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Tag: first

Second thoughts about dog cloning

SONY DSCOne of the men behind the push to clone dogs — and market the service to bereaved pet owners — seems more convinced than ever that doing so was, if not a mistake, at least a quest that led to some bad places.

Lou Hawthorne, who established a cell bank (Genetic Savings & Clone) and pushed researchers at Texas A&M University to try and clone the world’s first dog in the late 1990s — in hopes of turning dog cloning into a profitable business — said in an interview last week that cloning has led to thousands of dogs suffering each year.

“A cloned dog contributes to the happiness of a family but I do not think it is possible to do it without a huge amount of suffering to hundreds of others,” Hawthorne told The Mirror, which was reporting on the first dog cloning for a customer in the UK.

Hawthorne has been out of the dog cloning business since shutting down BioArts, the successor to Genetic Savings & Clone, which closed not long after efforts to clone a dog at Texas A&M were dropped.

That research was funded by John Sperling, the wealthy founder of the University of Phoenix and the boyfriend of Hawthorne’s mother. Millions of dollars were poured into the attempt to clone Joan Hawthorne’s dog, Missy, a husky-border collie mix.

SONY DSCWhen Texas A&M dropped the project, scientists as Seoul National University in South Korea began their own effort to clone the world’s first dog.

They picked up where American scientists left off, and dog cloning was achieved within two years with the 2005 birth of Snuppy, an Afghan hound manufactured from cells taken from a veterinary student’s dog.

Hawthorne, under the auspices of Bio Arts, later teamed up with Hwang Woo Suk, one of the lead scientists on the Snuppy project who opened his own lab after being fired from the university.

First, he had Hwang clone Missy, resulting in a dog named Mira, but when the clone was delivered to Joan Hawthorne she didn’t want her. She told a New York Times reporter at the time the puppy was too rambunctious.

SONY DSCThen Hawthorne and Hwang teamed up to produce and sell more clones. They held a “Golden Clone Giveaway,” in which a free cloning was offered to the winner of an essay contest, and an online auction where five winning bidders, offering upwards of $150,000, had their dogs cloned.

A second South Korean company RNL Bio, with help from another of Snuppy’s creators at SNU, was also cloning dogs — and it produced the first one sold to a customer not connected to the industry, a pit bull named Booger, five copies of which were cloned from the dead dog and, eventually, brought home by the California woman who owned him.

RNL pulled out of cloning pet dogs in 2011, not long after the publication of my book, “DOG, INC: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”

Hawthorne had already stepped away from the business by then. In September of 2009, Hawthorne pulled out of the partnership with Hwang, citing, among other reasons, his concerns that accepted animal welfare protocols – or at least those accepted by most Western countries — weren’t being followed by the South Koreans.

He also, at the time, blamed court fights over patent rights, the high cost of cloning, deformities and abnormalities that occurred in the cloning process, and what he called the ”distraction factor” — annoying questions from the media and bloggers about the wisdom and ethics of cloning dogs.

doginccover (5)(As a newspaper reporter who wrote one of the earliest articles on commercial dog cloning, then a blogger, and then the author of “Dog, Inc.,” an expose of the dog cloning industry, I’m pretty sure that latter group included me.)

In his interview wih the Mirror, Hawthorne referred to the vast numbers of dogs that it took — up to 80, he said – to clone just one.

And, he said, random dogs used for cloning by Korean researchers were returned to the dog farms they were borrowed from — farms where dogs are raised for their meat.

“That is why I got out,”  Hawthorne said. “I couldn’t care less if the cloning business world collapses but I care about suffering.”

Sooam told me, in 2009, that dogs used in the process were returned to the farms. In more recent years, however, Sooam has insisted that both the dogs from whom egg cells are harvested, and those who serve as surrogate mothers, are sent to adoptive homes when their use in the laboratory is completed.

Hawthorne’s remarks came after the birth of Mini Winnie, a dachshund cloned by Hwang’s lab for a London resident who won a contest sponsored by Sooam. As Sooam attempts to spread the word about its unusual service, Hawthorne has taken to speaking out against it.

SONY DSC“Dog cloning is unviable,” Hawthorne said. “It cannot be achieved at a price people can afford.”

Hawthorne now cares for two clones of Missy — Mira and Missy Too.

The Mirror reports Hawthorne has more recently been working on cures for human cancer and Alzheimer’s, and the newspaper quoted him as saying human cloning would be safer and more viable than dog cloning.

