As many as 200,000 dogs a year are smuggled out of Thailand, across the Mekong River and into Vietnam. The cruel journeys — in which the dogs are crammed in cages — last for days. The destination is even, by Western standards, meaner yet.
While smuggling the dogs is illegal, killing, cooking and eating them is not, and remains a tradition among some in China, Vietnam and South Korea.
Dogs commonly become dehydrated, stressed, and die during the trips, in which they are packed 20 or more to a cage, and 1,000 or more to a truck.
“Obviously when you’ve got dogs stacked on top of each other they start biting each other because they are so uncomfortable, any kind of movement then the dog next to the one that’s being crushed is going to bite back,” said Tuan Bendixsen, director of Animals Asia Foundation Vietnam, a Hanoi-based animal welfare group.
When they arrive in Vietnam, the dogs are bludgeoned to death and have their throats slit before they are butchered for their meat.
Some animal rights activisists say the stress all that inflicts, even before death, is intentional — that some believe the stress and fear release hormones that improves the taste of the meat.
While some of the dogs rounded up in Thailand are strays — known as soi dogs — John Dalley of the Phuket-based Soi Dog Foundation estimates 98% of them are domesticated and says some are wearing collars and have been trained and respond to commands.
“You can see all types of pedigree animals in these captured Thai shipments — golden retrievers, long-haired terriers, you name it,” says Dalley. “Some are bought. Others are snatched from streets, temples, and even people’s gardens.”
A dog in Thailand can sell for $10, according to animal rights activists, but they’re worth $60 once they are served up in restaurants in Vietnam, where they estimate a million dogs a year are eaten.
The trade is illegal in Thailand, but, with no animal cruelty laws, traders are commonly charged with illegally transporting animals. The smugglers usually receive sentences of just a few months in jail. And the dogs taken from them often wind up being captured again by traders, and shipped again to Vietnam to become meat.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 3rd, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, asia, china, cruelty, culture, documentary, dog meat, dogs, eating, korea, meat, pets, smugglers, smuggling, soi dog foundation, strays, stress, thai, thailand, the shadow trade, traditions, transporting, vietnam
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
With continuing criticism of his methods, a suicide attempt in his not-too-distant past, and his reign as TV’s “Dog Whisperer” having ended, you might think Cesar Millan’s eight years of snowballing fame was starting to head in the other direction.
Probably, you’d be wrong.
Just two months after the “The Dog Whisperer” concluded its run – and two years after the death of his favorite dog, divorcing his wife, and dealing with a deep depression — a new show, a new wife and a new book (his seventh) are all on the horizon.
On top of that, he’ll be the subject of a documentary. In ”Cesar Millan: The Real Story,” airing Nov. 25 on Nat Geo Wild, he talks publicly for the first time about the overdose that almost took his life, according to the Associated Press
“It’s rare when someone with his level of celebrity is willing to completely open up and share the struggle and hardship it took to find success and happiness,” said Geoff Daniels, executive vice president and general manager of Nat Geo Wild. “Cesar doesn’t hold anything back, and I’m certain our audience will feel even closer to him for it.”
Millan, 43, rose to fame in 2004, when his first TV series, “The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan,” became National Geographic’s top-rated show.
His success story began in Mexico, where he worked on his grandfather’s farm in Sinaloa, and began working with dogs in hopes of becoming a trainer. At 21, unable to speak English, he crossed the border and lived on the streets for two months before getting a job as a groomer and walker when Jada Pinkett hired him. It was Pinkett, before she hooked up with Will Smith, who got him an English tutor when she learned he wanted to be on TV.
He’d go on to build an empire after that, starting a magazine, a philanthropic foundation, a rehabilitation complex, selling his own line of dog products and writing books. (His seventh, “A Short Guide to a Happy Dog,” is due out Jan. 1.)
