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Tag: family

An understandable, but still wrong, case of dog cloning

Most people who get their dogs cloned — whether they are Barbra Streisand or a non-celebrity — do so in a misguided attempt to hang on, if not to that dog, at least to its memory.

A Michigan woman had a slightly different reason: She cloned her daughter’s dog to hang on to her daughter’s memory.

And, however much sympathy that might evoke, however difficult this is to say, that’s still every bit as misguided.

Photographer Monnie Must, who has spent her career capturing memories, lost her eldest daughter, Miya, to suicide almost 11 years ago.

Must took over the care of Miya’s two dogs, Henley and Billy Bean.

As the 10th anniversary of Miya’s death approached, Henley passed away. Billy, a black Lab, was about to turn 14.

“Billy was her (Miya’s) soul and the thought of losing her was more than I could possibly bear,” she said.

“I thought, I am going to clone her,” Must told Fox 2 in Detroit. “I don’t know where it came from. It wasn’t like I was reading about it, I just thought I am going to clone her.”

Must began researching what it would take to clone Billy, and ended up in contact with a U.S. company called PerPETuate, the only U.S. company offering the service. The cloning was accomplished in a lab operated by Viagen, a company that primarily clones livestock.

Two vials of tissue were taken from Billy, and scientists merged Billy’s cells with egg cells of of another dog, creating an embryo with Billy’s exact DNA.

That was implanted into a surrogate dog at a Rochester, N.Y., lab operated by Viagen.

Last October, they called to tell her they were going to do an ultrasound on Oct. 11 — Miya’s birthday.

“It’s like, really? Of all the dates?” Must said.

Eight weeks after the birth of the dog, named Gunni, Must, who lives in Sylvan Lake, Mich., flew to Rochester to pick her up.

“There was like an immediate bond between us, this dog. I just adore this dog.”

Now eight months old, Gunni’s appearance and personality strike her as identical to those of Billy.

“Billy was kind of a wild, crazy, happy dog – and Gunni is kind of a wild, crazy, happy dog and she is smart,” she said. “So all I can see so far.”

And here is where I need to stop and point out a few things.

Cloned dogs don’t always have the exact appearance as the original, and a “personality” match is even less likely. Often, when they do, it’s because surplus dogs have also been cloned. Souls, I’d respectfully argue, are not transferable. How many puppies have you known that aren’t wild, crazy and happy? What did Must really pay $50,000 for, and could not an equally similar dog been found at her local shelter?

Grief can lead us to do strange things — and that is what those who invented and marketed the service have counted on since the bump-filled beginning.

(You can read about that bumpy beginning in my book, “Dog, Inc.”)

PerPETuate reported on its that Facebook page that the dogs are physically similar, but that Gunni was not initially getting along with Billy Bean, the donor dog, who is still alive.

gunniandbilly“Billy Bean was envious of Gunni and would like to have had her out of the house! After weeks of sensitive management Billy and Gunni are sharing space and beginning to form a close relationship.”

Must says Gunni is “perfect” and that having her in her life has reduced her anxiety.

“A lot of people have feelings – is this right, is this wrong?” she said. “For me, this is what was going to make me function.” Those who would criticize her, she said, “are not in that position. You can’t walk in someone’s shoes. I hope no one else has to walk in those shoes.”

One never feels fully whole again after losing a child, she says, but with Gunni at her side she is able to feel joy again.

As one who can relate to that, I’m happy she found a pathway to joy, even though — sadly — it was not the right one.

New kids film “Show Dogs” draws fire from parents groups

In the somewhat bizarre world of dog shows, the one traditional practice that most strikes outsiders as weird comes at that point in judging when a judge cops a feel of a male dog’s testicles.

As part of what’s called conformation — or seeing how well a dog conforms to “standards” — the process is usually a quick check, aimed at making sure the dog is intact (not fixed) and that his testicles have properly descended.

But to dog show spectators, who traditionally include families and children, it’s hard to miss.

