symington later moved to California to pursue a career in acting, taking Trakr with him. When an American company called BioArts announced it was holding a “Golden Clone Giveaway,” Symington submitted an essay, and won.
BioArts footed the bill (about $150,000) and sent samples of Trakr’s DNA to South Korean veterinarian Hwang Woo-Suk, who was on the team at Seoul National University that produced the world’s first canine clone, Snuppy. He’d since been fired and opened his own laboratory, Sooam Biotech Research Foundation.
Trakr’s DNA was inserted into five “surrogate” egg cells, each of which was zapped with electricity and implanted into a different female dog.
In June 2009 five clone puppies were born and, a few months later, delivered to Symington. He named them Trustt, Solace, Valor, Prodigy, and Deja Vu, and said he planned to train them all as search as rescue dogs who would carry on Trakr’s legacy.
They seem to have fallen out of the limelight since then, and their Facebook page hasn’t been updated for a couple of years.
Earlier this year, the man who pushed dog cloning and sponsored the “Golden Clone Giveaway,” in an apparent turnaround, said cloning dogs — a service still offered in South Korea — was not a viable, profitable, or humane pursuit, noting that it took up to 80 dogs to clone just one.
Lou Hawthorne headed BioArts, and spearheaded the earliest (unsuccessful) efforts to clone dog at Texas A&M University. That research was funded by University of Phoenix founder John Sperling, who died last month.
While some of the main characters involved in dog cloning seem to be fading from public view, from Trakr’s clones to Sperling, dog cloning is not — Sooam Biotech is still carrying out clonings for customers who want duplicates of their dead or dying pets, at a price that has dropped to about $100,000.
But back to the dog who is in the news — Bretagne. She returned this week to the site of the former World Trade Center complex with her longtime handler and owner, where they were interviewed by Tom Brokaw for NBC’s Today Show.
Bretagne (pronounced “Brittany”) is one of eight finalists for the American Humane Association’s annual Hero Dog Awards, and later this month she’ll travel with her owner to Beverly Hills for the awards ceremony.
My hunch, and hope, is that Bretagne is not destined to be cloned, and that her owner realizes what many customers of dog cloning have not — every dog, and every person, is one of a kind. And one of a kind means one of a kind. That special something inside your dog can’t be re-created in a laboratory.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 11th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 9-11, 911, animals, bioarts, bretagne, cloned, clones, cloning, death, dog, dog cloning, dog inc., dogs, golden clone giveaway, james symington, laboratory, last, life, living, pets, re-creating, rescue, search, search and rescue, September 11, sooam, surviving, trakr, world trade center
When a friend had to put her dog down a week ago, Houston photographer Robyn Arouty joined her to provide some moral support, and to document Duke’s bittersweet last day with her camera.
Arouty, who is also an animal rescuer and advocate, joined her friend Jordan Roberts on July 7 as she let Duke feast on hamburgers and visit a water park before he received a lethal injection — all while surrounded by friends.
Duke, a black Lab, was diagnosed a few years ago with osteosarcoma, a cancerous bone tumor, and had his right front leg removed. The cancer came back, though, and was spreading.
“His tumor was growing rapidly and we were out of options,” Roberts said. “He would rally during the day, but his nights were increasingly uncomfortable as his tumor started to separate his ribs. We struggled with the decision to let Dukey go, but ultimately did everything in our power to protect him from further pain.”
She made an appointment with a vet to have him euthanized on Monday, July 7. Then she called Arouty, who had taken photos for her before. She told her about her plans for Duke’s last day and asked her to photograph it.
Arouty’s photos show Duke and friends eating hamburgers in the morning, visiting a water park, and cuddling with friends.
Along with the photos, Arouty told the story of Duke (narrated from his point of view) on her blog . (Note: At the time of this writing, it was having some technical difficulties.)
“Jordan let me know she had scheduled the appointment with the vet and the words just came,” Arouty told KSL.com. “See, I have lost three of my own dogs in the past year and a half.”