In 2010 — amid all his fame and fortune — came some misery. He’d sunk into a depression after the death of his pit bull, Daddy, and a divorce from his wife and the mother of his two children. That May he attempted suicide by drug overdose.
“I felt defeated, a big sense of guilt and failure. … I was at the lowest level I had ever been emotionally and psychologically,” he wrote in on his website.
He turned to his dogs for comfort and support, and got more of that from a new human love in his life, Jahira Dar, who now lives with Millan and his youngest son in Los Angeles. He calls her “the one,” and says he plans to propose soon.
His new show, “Leader of the Pack,” will premiere on Nat Geo Wild Jan. 5.
While it will feature his “pack-leader” training philosophy, the new show, filmed in Spain, aims to increase rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of the species that has brought him fame, fortune and solace.
“A dog would never see me as a Mexican or immigrant or think things people say about me,” the AP article quotes him as saying. “Dogs don’t rationalize. They don’t hold anything against a person. They don’t see the outside of a human but the inside of a human.”
Posted by jwoestendiek November 16th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cesar, cesar millan, daddy, death, depression, divorce, documentary, dog whisperer, dogs, leader of the pack, nat geo, nat geo wild, national geographic, new, overdose, pets, program, suicide, television, the real story, trainers, training, tv
“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
“I Cloned My Pet” lives again.
And, no — unlike the dogs the show is about – it’s not a repeat.
It was back in January that TLC aired a special broadcast about people who have gotten their dogs cloned — a “documentary” that amounted to little more than an advertisement for the dog cloning industry.
Now the production company that made it has put together a second installment, featuring three new pet owners seeking to resurrect dogs that have died, and TLC will air it tonight at 10 p.m.
If it’s anything like the first, expect another soap opera/infomercial hybrid, with three more highly passionate dog owners, some possibly bordering on bonkers, willing to go to whatever lengths are necessary to bring back a cloned version of their departed dog.
And expect virtually no discussion of any of the disturbing ethical and animal welfare issues surrounding the process.
(You can find those, and the real story behind dog cloning, in my book, “DOG, INC.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry.”)
The first installment of “I Cloned My Pet” focused on three customers of dog cloning — a service that began being marketed before dog cloning was even achieved (in 2005) and, for a while, was being marketed by three different companies. It’s now provided by only one laboratory in South Korea.
In the first show, viewers saw Danielle Tarantola receive a clone of her beloved dog Trouble; Peter Austin Onruang finally got a clone of his dog Wolfie; and Sheryl Carpenter of Albuquerque got to meet the clone of her mastiff mix, Blue Frankenstein, even though she was serving a 10-year prison term for gun running by the time the dog arrived.
In tonight’s episode, we meet George Semel, a Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon seeking a clone of his rescued Chihuahua, killed last year when attacked by a Rottweiler; another Los Angeles resident, identified only as Myra, who’s still struggling with the loss of her dog Kabuki and wrapped up in other emotional turmoil as well; and Edgar and Nina Otto from Boca Raton, who won an online cloning auction with their bid of $155,000 and got a copy of their golden retriever, Lancelot.
If it’s like the first one, the new show will put a premium on creating drama while conveniently overlooking cloning’s dark side. Things like:
- The number of dogs used in the cloning process — both as egg donors and surrogate mothers, all of which are sliced open in the process.
- That those dogs — both in the research stages and in commercial cloning — often come from South Korean dog farms, where they are being raised for meat. The dogs responsible for making a clone of your dog possible could end up on dinner plates.
- What happens to the surplus clones that are often produced, because the process doesn’t work everytime and is done repeatedly to ensure a healthy lookalike.
Expect it to perpetuate the myth most customers seem to believe — that a clone of their deceased dog is the same dog, resurrected. While clones are genetic copies, that doesn’t assure they will have the same personality or behave as the original did.