It is also hard to miss in the new film “Show Dogs,” a family-oriented movie that stars Ludacris as the voice of a talking police dog named Max who infiltrates a prestigious dog show to investigate a suspected animal smuggling ring.

One subplot of the movie involves Max becoming comfortable, as a dog show contestant, with strangers touching his genitals.

In the PG-rated film, Max must learn how to “get used to” the groping, and it’s that aspect that has some parenting groups fuming about the movie.

showdogsWhatever parents teach their children about “inappropriate touching” and sexually predatory behavior, they say, this movie seems to be sending an opposite message: Grin and bear it, accept it, it’s no big deal.

Valid a concern as that may be, it’s funny — to me at least — that the practice is so accepted and goes so unquestioned at dog shows, also aimed at being fun for the whole family, but is proving so irksome in a comedic family movie.

Does that piece of a dog show really have to be performed before an audience of adults and children? Couldn’t it be done backstage, or as part of a behind the scenes pre-show screening procedure?

You don’t hear those concerns voiced so much among the high society dog show crowd — just as you don’t hear too much discussion about why a similarly sized, fully descended pair of testicles is so important in the first place in such competitions.

It’s because the American Kennel Club and other dog show operators see the competitions as a way to select and crown dogs that are prime breeding stock — those healthy and perfect dog that comes closest, appearance wise, to standards. (Standards set, by the way, by the AKC and other groups.)

Standards? How about one that doesn’t require a dog to to through a public groping in front of thousands, or maybe one that doesn’t require him to go through it at all.

From the makers of “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” the movie opened in theaters May 18. It tells the story of a human detective (Will Arnett) and his canine partner Max, a Rottweiler whose voice is provided by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. Together they go undercover at the world’s most exclusive dog show to solve a big case involving a stolen panda.

Since it opened, the movie has caught the attention of several parenting blogs, Entertainment Weekly reported.

“Max’s success is riding on whether or not he lets both his partner (for practice) and a stranger (the competition judge) touch his private parts. IN A KIDS MOVIE. WHAT??? Newsflash, folks: THIS IS CALLED GROOMING and it’s what sexual predators do to kids!” wrote Jenny Rapson in the blog “For Every Mom.”

In reality, those who show dogs do condition their dogs to get used to the groping to ensure they will behave properly during the judging practice.

“The movie ‘Show Dogs’ sends a troubling message that grooms children for sexual abuse,” said the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, previously known as Morality in Media. “It contains multiple scenes where a dog character must have its private parts inspected, in the course of which the dog is uncomfortable and wants to stop but is told to go to a ‘zen place.’ The dog is rewarded with advancing to the final round of the dog show after passing this barrier.

“Disturbingly, these are similar tactics child abusers use when grooming children — telling them to pretend they are somewhere else, and that they will get a reward for withstanding their discomfort. Children’s movies must be held to a higher standard, and must teach children bodily autonomy, the ability to say ‘no’ and safety, not confusing messages endorsing unwanted genital touching.”

The filmmakers responded to the concerns with this statement:

“It has come to our attention that there have been online discussion and concern about a particular scene in Show Dogs, a family comedy that is rated PG. The dog show judging in this film is depicted completely accurately as done at shows around the world; and was performed by professional and highly respected dog show judges.

“Global Road Entertainment and the filmmakers are saddened and apologize to any parent who feels the scene sends a message other than a comedic moment in the film, with no hidden or ulterior meaning, but respect their right to react to any piece of content.”

Yesterday, though, the studio announced it would be removing two of the most controversial scenes from the movie, according to CNN.

Guess us kids will have to wait for the next Westminster Dog Show to see the grabbing of the gonads.

“Show Dogs” is clearly not an exercise in reality, what with its talking dogs and all, but it did pretty accurately nail this particular aspect of dog shows.

So why is it people are so quick to jump on, edit and whitewash a portrayal of a reality and fashion it more to their liking — all while not giving a second thought as to whether the reality deserves some scrutiny and reconsideration, too?