“With the help from our friends, Dukey had a beautiful day filled with love and happiness,” his owner said. “We should all be so lucky.”
(Photos: From Robyn Arouty’s Facebook page)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 15th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, black, cancer, death, dog, dogs, duke, dukes last day, euthanasia, euthanized, jordan roberts, lab, labrador, last day, loss, osteosarcoma, pets, photographer, photography, photos, put down, retriever, robyn arouty
When is a “final resting place” not so final?
When it’s a pet cemetery in Florida.
The owner of Green Mounds Pet Cemetery in Pinellas County says she can no longer afford to maintain or pay taxes on the property, and she is urging owners of the thousands of pets buried there to “dig ‘em up and move ‘em out,” according to a recent report by WFLA.
“In another year the county will most likely take possession of the property due to back taxes owed,” Laura Fletcher, president of Fletcher Enterprises, Inc., told a Channel 8 reporter.
She advised pet owners to move their animals to another cemetery before someone else takes the property and decides to bulldoze and develop it.
Seems all those promises the cemetery’s previous owners made about perpetual care, and all the fees pet owners paid for it, mean nothing now — if they ever did in the first place.
The former owners of the cemetery sold the property in 2000 to Fletcher Enterprises, Inc., which owned a Harley Davidson dealership next door. The company purchased the cemetery, but never operated it as such. They planned instead to use the land to expand their parking lot.
When the motorcycle dealership went out of business, Fletcher Enterprises stopped fully maintaining the property, which is now overgrown with weeds, with a mausoleum that serves as home to at least one otherwise homeless man.
Those who buried their dogs and other pets there over the decades — reportedly 6,000 of them — have watched the cemetery get covered up with weeds and brush so dense that any headstones have become hard to see.
“I get angry at this place not being maintained, because I did pay for perpetual care,” said Joann Vaught, who buried her poodle Martini in Green Mounds in 1979. “I think it’s deplorable, it’s such a disgrace to the memory of our beloved pets.”
Green Mounds sits off U.S. Highway 19 near the Largo city line.
The WFLA reporter who visited found a mattress in the mausoleum building, apparently used by the same man whose underwear was seen hanging on a railing.
Customers have complained to Pinellas County officials about conditions at the cemetery, but they said all they could do anything about was the weeds. The county has ordered Fletcher to cut them several times, and she has complied.
Pet cemeteries are not regulated by the state.
Fletcher told WFLA in an email that she is willing to donate Green Mounds to another pet cemetery or anyone who will maintain it.
“We are within our rights to sell, donate or build on the property as we see fit. We chose not to do any of these until pets could be moved. It has been a year and a half. Plenty of time to move them. Do it soon or you may not get a say in what happens to them once we no longer own the property.”
Here’s the WFLA report:
Posted by John Woestendiek June 17th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, burial, cemetery, death, dog, dogs, exhumations, fletcher enterprises, florida, funerals, green mounds, green mounds pet cemetery, harley-davidson, laura fletcher, maintenance, motorcycles, pet cemetery, pets, pinellas county, property, sold, taxes, unregulated
Hill, whose first book, “Where’s Spot?” was published in 1980, passed away after a short illness, according to Adele Minchin, a spokeswoman for his publisher, Penguin Children’s Group.
The book told the story of Spot’s mother, Sally, as she searched for him around the house, finding a hippo, a lion and other creatures along the way.
Hill was born in England. His career as an illustrator began when he became an errand boy at an illustration studio during World War II, which led to a position at an advertising agency, according to the Associated Press
While freelancing as a creative marketing designer in the late 1970s, he drew a picture of a puppy using his now-famous flap innovation, which fascinated his 3-year-old son, Christopher.
He was so pleased with his son’s reaction to his work that he invented a story to go along with it, which, eventually, became the highly successful “Spot the Dog.”