We’re hoping the second installment of “I Cloned My Pet” doesn’t behave as the original did, but that’s doubtful, because the makers of bad television are a lot like cloners — they like to stick with the formula, churning out the same thing over and over again.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 21st, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, blue frankenstein, book, clients, clone, cloned, clones, cloning, commercial cloning, concerns, copying, customers, danielle tarantola, dark side, death, documentary, dog cloning, dog inc., dogs, edgar otto, eternal, eternity, ethics, genetics, george semel, issues, john woestendiek, laboratory, lancelot, life, media, myra, nina otto, peter onruang, pets, science, sheryl carpenter, south korea, television, tlc, trouble, wolfie
When a Hollywood movie goes over budget, it’s no big deal.
When one being paid for by taxpayers — or even toll violators — does, it is.
So, as snarky as this investigative report by the 13 Undercover team at Houston’s KTRK is at times, it makes some valid points.
The Harris County attorney’s office hired director Fleming Fuller to produce a public service documentary about the dangers of dogfighting, offering $10,000 for the finished product.
The movie was intended to show the horrors of dogfighting, and get across Ryan’s message that he was going to be tough on people who take part in it.
Normally, we’d applaud something like that, but the movie went 10 times over budget, the county attorney seems to be taking credit for a previous county attorney’s dogfighting bust, and the movie’s director was a good friend of the Harris County attorney’s top assistant.
As the report points out, County Attorney Vince Ryan campaigned as an ethics watchdog: “So you’d figure his office would the first to make sure your money wasn’t wasted, reporter Wayne Dolcefino says. “Instead, they spent money like they were in Hollywood.”
On top of that, the report says there hasn’t been a big dogfighting bust since Ryan took office.
And, in yet another criticism offered by the news report, the documentary includes scenes of Ryan frolicking with his dog at the beach, which gives the film the appearance, at times, of a campaign ad.
The director charged $500 for his time on an overnight trip to Galveston — apparently just to obtain that beach footage — and expenses there included multiple hotel bills and a pricey dinner.
Fuller is a North Carolina-based director who has made a few horror movies, including Prey of the Chameleon and Stranded.
While the county’s contract specified $10,000 would be spent on the film, and that it would be completed in one month, the final pricetag came out to more than $100,000 and the film took nearly a year to make.
The movie was paid for from a special fund consisting of fines imposed on drivers who fail to pay tolls.
Ryan said the video has been used to train law enforcement officers and to show high school students and others that dogfighting is inhumane and illegal.
KTRK says the documentary ended up costing cost $13,000 a minute, and that only 171 people have watched it in on YouTube.
The original documentary, as it appears on YouTube, is in three parts, which, combined, add up to nearly 30 minutes, not seven minutes, as the news report says. (The version being distributed for education purposes has been shortened.)
Here’s part one:
To see all three parts, click here.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 30th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 100000, animal cruelty, animals, budget, county attorney, cruelty, cruelty to animals, dangers, director, documentary, dog fighting, dogfighting, dogs, education, fleming fuller, fund, harris county, heart of texas, horrors, houston, investigative reporting, journalism, media, move, news, pets, pit bulls, pitbulls, public education, toll, video, vince ryan, watchdog
The RSPCA and The Dogs’ Trust withdrew their support of Crufts. The BBC refused to broadcast the competition. And Pedigree, the pet food company, canceled its sponsorship of the event after more than 40 years.
(Pedigree — coincidentally? — was excused this year as a sponsor of the Westminster Dog Show, also after 40 years.)
After the documentary aired in the UK, the Kennel Club began taking some steps to revise the physical standards, used in judging, that many argued were leading to issues like cancer, epilepsy and breathing problems in certain breeds.
But how much did things actually change? Three years later — during which time, public indignation never seemed to fully drift onto U.S. shores — the answer seems to be not substantially and not quickly enough
That’s one conclusion of ”Pedigree Dogs Exposed: Three Years On,” which airs on BBC tonight, and is likely to trigger a new firestorm — and just in times for Crufts, the prestigious purebred dog show that runs from March 8 through March 11.
