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Tag: lab

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.

After 38 years in prison, innocent man freed — and gets to bring his dog home, too

At first glance this story made no sense — a man who spent the past 38 years in prison wins his freedom when his innocence is finally proven and is reunited with his dog.

No dog — no matter how loyal to his owner — lives that long.

Turns out though, that Malcolm Alexander came into possession of the dog while serving his sentence at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, a facility which, while it has a reputation as a tough place, offers several dog programs and even breeds its own guard dogs.

Alexander, 58, had been proclaiming his innocence since he was convicted of sexual assault and sent to prison at age 20.

On Tuesday, he was welcomed home by his 82-year-old mother, his son and his grandson – both named Malcolm, and other relatives.

Earlier in the day, A Jefferson Parish judge vacated Alexander’s 1980 aggravated rape conviction and his mandatory life sentence after finding that Alexander had not been provided with adequate legal assistance, and that DNA evidence discovered in 2013 excluded Alexander as a suspect in the sexual assault.

After the ruling, Alexander did not return to the prison, where both his belongings and his dog remained.

innocenceThe next day, he was reunited with the huge black Lab, Nola.com reported.

“You ain’t got nothing to worry about no more,” he told the 9-month-old pup upon reuniting with him. “I told you we gonna be free. I told you they was gonna get us out.”

Alexander’s case was undertaken by The Innocence Project, which helped him gain his freedom.

Alexander had raised the dog since shortly after his birth. He named the dog Innocence, and calls him Inn for short.

Inn was born at the prison to another dog at the facility, according to Vanessa Potkin, an attorney with The Innocence Project.

Potkin and other staffers traveled to Angola Wednesday to retrieve Inn and Alexander’s property and return them to Alexander.

(Photo: Michelle Hunter \ NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Homeless Charlotte man fights to keep dog

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Most homeless people push shopping carts. Alan Lord pushes a dog crate.

Inside that crate on wheels, more often than not, is Levi, his four year old Lab mix.

And that has led to some concerns among those who see them on the streets of Charlotte, and a controversy that the Charlotte Observer reports has pitted do-gooder against do-gooder.

Some dog lovers are urging the Mecklenburg County Animal Care and Control to take the dog, saying the dog spends too much time in the crate and that Lord has turned down most offers of help.

Lord, the animal control office and others say taking that action might be harsh and unfair, that Levi is virtually all Lord has since becoming homeless a year ago, and that while Lord probably could get into a homeless shelter, none in the city allow dogs.

lord2Lord, 43, is not willing to consider that last option.

He’s a former bank employee who lost his job, got divorced and lost his home — all recently — and separating from his 80 pound, 4-year-old dog is unacceptable to him.

“Levi – he’s all I have,” Lord told an Observer reporter last week as he sat in a Bojangles’ parking lot. “He’s my best friend and always will be.”

Ideally, he said, he’d like to move to Hawaii and live with his brother, but he hasn’t been able to pull that off. Lord admits his own back problems have limited the amount of tie Levi spends out of the crate.

Nevertheless, some dog advocates, several of whom have made efforts to help Lord, say the time has come to take his dog away.

“It’s an animal caught in the middle,” said Dina Castanas, who recently organized a community meeting where animal control officials heard from about 25 neighbors who want Levi out of the crate. “Levi has no voice and no choice in the matter.”

Terri McConnell and her husband estimate they have spent about $3,500 trying to help Lord and Levi — on hotel rooms, camping equipment and food.

“We didn’t mind. But then there comes a point where you’re like ‘We’re throwing good money after bad’ … He’s refusing help,” McConnell told the Observer. “The more paranoid he gets about someone trying to take that dog, the worse it’s getting.”

lord3Advocates for the homeless say Lord’s rights should be respected, that his refusal to separate from his dog isn’t unusual, and that — until a homeless shelter in Charlotte starts allowing pets — no one should be insisting that he go into one.

Josh Fisher, director of Animal Care and Control, says the dog is not being neglected or abused and doesn’t seem to be suffering — despite repeated complaints from citizens who say Levi is being kept too long in a too-small crate.

“Suffering is very much in the eyes of the beholder,” he said.

Fisher said his department’s officers have visited the dog almost daily in response to complaints. Levi is up-to-date on his vaccinations, in good health and has a good disposition, he said.

He said officials are working on a permanent housing solution that will allow Lord and Levi to stay together.

(Photos: Diedra Laird / Charlotte Observer)

Yogi Berra, the Greensboro Grasshoppers “ball dog,” is put down as cancer worsens

yogi

Master Yogi Berra, the black Labrador retriever who delighted fans between innings at Greensboro Grasshoppers games, died yesterday — the day before his planned retirement party.

