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Tag: exploitation

Barbara Streisand has cloned her dog twice

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

Barbra Streisand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting the monkeys off their backs

The popular Banana Derby race at the Lake County Fair in Illinois — in which monkeys ride on the backs of dogs — will go on this year, but at least one member of the county board hopes to have it banned in the future.

Board member Sandra Hart, among others, is concerned over the welfare of the monkeys involved in the race, the Daily Herald reports.

In a letter to Lake County Fair officials, Hart said the derby “does not speak to the values of our county.”

Hart is also supporting a petition to stop the event.

Chicago-area zoos and other animal advocacy groups also favor banning the event, which has been a popular attraction at the Lake County Fair for more than five years.

Harmless and funny as it all seems, it’s another example of exploiting animals — both the dogs and the monkeys — for cheap laughs, all under the assumption that, since the animals aren’t balking, they must be enjoying it.

We humans have no right to make that assumption — much less cash in on it.

County Fair President Jon Brodzik Jr. doesn’t see it that way.

“While we recognize and appreciate there is a wide range of opinions on the role of working animals in entertainment, the board of directors of the Lake County Fair Association sees no compelling reason to cancel the Banana Derby attraction at this time,” Brodzik wrote in response to Hart.

“The humane care and handling of performing and exhibition animals is a responsibility we take seriously, which is why animal performance vendors at the Lake County Fair are vetted very carefully.”

The show is put on by Gilligan T. Monkey LLC, which is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The promoter of the show, Philip Dolci, told CBS that he treats the animals with nothing but love and that the people of Lake County would be devastated if it wasn’t part of the fair.”

“… I mean, how would you abuse that animal, you know what I’m saying? We cook for them, we clean for them, my mom and wife make clothes for them. If I was doing something wrong, the people of Lake County wouldn’t have brought their kids back for six years to see us. They say, ‘We see the monkey every year.’ They know the monkey’s name. It’s insanity, really.”

Dolci says the performers are rescued animals who travel and perform about six months of the year, then live with his family as pets.

The Humane Society of the United States and the American Humane Association also opposed to the event.

The Lake County Fair will be held July 29 through Aug. 2.

When the Most Valuable Player is a dog

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It’s a wonderful story — what the Milwaukee Brewers did for Hank.

By taking in the stray dog that wandered into their spring training camp in Arizona, and bringing him back with them to Milwaukee, they assured the little bichon frise mix of having food, shelter, medical care and the love of not just a whole team, but hordes of fans.

hankapWhich brings us to part two of the story — what Hank is doing for the Milwaukee Brewers.

As anyone who has rescued a dog knows, you generally get far more out of the deal than you put in.

That’s quickly becoming the case with the Brewers — a team whose fans didn’t have too much to cheer about last season, in terms of wins, attendance, or highly adored superstar players, like the great Hank Aaron, after whom Hank the dog was named.

The summer of 2013 saw the Brewer’s biggest star, Ryan Braun, the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2011, suspended for most of the season for using performance-enhancing drugs.

hankmerchHank, we’re certain, won’t fall into that trap. And already he has given fans something to feel good about, judging from the turnout at a Hank “meet and greet.” Hundreds lined up to say hello to Hank, or pick up a souvenir from the Brewer’s new line of Hank merchandise.

The Brewers front office is making the most of the fluffy little mutt. As team spokesman Tyler Barnes noted, one couldn’t have dreamed up a more effective publicity stunt.

“I wish I was smart enough to have thought of this as a stunt,” he said at a recent event held to introduce Hank to Brewers fans. Hundreds lined up to meet the dog in the stadium gift shop.

“The Brewers have promised not to exploit Hank, though they didn’t say anything about making a few bucks along the way,” wrote Journal Sentinel sports columnist Jim Stingl. “You know a bobblehead is in his future.”

Some readers of the paper are saying enough with all the Hank coverage:

“Still with these DOG STORIES,” bemoaned one reader. “It’s sad I know more about the happenings of a dog that is a ‘Stray’ then I do of the Brewers and how their Spring Training went. This Dog got more coverage, and still is, then the actual team. And I applaud the Brewers for their great marketing tactic while removing the spotlight from the status of the team and cloud of Braun. Can the Newspaper please report about Baseball and not a dog, millions of dogs everywhere are offended they are not getting the same treatment, and once someone or something is offended things must change.”