The new documentary was making news even before it aired.
In one interview in the program, Gerhard Oechtering, a veterinary professor at Germany’s Leipzig University, called for pugs and bulldogs to be banned, saying it’s unethical to keep producing members of a breed that can’t breathe properly. Dr. Oechtering called for flat-nosed breeds to be mated with long-nosed ones so that new generations do not suffer from blocked airways, reported the Daily Mail.
Another expert, in a call bound to distress many purebred breeders, goes so far as to urge the public to turn to mutts. “The best solution overall would be to popularize mixed breed dogs as pets because they are much less likely to be afflicted with the genetic diseases that are associated with pedigree dog breeding,” Cambridge University’s Nick Jeffery is quoted as saying in the Telegraph.
Jemima Harrison, producer of both the original and the sequel, said in an interview with the Sunday Express that there have been many positive changes in the three years that have passed.
In the aftermath of the documentary, bans were imposed on mating mothers with sons; fathers with daughters and brothers with sisters. The Kennel Club reviewed breed standards for over 200 breeds and made changes to 78.
The Kennel Club now permits Dalmatian cross breeding in order to normalize the breed’s uric acid genes. Currently, high levels caused by inbreeding can cause stones that make some dogs unable to urinate, leading to bursting bladders.
Still, in the eyes of Harrison, some of the changes in standards have been only minor, like changing the preference for a pug’s muzzle from “short” to “relatively short.”
“The Kennel Club is just tweaking; it is fiddling while Rome burns. We have still the problem of dogs being bred within very small gene pools. You can still mate a grandfather and a granddaughter… They are still being bred to win in the show-ring and the show-ring still has no health criteria. It’s the prettiest dogs that win and it’s at considerable cost to the dogs.”
Harrison is particularly pessimistic about the fate of the bulldog, whose breeders, she says, are “adamant that there’s no need for change”– even though the breed’s shape has become such that mating often requires “mating cradles” or human manipulation, and 80 percent give birth by caesarean section.
“Pedigree dogs are heritage breeds and something to be proud of, but too often their health and welfare are compromised. Fundamental reform is needed before we can be proud of the pedigree dogs we produce in this country,” she said.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 27th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bbc, breeds, bulldogs, crufts, dalmatians, documentary, dog show, dog shows, dogs, dogs trust, genetic, health, jemima harrison, pedigree, pedigree dogs exposed, pets, problems, pugs, purebred, rspca, standards, three years on, westminster
How far would you go to have your dog proclaimed the world’s ugliest?
For some people the answer would be not very far at all.
For others, it’s all the way to Petaluma, California.
There, every year, dogs and their owners (emphasis on their owners) compete to be crowned the “Ugliest Dog in the World.”
If that’s not worth a documentary, then what is?
“Worst in Show“ takes viewers into the world of the ugly dog circuit, and behind the scenes of the 2010 “World’s Ugliest Dog” contest, showing both its sweet side and its highly competitive one.
Filmmakers John Beck and Don R. Lewis document not just the “ugliness” of the dogs, but the sometimes obsessive nature of the people behind them.
The movie features Pabst, 2009′s winner, who has a 2-inch underbite; Rascal, an African Sand Dog who has been on several television shows; Icky, a nearly hairless 6-month old rescued Chinese Crested whose owner shaved his head into a matching mohawk for the event; and Winston, who bears a scar across his head from Hurricane Katrina. His owner, Ashley, hopes winning the contest will spread the word about rescue dogs, particularly those who, because of their unconventional looks, have trouble being adopted.
‘Worst in Show’ provides some insight into what we call ugliness, what we call beauty, what we call fame and how far we’ll go to get it. All in all, the classiest participants are the dogs. But look hard enough and you can find some of the more redeeming qualities of our species as well.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 22nd, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, california, circuit, competition, contestants, documentary, dogs, don lewis, humans, icky, John Beck, movie, pabst, petaluma, pets, rascal, ugliest dog, ugliest dog contest, ugly dog, winston, world's ugliest dog, worst in show
Meet Ace’s uncloned clone.