That came after countless rejections from publishers who were wary of his use of paper flaps to hide parts of his illustrations — such as a flap in the shape of a door that is lifted to reveal a grizzly bear.
“Familiar as we are today with a children’s book market where flaps, pop-ups and all kinds of novelty and interactivity are taken for granted, it is hard to recall what an extraordinarily innovative concept this was in the late 1970s,” Minchin said in a statement.
“At that time, Eric’s idea was so different that it took a long while before anyone was brave enough to consider publishing his first book about Spot,” she said.
“Where’s Spot?” was followed by “Spot’s First Walk,” “Spot Goes to the Beach” and many others.
Hill, who moved with his family to the United States in the 1980s, is survived by his wife, Gillian; his son, Christopher; and his daughter, Jane.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 13th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, author, book, books, books on dogs, children, childrens, death, died, dog, dog books, dogs, eric hill, good dog reads, illustrator, penguin, pets, spot, spot goes to the beach, spot's first walk, where's spot
This video loses its audio about two-thirds of the way through, but it’s enough for you to get the point.
Which is either (A) Miley Cyrus misses her dog, or (B) Miley Cyrus wants to be sure everyone knows how much she misses her dog.
Floyd, an Alaskan Klee Kai that Cyrus had owned since 2011, died April 1. While repeatedly tweeting about the pain that has caused her, Cyrus has been hesitant to describe what caused the dog’s death. It is now believed to have been a coyote attack.
Afterwards, Cyrus told the audience, “That was the hardest song of the night to do … as y’all know, because I lost my Floydie this week … Sometimes I just can’t stop from breaking down crying.”
It was the second appearance Cyrus has made with the statue, the first coming in a performance in Boston last week.
I sympathize with the singer, and offer my condolences, but I can’t help but notice in her all the same traits I noticed in customers of dog cloning, when I wrote a book on the subject.
She has yet to seek to bring back a laboratory-created copy of a dead dog, as far as I know. But, like most of the early customers who did, she’s wealthy, eccentric, perhaps a tad selfish, wants to control the uncontrollable, and seems to think her grief is somehow larger than anyone else’s.
I can’t help being turned off by those who need to shine a spotlight on their mourning. Call me old fashioned, but I think that should mostly be done in private. Cyrus, it seems, has decided to take her grief — like her navel and tongue and other body parts — public.
In recent years, the singer has gone through dogs at a rapid pace.
In 2012, Cyrus rescued a dog she found abandoned outside a Walmart, and named him Happy. He joined her other three dogs, Floyd, Lila and Ziggy.
A few months later, Lila died of initially undisclosed causes, though Cyrus’ mother later revealed Lila died of injuries received when she was attacked by Ziggy, and that Ziggy had been gotten rid of.
The facts behind the dog’s death weren’t revealed until one of her backup dancers posted some photos on Instagram, along with the explanation that Floyd had been the victim of a coyote attack at home while Cyrus was on tour.
Since Floyd’s death, her mother has given her a new puppy, named Moonie.
(Photos: Top, Miley in concert in Brooklyn; bottom, Miley with Floyd; via Twitter)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 8th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, attack, book, cause of death, clones, cloning, concert, coyote, dead, death, died, dog, dogs, floyd, grief, happy, lila, miley, miley cyrus, mourning, pets, public, social media, statue, tweets, ziggy
Brian, the family dog in Fox’s long-running animated hit “Family Guy,” died Sunday night when he was struck by a car.
The Griffin family’s faithful dog – a far more level-headed being than any of the human characters on the show — was killed off and, after some grieving, replaced with a new dog, named Vinny.
Brian’s multitude of fans want him back, and so do we (and at the end of this post, we have a suggested story line that would allow him to return, at least in a form).
The death of Brian came Sunday night in the sixth episode of “Family Guy’s” 12th season — and seemed to hit fans of the show hard.
A petition on Change.org is gathering thousands of signatures after being launched Monday by an Alabama fan asking the show to bring back Brian.