The 9-year-old dog served as the minor league baseball team’s “ball dog,” fetching balls from the outfield during between-inning promotions.

He was diagnosed with cancer this summer and, amid declining health, made his last appearance Tuesday in the Hoppers game against the Hickory Crawdads.

“I think he did it only because he wanted to make me happy,” Donald Moore, team president and Yogi’s owner, told the Greensboro News & Record.

“I don’t think he had any desire to do it, and that’s just not Yogi,” Moore added. “I didn’t shoot the ball very far. He went and got it, and he brought it back, and I could tell. The next morning he seemed so much worse than he had just the night before.”

The Hoppers had planned a retirement party for Yogi during tonight’s game. Instead the team will hold a ceremony in his memory.

“I really thought he would make it through the season. I wasn’t worried about losing him for another couple of months. But, oh my gosh, when it started happening, it happened fast,” Moore said. “He was ready to go, and you don’t punish the dog by putting it off. You don’t keep him in pain just to have a party.”

Moore found a lump on Yogi’s neck in June. A specialist at N.C. State’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh, diagnosed an inoperable malignant tumor that originated in a salivary gland and had spread down the neck and into the chest.

Yogi was one of three dogs the team has featured over the years. His older sister, Miss Babe Ruth, fetched players’ bats and took baseballs to the home plate umpire from 2006 until her retirement at the end of the 2015 season.

Miss Lou Lou Gehrig, a niece of Yogi and Babe, is the current bat dog for the team.

Yogi was a little more free spirited than those two, and never mastered the bat dog job.

Instead, for eight years, he fetched balls shot into centerfield during a between-innings promotion.

Three weeks into his job, Yogi made national news when an umpire kicked him off the field him for leaving a mess in the outfield, becoming the only dog ever ejected from a professional baseball game.

“People love that dog,” Moore said. “A lot of people are going to be just as heartbroken as we are… We knew it was coming. Unfortunately, everything we tried didn’t work. … It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when things changed, but he started slipping last week and every day he was declining more and more.”

Moore made the decision Wednesday to have Yogi put down.

(Photo: By Nelson Kepley / Greensboro News & Record)

Chinese lab produces what it says is the world’s first “superdog” clone

longlong4

Chinese scientists say they have produced a “superdog” clone — and that the technology will enable them to mass produce dogs that are extra strong and extra fast.

And, unless you are a fan of the doggy version of eugenics, you might find that extra scary.

The beagle, named Long Long, was born in May, becoming one of China’s first canine clones and, the scientist’s maintain, the world’s first genetically modified canine clone.

“This is a breakthrough, marking China as only the second country in the world to independently master dog-somatic clone technology, after South Korea,” said Lai Liangxue, a researcher of Guangzhou Institute of Biological Medicine and Health with the Chinese Academy of Science.

The beagle puppy was genetically engineered by deleting a gene called myostatin, giving him double the muscle mass of a normal beagle.

longlongHe was one of 27 puppies created at Sino Gene, a biotech company based in Beijing — all clones of a laboratory research dog named Apple, according to published reports.

The researchers created 65 embryos through cloning, and genetically modified all of them.

Only Long Long had his myostatin deleted.

By combining genetic editing and cloning, scientists say they can produce “superbreeds” that are stronger and faster.

“With this technology, by selecting a certain gene of the dog, we can breed an animal with more muscles, better sense of smell and stronger running ability, which is good for hunting and police applications,” Lai said.

He also suggested that the gene-editing technology could be commercialized and further applied to create dogs with diseases such as autism, Parkinson’s and diabetes, for use in medical research.

It’s just the latest chapter in dog cloning, which has a frightening history and, potentially, an even scarier future.

Efforts to clone dog began in the U.S., with early research at Texas A&M funded by backers who saw cloning people’s pets — often sick, dying or even dead — as a profitable business enterprise.

Canine cloning wasn’t achieved until a few years later at Seoul National University in South Korea when Snuppy, the world’s first canine clone, was born in 2005.

The service would be offered to pet owners by several businesses, only one of which remains, Sooam Bioengineering Research Institute, the laboratory of controversial South Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk.

longlong2Twelve years would pass before China became the second country to clone dogs — and clone them with a twist.

Lai says his team will be able to “batch produce” customized dogs through cloning and gene-editing, which in addition to possible military and law enforcement uses, would create an endless supply of dogs for use in laboratories by medical researchers.

The researcher has worked for years on genetically modifying dogs. By mastering cloning, and combining it with his gene-editing, he’s able to endlessly duplicate any successes he achieves.

As with Dolly the sheep and Snuppy the dog, Lai’s achievement is seen as ominous by some.