Last week, while I was bouncing around doing interviews on my book about dog cloning, a friend of mine at Best Friends in Utah sent along a photo of a dog she’d come across on the Internet.
That’s Ace on the right, and the lookalike on the left. She was found wandering in Michigan and — as as my friend noted — seems the spitting image of the dog I like to think of as one of a kind.
(And still do, no matter how many thousands of doppelgangers are out there.)
I’ve seen and met a few dogs that somewhat resemble Ace, but never one who does so as closely as this girl, especially when you compare her to the young Ace.
So with dog cloning back in the news, I’ll remake a point I made in the book, “DOG, INC.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry.”
If you’re looking for another dog just like your current or past dog, you can find it at a shelter – if not in your hometown, somewhere in America.
And while that dog will only resemble your dog in physical appearance, that’s all the cloners really guarantee, anyway.
In all the media coverage of the most recent canine clone to come to U.S. shores, no one has explained — or even pointed out — that Double Trouble, featured on last night’s TLC special, looks little like Trouble, to the left.
The original Trouble’s face, in most pictures, was mostly white, with some dark and greyish highlights.
Double Trouble’s face (left) is amost entirely dark, with far more brown fur and just a few little patches of white around his nose. Much, if not all, of the difference could fade away as Double Trouble grows up and his coat changes color. Photos of the original Trouble show him with darker coloring around his face, too.
Still, though, the truth of the matter is that genetic copies, in addition to not always acting alike (I’m sure you can think of some twins that exemplify this), don’t always look alike, either — as was evidenced, memorably, by the first cloned cat. It was two-colored; it’s donor was tri-colored.
For those South Korean laboratories producing clones, there’s an easy way around the physical discrepancies — produce enough clones to ensure not just that there will be live births, but that at least one of them will be identical.
That means making repeated efforts, using multiple dogs as egg donors and more yet to serve as surrogate dogs. It means more dogs rented from dog farms, only to be returned after laboratory use and sold as meat, as was the case during my visit there. It also means surplus clones.
None of cloning’s many downsides received much mention in last night’s TLC special, “I Cloned My Pet,” which followed three customers seeking laboratory made replicas of their deceased dogs.
While it did show the death of one clone shortly after birth, it glossed over cloning’s cons, and, worse yet, seemed to accept the bogus idea that clones are reincarnated versions of the original.
“Cloning offered the tempting chance to bring Trouble back to life,” the narrator said at one point. “The new old dog is reborn,” he said at another.
That, while not the reality, is the sincere hope of most customers. All three made comments about whether the clones of their dogs would “remember them.”
In addition to Danielle Tarantola, who recently received one clone of Trouble and is expecting another, the show featured Peter Austin Onruang, a California man who has spent years and hired two different labs to clone his dog, Wolfie. Two Wolfie clones have been born and survived. None of the others most recently implanted in five surrogate mothers did.
A third customer was a New Mexico woman who had made arrangements to clone her mastiff mix, Blue Frankenstein, even as she faced a prison sentence.
Identified only as Sheryl, she was allowed to meet the clone after it was delivered to the U.S. With cameras rolling, she fawned over the clone in a jailhouse visit. But, as the show pointed out, she isn’t likely to see him again given her conviction and 10-year sentence for transporting firearms.
In the most ludicrous scene in the special, Blue is taken to a “dog whisperer,” who interviews the pup. The dog, we’re told, tells the animal communicator about one memory he has from his previous life — how his owner saved one of his toenails and turned it into jewelry.
All of the owners claimed to see their old dogs in their new dogs — in terms of looks, behavior and personality.