“Unlike the dog industry, no human would die.”

(Photos: Lou Hawthorne with Mira; Snuppy at Seoul National University, James Symington, winner of the “Golden Clone Giveaway,” with five clones of his former police dog, TrakR, in Los Angeles; Mira at the dog park; by John Woestendiek)

How many legs does it take to frolic?

This irrepressible boxer, known as Duncan Lou Who, took his first trip to the beach last month, where he demonstrated that having only two legs in no way limits him, or the fun that is to be had.

That’s the thing about beaches, and about dogs — the beach leads our souls to consider the possibilities; dogs show us, with persistence, we can reach them.

duncanlouwhoDuncan Lou Who, now nine months old, was born with severely deformed rear legs that had to be removed. He learned to walk with a specialized wheelchair, but didn’t think much of the device, and now no longer requires it — as you can see here.

The clip was uploaded to YouTube March 22, and it has been viewed more than 2 million times.

According to Panda Paws Rescue, a nonprofit in Vancouver, Washington, Duncan has seemed a happier little dude since he has learned to get about on his own.

Duncan is in fairly good health, but is not up for adoption. Nor is he likely to be equipped with prosthetic devices.

“He is not a candidate for prosthetics because he doesn’t have a femur to attach them to, and we will not use him for experiments to try and find something else to [sic] could do more harm than good,” Panda Paws Rescue wrote.

“He is lean, yes. He is a Boxer puppy who is missing almost a 1/4 of his body and uses twice the energy of a 4 legged dog. The rear half of his body has atrophied as well, from lack of use. He is on the best possible diet and his weight is monitored.”

You can learn more about Duncan on Panda Paws Facebook page.

Kiss, kiss; sniff, sniff; lick, lick

“First Kiss,” a video of strangers kissing, has become an Internet sensation.

Like a lot of Internet sensations, it’s kind of stupid, mostly staged, and less than fully honest.

But that hasn’t kept it from being shared by millions, and becoming — in less than a week — the subject of many video parodies, including a dog version we’ll show you in a minute.

It was just last week that “First Kiss” appeared on the Internet, showing, or so it appeared, newly introduced couples — after much foot-shuffling and awkwardness — locking lips on camera.

It garnered more than 30 million views in less than three days, and many viewers, based on comments, found it sweet and heartwarming, almost pure, in a tongue-sucking kind of way.

Director Tatia Pilieva posted the short film on YouTube on March 10, with little explanation. The post didn’t clearly point out the film was an advertisement for a clothing brand’s 2014 line, but said only: ”We asked twenty strangers to kiss for the first time.”

It was a couple of days later that WREN, a Los Angeles womenswear brand, admitted on Twitter that the video was an advertisement, and most of its kissers were actors and models.

Some bloggers went so far to ask if that constituted a “hoax.” Others viewed it as a legitimate “filmvertisement,” and its makers explained they were just trying to make something artistic and interesting.

“We make these fashion films every season,” said WREN founder Melissa Coker. “I strive to make them an interesting film that exists on its own rather than something that feels like a commercial, and it seems to be touching people — not only people who are in fashion and would see this, but also random guys who aren’t connected at all.”

That apparently left some feeling a bit manipulated.

“Knowing it’s an ad is initially forgivable until you realize that the majority of the people kissing are actors and models,” commented a blogger on the website Fstoppers. “Then the veil of whimsy is gone and all that’s left is another well planned, viral advertisement and our suspension of disbelief.”

We wouldn’t go so far as to call “First Kiss” a hoax, and sneaky advertising isn’t anything new. While television, radio and newspapers are all pretty good at passing off advertising as editorial content these days, the Internet makes it simpler than ever — both to disguise advertising and get it published or broadcast for free.

The Internet can also take credit for a rebirth in parodies, many of which have been made of “First Kiss” already — some in better taste than others.

Our favorite, of course, is “First Sniff,” the doggie version, produced by another ad agency, Mother London. Even though it’s staged, its actors aren’t acting — just being their butt-sniffing selves.

Researchers unearth evidence of America’s earliest dog … and proof that it was eaten

A University of Maine graduate student says he has found a bone fragment from what he believes is the earliest domesticated dog ever found in the Americas — one that walked the continent 9,400 years ago.

And where he found it — ensconced in a dried-out sample of human waste — gives proof that eating dog was part of America’s culture, at least before America was America.