We don’t entirely follow the logic toward the end of that reader comment — especially the part about millions of offended dogs. Dogs aren’t spotlight-seekers. That’s just humans.

But the newspaper did, for some reason, feel the need to say, in a blog post, that it might not be reporting on every single thing that happens in Hank’s everyday, non-official, non-Brewer related life:

“That everyday life doesn’t generate stories every day. We’ll have Hank Watch updates when events happen — but there will be days when they don’t,” the post read.

Meanwhile, Hank is living his new everyday life at the home of Marti Wronski, vice president and general counsel for the Brewers, and how often he’ll be making appearances in the stadium is still being figured out.

Wronski said that while “we’re giving Hank a home … it’s very clear this dog is the fans’ dog.”

hank crowdHank flew to Milwaukee earlier this month on a chartered flight with Brewers executives, and several hundred fans showed up to greet him at the airport, including the mayor of Milwaukee, bearing peanut butter treats, according to the Brewers.

Hank merchandise went on sale last week, including T-shirts, buttons and pennants.

The team is giving a portion of proceeds from those sales to the Wisconsin Humane Society,

(Photos: Hank dozes off during his meet and greet at Miller Park; by Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Hank in Arizona, by Morry Gash / Associated Press; fans line up to meet Hank at Milwaukee’s Miller Park, by Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Do you want sap with that?

The best way to experience the redwoods is in quiet reverence — like you’re in church, but without the boring sermon, sleep-inducing songs and plate passing.

Ace and I did some of that. We sat silently among the giant trees, craning our necks back, as if looking up to the heavens.

And — except for Ace relieving himself on the biggest one he could find — we behaved with all the appropriate decorum, being the types (though I can’t speak for Ace) who believe nature may really be the holiest thing of all, and that man, to satisfy his silly needs, has messed with it far to much.

For a good 30 minutes we sat wordlessly in a redwood grove, admiring their pristine beauty and giving thanks that, in a country that’s grown more environmentally conscious, steps have been taken to ensure these glorious giants won’t be exploited, and will be around when we who are just quickly passing through no longer are.

Then we drove through one.

Call it curiosity, or sacrilege, or reporting — which I’m prone to do even though I’m not a reporter anymore, at least not the newspaper variety — but when we saw a sign in Leggett on Highway 101 inviting us to “Drive Through a Redwood Tree,” we exited.

Leggett is the home of Chandelier Tree, one of four redwoods in northern California that tourists regularly drive through because, well, they can. They’ve been there since the days when exploiting redwoods was something you could get  away with.

The commercialization of the redwoods was well under way — and already controversial –when John Steinbeck and Charley passed through 50 years ago.

Man’s imprint — without even including harvesting the trees for lumber — was  apparent then, and most of the tourists traps remain.

Around Klamath, for instance, you can find a drive-through redwood, take a cable car ride through the redwoods, and see a nearly 50-foot-tall talking Paul Bunyan, with Babe at his side. We passed on that one.

In Leggett, though, we followed the signs, paid our $5 entry fee and went down a winding dirt road before crunching to a halt in front of Chandelier Tree.

I wasn’t sure my Jeep would fit through, especially with the cargo bag on the roof.

A tourist egged me on, telling me he was pretty sure I’d make it. I inched forward, having visions of my car getting lodged and becoming a permanent part of a roadside attraction that — though it had sucked me in — was against my (slightly flexible) principles.

As I slowly rolled through, both side mirrors began scraping the inside of the tree. Thankfully they were collapsible; thankfully too there was nothing breakable in my rooftop carrier, which was scraping the top of the opening as well.

But we made it, and I felt at once a sense of accomplishment and shame, for although I justified my trip through a tree by telling myself it was for journalistic purposes, the bottom line was I was just another sappy tourist, as gullible to gimmicks as all the rest.

Beyond that, it all seemed so lazily American — so par for the course in a country of people who, when we are able to tear ourselves away from our computers and go outside, commonly drive up to the windows of banks and drug stores, McDonalds and Starbucks to satisfy our thirsts, hungers and needs, all without exiting the vehicle.

What could be more American than a drive-through tree?

Nothing. Except maybe a drive-though tree where you could also get a Big Mac and withdraw some cash.