“Brian Griffin was an important part of our viewing experience,” the petition reads. “He added a witty and sophisticated element to the show. Family Guy and Fox Broadcasting will lose viewers if Brian Griffin is not brought back to the show.”
Brian, who was an aspiring novelist, was voiced by “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane; Vinny, the new dog, is voiced by Tony Sirico of “The Sopranos” fame.
The Los Angeles Times wondered whether fans will get to see their beloved dog again, and didn’t rule out the possibility.
Reuters reported that Brian appeared in more than 200 episodes of the show, which averages 6 million viewers an episode.
At Brian’s funeral, Peter Griffin noted, ”Brian wasn’t just my dog, he was my best friend in the whole world.”
We don’t know how much memories of Brian are going to play into upcoming episodes, but we’d guess that — as with any dog owner — it’s going to be hard for the show to just let him go.
And, while it’s too late, we can see some great opportunities — story-line-wise — growing out of his death.
For one, an exploration of what really happens at “Rainbow Bridge.” MacFarlane’s mind, and writers, could have some fun with that.
Better yet, what if it turned out the Griffins had hung on to a hunk of Brian’s tissue, and sent it off to South Korea for a clone to be created. It happens in real life, and it sounds like just the sort of thing Stewie would go for.
Having written a book about it, I don’t favor cloning pet dogs, and generally don’t see it as a laughing matter. But “Family Guy” has always had a way of making things that aren’t laughing matters pretty laughable.
If a clone of Brian were created in a lab, and the family “reunited” with him, would it really be Brian, brought back to life — as those behind cloning initially would have us believe — or just a similar-looking dog with his own distinct personality?
And, assuming writers followed a factual route, and Brian’s clone was not the same character Brian was, how disappointed would viewers be?
It could be a funny and informative route for the show to follow.
As many problems as I have with dog cloning, as blanketly against it as I am, I would have to be in favor of reanimating Brian.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 26th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animation, best friend, brian, bring back brian, cloned, clones, cloning, cloning dogs, dead, death, death of brian, dies, dog, dog cloning, dogs, family guy, fox, funeral, griffin, new dog, peter, pets, plot, reanimation, seth macfarlane, stewie, story, suggestion, television, the family guy, vinny
It shouldn’t take a whole lot of common sense to realize high-rise living can be perilous for pets, but this story out of Chicago serves as a vivid and tragic reminder.
A dog named Duke fell to his death from a 43rd floor balcony Wednesday morning — just three days after a cat, spooked by the dog, fell from the same balcony.
As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, the two cats lived in the 43rd floor unit with a man identified only as Ryan, and they commonly hung out on the balcony.
“I’d convinced myself thoroughly that there’s no way these cats would even slip off because they had that instinctual fear that right over this edge is a big drop,” Ryan said.
But during a visit from his parents, and their dog, Duke, one of the cats got startled when he saw the dog through the glass door, lost his balance and fell to his death.
Three days later, Ryan and his visiting family members had left the apartment, leaving the dog inside and, apparently, leaving the sliding glass door open.
Ryan, a 26-year-old musician who manages a video production company, said he was preparing to move, and had left a few boxes and chairs on the balcony.
“It created a ladder that no one was thinking of,” he said.
He, his mother, stepfather and sister went out to get breakfast and run errands. When they returned, Duke, a medium sized mixed breed dog, wasn’t there.
Ryan and his stepfather went to the balcony and peeked over the edge and saw police cars pulling up to the front of the building.
“He was in shock,” Ryan said of his stepfather, “and he was like, ‘Where’s the dog?’ and since this had just happened to the cat . . . I already figured the worst.”
Police are investigating the dog’s death, but are preliminarily classifying it an accident.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 6th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, apartments, balconies, balcony, cats, caution, death, dogs, duke, fall, hazards, high rise, highrise, living, perils, pets, safety