1 day later, United screws the pooch again

irgo

A day after a passenger was instructed to put her dog in an overhead bin — an order that turned out to be fatal — United has screwed up again, this time accidentally sending a family’s dog to Japan instead of Kansas City.

Kara and Joseph Swindle, along with their children, were moving from Oregon to Wichita. But their German Shepherd, Irgo — traveling as cargo on an earlier flight — was mistakenly shipped to Japan.

When the Swindles arrived at the Kansas City cargo facility to pick up their dog, they were greeted instead by a Great Dane, who was supposed to have been the one loaded on the flight to Japan.

The airline originally told the Swindles that Irgo would have to stay in quarantine in Japan for two weeks, but apparently that was not required. The dog was scheduled to see a veterinarian before being put on a return flight to Wichita.

Kara Swindle told KCTV5 News that United didn’t know how the mistake happened, but she was told by the airline that the kennels were similar.

United Airlines paid for Swindle and her children to stay at a Marriott Hotel near the airport Tuesday night.

“At this point, all I can do is be hopeful that my dog is going to be okay and return safely,” she said. “I don’t know what else to do at this point. I can’t cry anymore. I’ve cried too much.”

The screw-up came on the heels of a far worse one, in which a United flight attendant told a family to put their dog and its carrier in the overhead bin.

“The flight attendant came, and she was like, ‘You have to put him up there because it’s going to block the path,'” Sophia Ceballos, 11, told ABC News on behalf of her mother, Catalina Robledo, who isn’t fluent in English.

The 10-month-old French Bulldog was discovered dead after the plane landed.

Sophia Ceballos said the flight attendant, after landing, said she didn’t know there was a dog in the bag.

“In the end, she says she didn’t know it was a dog, but she actually touched the bag and felt him there. She’s basically lying to us now,” Sophia said.

(Photos: Kara Swindle)

Matching dog and human pajamas may prove to be a hot holiday seller

pjs

Out in public, putting a dog in an outfit that matches your own might be viewed as a tad eccentric.

But in the privacy of your home … that might be another matter.

Even one as dead set against using dogs to make a fashion statement as I am has to admit these matching dog-human pajamas come across as awfully cute and mighty cozy, especially when you throw in the fireplace.

pj3Apparently the public thinks so, too. They sold out nearly as soon as the company offering them put them on Instagram.

The Fab Dog website offers four styles, at $50 per set.

The company says they will have more in stock by Nov. 25 — in plenty of time for Christmas.

The human part of the flannel ensemble doesn’t come with a top — just the bottoms. They come in unisex sizing: small, medium, large and extra large. To determine the right size for your dog, measure his or her length from the base of the neck to just before their tail.

On its website, the company suggests (no surprise) getting a pair for every member of the family: “There’s no doubt that you won’t have a holiday card to trump all holiday cards with your dog in matching plaid pajamas.”

(Photos: From the Fab Dog website)

Max and Quackers: Dog and duck are inseparable

Max was a lonely husky. Quackers is, as you might guess, a duck.

But the two have become inseparable friends since a Minnesota family brought Quackers home about four years ago to keep their dog company

On any given day, the 12-year-old Huskie and a 4-year-old duck can be found sitting along Highway 28, a lonely country road in tiny Strout, Minnesota, population 25, according to WCCO.

Patrick and Kirsten Riley adopted Max when he was five, where he joined another husky they had at the time.

But when that dog died, Max was without any animal friends.

The Rileys initially kept Quakers in a pen and Max would sit next to the pen all the time.

“I think they just kind of bonded that way,” Patrick Riley said. “After we let him out, they just never left each other’s side.”

“They sleep together, they eat together, they drink together, they go for walks together down the road,” Kirsten Riley said.

“It’s enough to get anyone driving by to do a double-take,” Patrick said.

The dog and duck share carpeted sleeping quarters in the garage now.

“Some people have said that a duck will find a mate, a companion, and once they have that companion they’re set,” Kirsten said. “And that’s what Quackers found with Max.”