Graduate student Samuel Belknap III came across the fragment while analyzing a sample of human waste unearthed in  the 1970s. Carbon-dating placed the age of the bone at 9,400 years, and a DNA analysis confirmed it came from a dog — as opposed to a wolf, coyote or fox.

The Associated Press  reports that the fragment — which was the dark orange color characteristic of bone that has passed through the digestive track — was found in Hinds Cave in southwest Texas. 

The fragment provides the earliest evidence that dogs were eaten by humans in North America, and may have been bred as a food source, he said.

Belknap was studying the diet and nutrition of the people  in the Lower Pecos region of Texas between 1,000 and 10,000 years ago when he came across the bone.

Belknap and other researchers from the University of Maine and the University of Oklahoma’s molecular anthropology laboratories, where the DNA analysis was done, have written a paper on their findings, scheduled for publication in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology later this year.

The fragment is about six-tenths of an inch long and three- to four-tenths of an inch wide. Belknap said he and a fellow student identified the bone as a fragment from where the skull connects with the spine. He said it came from a dog that probably resembled the small short-haired dogs that were common among the Indians of the Great Plains.

Other archaeological findings have found evidence of domestic dogs in the U.S. as long as 8,000 years ago.

A 1980s study reported dog bones found at Danger Cave, Utah, were between 9,000 and 10,000 years old, but those dates were based on an analysis of the surrounding rock laters as opposed to carbon dating. In Idaho, researchers believed they’d found 11,000-year-old dog bones, but later tests showed them to be no more than 3,000 years old.

Worldwide, studies have found evidence of dogs going back 31,000 years from a site in Belgium, 26,000 years in the Czech Republic and 15,000 years in Siberia.

The earliest dogs in North America are believed to have come with the early settlers across the Bering land bridge from Asia.

Belknap said eating dogs was once common in Central America, and that some Great Plain Indian tribes ate dogs when food was scarce or for celebrations.

 ”It was definitely an accepted practice among many populations,” he said.

Ace and the American sunset

Since Ace was the first dog in America to see the sun rise (above) — back on Oct. 3, when we were on the other side of the country – I thought it would be fitting for him to be the last dog to see it set as we make our way down the west coast.

On the road, I called my son on my cell phone and asked him to look it up on the Internet. Thirty minutes later, he called back with the answer, or at least one of them — Cape Blanco, Oregon.

That was back when I was still in the state of Washington, and I’d filed it away in the back of my mind (translation: I’d all but forgotten about it) until, while driving south down Highway 101 in Oregon, I saw a sign for Cape Blanco State Park.

Where have I heard of that before, I wondered. You know how you can set your computer to delete your Internet history when you log off? That’s kind of how my brain works sometimes.

Five more minutes down the road, it registered, and I decided to seek out a motel in Port Orford, and drive back up to the park around sunset time.

Suitable lodgings eluded us though (more on that bizarre episode tomorrow), so Ace and I killed some time sniffing around Port Orford before heading to the park, hoping the clouds and drizzle might clear up enough to see some sign of a sun setting.

We turned off 101 and followed the road, past the park and towards the Cape Blanco lighthouse until the road — and seemingly the continent — came to an end.

And as — we can only guess — the sun went down, here is what we saw:

I got only close enough to the edge to see that it dropped off pretty severely, but I could see nothing more than the vague outline of a huge rock in the ocean, or at least what I thought was the ocean.

As for Ace — our visit to Niagara Falls still in the front of my  mind – I kept him on a very short leash and right at my side, fearing he might venture into oblivion, or pull me into it. In the thick fog, it was a scary place — and maybe it is in the light of day too, like something you’d see in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Two people would get into an argument at the edge, and pretty soon you’d only see one.

Here’s what the cape looks like in the cloud- and fog-free light of day:

The top of the lighthouse is, some say, the last place to see the sun go down in the 48 contiguous states.

But not all agree with that — or even with the contention that Cape Blanco is the westernmost point in the contiguous 48. Some say Cape Alaya in Washington is westernmoster.

Apparently, the confusion is caused by land shifts and measurement anomalies and whether the measurements are taken at high tide or low tide.

One can tour the Cape Blanco lighthouse between April 1 and Oct. 31, and, for a fee, climb the three flights of stairs and one ladder to the tower.