Tarantola points out that Double Trouble lays down the same way the original did, with his rear legs splayed out behind him. “… He was bouncing around like Trouble used to do … He lays on pillows like Trouble used to do. He really, really has the same personality.”
Without going all adversarial, I’d point out this — based on what she says and my conversations with other cloning customers: When it comes to love — and that, at the root of it, is what pet cloning is all about — we sometimes see what we want to see, and don’t always see what we don’t want to see.
But that, like the ethics and morality of dog cloning, got little scrutiny in the TLC documentary.
What it did make clear — though I don’t think it did so on purpose — is that there is a degree of selfishness involved in getting one’s dog cloned. The customers all feel as if, nature be damned, they deserve their dog “back.” While it would be equally as misguided, none seem to be doing it for the sake of their dog.
And that’s another question seldom asked. As humans get their dogs cloned — to recapture a bond, erase their loneliness, or to relive, if not their own youth, at least their dog’s – how fair is it to the animals?
What does it say of the original dog if recreating him or her is a simple matter of sending a pea-sized chunk of flesh to a laboratory in South Korea?
And how fair is it to the newborn clone? On top of all the high and possibly unmeetable expectations he or she will have to live up to, will that dog ever be viewed as the unique creature it is, or only as a repeat?
Posted by jwoestendiek January 12th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, clients, clone, cloned, clones, cloning, documentary, dog inc., dogs, genetics, i cloned my pet, identical, john woestendiek, look alike, pet owners, pets, show, south korea, special, television, the learning channel, tlc
The Learning Channel airs an hour-long special on pet cloning tonight that looks at three dog owners who sought laboratory-made replicas of their deceased pets.
Judging from the little I’ve seen of it, I think the piece is likely to reinforce the notion that dog lovers who seek to “bring back” their pets are a pretty determined, if not rabid, lot. That notion, as anyone who has read my book knows, isn’t far off the mark.
As shown in “DOG, INC.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Dogs Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry,” the customers seeking clones, the South Korean scientists who worked to make dog cloning a reality, and those who marketed the service, all had one thing in common — a strong, sometime boundary-exceeding will to make it happen.
Tonight’s TLC special, “I Cloned My Pet,” focuses primarily on Danielle Tarantola, who has received one clone of her dog, Trouble, and expects to soon to take delivery of a second.
But I’m curious to see if — in addition to showing cute puppies — the show will give equal time to the less than cute, often downright ugly, side of dog cloning: such as deaths and deformities, and how many dogs it takes to produce a single clone; such as what happens to surplus clones who don’t come out exactly right; such as what goes on to happen to the egg donor and surrogate dogs after they make their contribution to creating a clone in South Korea.
Trouble died three years ago and his owner’s home in Staten Island is still a veritable shrine to the canine. Trouble’s face graces the walls, and the comforter on her bed, in which she sleeps, or slept, beside an urn of his ashes every night.
She’d even saved the last piece of chicken the 18-year-old dog nibbled on.
Tarantola got a big discount on her cloning bill from South Korea’s Sooam Institute in exchange for cooperating with the makers of the documentary, so we’ll have to wait and see how objective she, and it, are.
I’m told the report also includes the stories of two other customers intent on getting their dogs cloned, one of whom is a California man featured in my book. The other is a New Mexico woman who had her dog cloned even as she faced a prison sentence of a duration that will likely preclude her from spending much quality time with his replica.
“I Cloned My Pet” airs tonight at 9 p.m. on TLC.
You can catch a sneak peak of it at People Pets.
You can expect me to weigh in on it in days ahead.
(Photo: Snuppy, the world’s first canine clone / By John Woestendiek)
Posted by jwoestendiek January 11th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, author, book, business, canine, clone, cloned, clones, cloning, danielle tarantola, death, documentary, dog, dog cloning, dog inc., dogs, grieving, i cloned my pet, john woestendiek, loss, marketing, pets, science, south korea, television, the learning channel, tlc, trouble, tv