We have more empathy for dogs than we do for most humans, study says

puppy-looking-up-49980124

People are more empathetic towards dogs than they are their fellow humans — unless that human is an infant, a new study has concluded.

In the study, 240 students were shown fake newspaper clippings about attacks with baseball bats that left the victims unconscious, with a broken leg and multiple lacerations.

Then they were asked questions aimed at gauging their empathy for the fictional victims in the account they had read — either a one-year-old baby, a 30-year-old adult, a puppy, or a six-year-old dog.

While the human infant evoked the most empathy, the puppy trailed closely behind, then the adult dog, with the adult victim finishing last.

The study was published this week in the journal Society and Animals.

The study was similar to one conducted two years ago by Harrison’s Fund, a medical research charity in the UK.

In that one, two printed two advertisements were show to people, both of which asked: “Would you give £5 to save Harrison from a slow, painful death?” In one of the advertisements Harrison was a child, in the other he was a dog.

harrison2

Harrison the dog got significantly more clicks than Harrison the human, the Times of London reported.

The newer study found people are consistently more distressed by reports of dogs being beaten up than they are by the same reports about adult humans.

The scientists, from Northeastern University in Boston, found that those who who read the report about an attack on a child, dog or puppy all registered similar levels of empathy. When it was a human adult, however, the results were different.

“Subjects did not view their dogs as animals, but rather as ‘fur babies,’ or family members alongside human children,” the researchers concluded.

Officer: “I’ve dispatched both of them;” Body cam: Maybe he fired too quickly

Body camera video released by Minneapolis police last week seems to confirm that the two pit bulls an officer encountered in a family’s backyard weren’t posing an immediate threat to him when he shot them both earlier this month.

“I’ve dispatched both of them,” officer Michael Mays can be heard saying on his radio after he shot one dog that approached him with tail wagging, and then fired multiple shots at a second one that ran in his direction.

The officer was responding to a security alarm that had been accidentally set off. One dog suffered a bullet wound to the jaw. The other was hit in the body by several shots. Both dogs survived and are receiving treatment.

The officer said in a report he filed after the shooting that both dogs were “charging” at him, but the body cam video — in addition to footage from the family’s security camera — have fueled complaints that he was not in imminent danger when he fired the shots.

After shooting the dogs, the officer climbs a fence out of the backyard and walks down an alley before going to the front door of the home to let the residents know he had shot their dogs.

The full video can be seen in this CBS Minnesota report.

Mays said the dogs barked and growled at him, but the earliest parts of the video are missing audio that would confirm that.

rockoThe body camera footage was released Thursday afternoon by Michael Padden, the attorney for the dogs’ owner, Jennifer LeMay, who says the animals are service dogs for her children.

The day after the shooting, LeMay posted surveillance video taken by a backyard camera to Facebook, where it went viral, garnering hundreds of thousands of views.

The body camera video shows Mays encountering LeMay’s daughter, who accidentally set off the alarm.

“I don’t like shooting no dogs,” the officer explains to 18-year-old Courtney Livingston before inquiring if the dogs are OK.

“I don’t know,” she answers. “I have blood all over my house and they’re both walking that I know of.”

Livingston accidentally tripped the alarm and was the only one home when the incident took place.

rockocirocandlemayAt the Thursday news conference where the video was released, Jennifer LeMay said both dogs — Rocko and Ciroc — are having difficult recoveries:

“Rocko, physically, is probably at 75 percent; emotionally and mentally, he’s not there.”

She said she doubted the dogs were behaving too aggressively when the officer shot them. Her lawyer questioned why there was no audio in the earliest portion of what was recorded. It does not come on until after the shots were fired.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau described the video as “difficult to watch,” offered to assist the family in paying vet bills and promised to start providing training to officers on dealing with dogs.

(First photo, a recovering Rocko, Facebook; second photo, Rocko and Ciroc with LeMay at home, Minneapolis Star Tribune)