This isolated lighthouse holds at least four Oregon records: it is the oldest continuously operating light, the most westerly, has the highest focal plane above the sea, and employed Oregon’s first female lighthouse keeper.

And it’s a great place to see sunsets.

Sometimes.

Ace and the American sunrise

Ace was the first dog in America to see the sun rise yesterday.

Atop Cadillac Mountain, the highest elevation in Acadia National Park, we sat on a broad flat rock and saw the sun pop up over the Atlantic Ocean.

At 1,500 feet, the summit of Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the Atlantic Coast, and, for much of the year, the first place in America the morning sun becomes visible.

Once we heard that, upon our arrival in Bar Harbor, Maine, we decided to rise early enough to catch the sun doing the same.

Granted, the period during which the sun rises here first doesn’t start for three more days. And granted, there were at least 100 other early risers scattered across the rocks yesterday morning. But as far as I could see, Ace was the only dog. So, while I can’t make the claim, I am relatively certain that Ace was the first dog in America to have the sun in his face on Oct. 3, 2010.

And it being a chilly morning, we were both appreciative when, around 6:30, it appeared.

Mount Desert Island is my new favorite place: a collection of towns and harbors — some way ritzy, some semi ritzy, a few slightly more working class — all nestled in and around Acadia National Park, which is now tied (with Glacier) for my favorite National Park. It’s a place whose breathtaking beauty hits you at nearly every turn, and seeing it in fall at least doubles the pleasure.

We’re staying at the home of a relative of a friend, and she and her husband couldn’t be more gracious. They fed me, took me on a tour and, upon learning I wanted to be the first person to see the sunrise, prepared coffee for my thermos, programmed and loaned me their GPS and equipped me with a handful of maps and brochures.

(I still managed to get lost, until I finally gave in and submitted to the exact orders of the GPS voice … and may I say, despite all my errors, she never once got cross with me.)

Even kinder were Ron and Karen Greenberg, who own two cats, two horses and Tamarind, a natural food restaurant in Bar Harbor, and who were my hosts for the weekend – showing me the park, the town, their restaurant – and of course a dog park — on a sunset tour the first night I was there.

Getting back to their unlit house that night, it was pitch dark. I got out of the car and, at Karen’s suggestion, looked up. I saw more stars than I’d ever seen before –- an astonishing number of stars, the night sky as its supposed to look without all our sources of light polluting our reception.

It was a magnificent sight, and never have I felt “one-er” with the universe – at once so whole and so tiny. Maybe if everybody could see the sky like that at night, we’d all have a better appreciation for our miniscule place in the universe, a deeper love for our planet and less of an inclination to mess it up.

That “planet-love” feeling returned the next morning, when, with a steamy cup of coffee beside me, I waited quietly with other spectators, watching as the sky turned a brilliant orange, and the ocean a brilliant blue in the minutes before the sun peeked over the horizon -– bigger, brighter and more orange than I’d ever seen it.

Once it rose, the crowd quickly dispersed. Ace and I climbed around on the rocks for a bit, to avoid the crowd on the trip down the mountain. That  – since it was too dark to see much going up — was a scenic treat as well, with spectacular views of the ocean, coves and inlets, and valleys still filled with morning mist.

In case you’re wondering, the mountain is not named after the car; the car is named after the mountain, or at least the car is named after the guy the mountain is named after – Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the Frenchman who was granted possession of  what’s now called Mount Desert Island in the late 1600’s by King Louis XIV.

He later went on to found Detroit, according to a plaque on Cadillac Mountain — though why he would leave this place for that one is beyond me.

Memphis opens first dog park this weekend

It might not have all the fancy features some doggie playgrounds do — or for that matter even running water — but the city of Memphis is finally getting around to opening its first official dog park this weekend.

The Division of Park Services announced they will open their first dog park Saturday. It’s located at 2599 Avery Avenue, behind the Board of Education.

The off-leash fenced in park has an area designated for dogs under 25 pounds and an adjoining one for dogs over 25 pounds.

Hours of operation for the park will be 6 a.m to 8 p.m. in the summer, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the winter.

“The Memphis Dog Park is something that we have been wanting to provide to the citizens of Memphis for some time,” said Cindy Buchanan, Director of Park Services.

The city’s first dog park will serve as a test site for future projects, Fox News in Memphis reported.

All dogs must be licensed and vaccinated, and each owner is responsible for the behavior and action of their dog.