“It’s true that the more and more animals that are genetically engineered using these techniques brings us closer to the possibility of genetic engineering of humans,” David King, director of Human Genetics Alert, told the Express..

“That does set us on the road to eugenics,” King added. “I am very concerned with what I’m seeing.”

Me, too. Dog cloning raises some significant animal welfare concerns. Technology, especially when coupled with greed or ego, tends to run amok. Eugenics is a nightmarish pursuit, as is its canine version. Creating diseased dogs for medical research is just plain wrong.

On top of all that, this latest twist being touted by the Chinese researchers fails to recognize one simple fact:

Dogs are already super.

(Photos: Sino Gene)

Go ahead, make Eastwood’s day

eastwood

A statewide Empty the Shelters event Saturday was a huge success, with more than 2,500 dogs and cats being adopted from 65 shelters and rescues across Michigan.

Nearly 20 shelters managed to find homes for all their residents, including the Little Traverse Bay Humane Society — almost.

There, the only one not celebrating was Eastwood.

The red Labrador retriever, who has some vision problems and congenital leg deformities, found himself the only dog left in the shelter.

eastwood2“Poor Eastwood is so lonely now that all of his pals have been adopted,” the humane society said in a Facebook post.

“Eastwood is the only dog left at the shelter after Empty the Shelters on Saturday, but we know the perfect home is out there somewhere. This amazing boy has a few health issues that need to be addressed (which is why we think he was abandoned initially, poor guy!), but this boy is so sweet, we know it will be well worth it.”

The shelter estimated the future surgeries Eastwood may need could be more than $4,000.

“Although we understand this is a lot to take on for most families, we are committed to finding the perfect fit for Eastwood.”

Saturday’s Empty the Shelters event was sponsored by the Bissell Pet Foundation in hopes of reducing the number of animals euthanized each year. During the event, the foundation covers the adoption fees, which run about $150 per dog on average.

The late-breaking good news? After Eastwood’s lonesome mug appeared in a Facebook post, more than 80 people applied to adopt him.

Humane society staff picked the one that appeared to be the best fit, and Eastwood will soon be moving to his new home.

It was a few days later than every other dog in the shelter got adopted, but, happily, somebody made Eastwood’s day.

(Photos courtesy of Little Traverse Bay Humane Society)

Boy with Vitiligo meets the dog that has inspired him from afar — Rowdy the Lab

carterandrowdy

An 8-year-old Arkansas boy got to meet the dog who has inspired him from afar for the past year.

Thanks to an anonymous donor, Carter Blanchard, who has Vitiligo, an auto-immune disease that causes skin to lose its pigmentation, flew to Oregon over the weekend to meet Rowdy, a 14-year-old black lab with the same condition.

Rowdy is an ambassador for the American Vitiligo Research Association. He developed Vitiligo more than two years ago, giving the 14-year-old dog’s face the appearance of a panda in reverse.

With his owners, he works to further understanding of the condition, and help children — often embarrassed over and teased about the condition — to learn to be comfortable in the skin they’re in.

Carter, for example, began struggling with his self worth after his appearance changed when he was in kindergarten, his mother, Stephanie Adcock, said.

“He would go from room to room in my home looking at every mirror. I remember the day I picked him up from school when he said, ‘Mom, I hate my face,'” Adcock wrote in a letter to Ellen DeGeneres. “As his mother, it broke my heart that I could not change this situation for him.”

Earlier this year, Carter’s mother saw pictures online of Rowdy. She shared them with her son and contacted Rowdy’s owners, who included Carter in a video about Rowdy that went viral last fall.

When Carter saw the video, “He broke out in the biggest smile, according to his mother, and he said, “Me and Rowdy are famous.”

Carter started looking at his condition differently.

“For the first time in 2 years, Carter was proud of himself and his Vitiligo,” Adcock said in the letter. “He even said, ‘Mom, your skin is boring because you don’t have Vitiligo.’ Rowdy changed my son’s childhood. He changed our home and our lives.”

With Rowdy’s health declining rapidly, his owners decided they wanted Rowdy and Carter to meet, and one of his owners, Niki Umbenhower, started a GoFundMe campaign to allow Carter and his mother to make the trip from Searcy, Arkansas to Canby, Oregon.

carterrowdy2Last week, an anonymous donor from Salem donated $5,000, making the trip possible.

Carter and his mom flew to Oregon Saturday and Carter and Rowdy met for the first time Sunday, KGW in Portland reported.

“The meeting was (and has been) one of the most gratifying, rewarding things I’ve personally ever experienced,” Umbenhower said.

Carter and his mother will return to Arkansas tomorrow.

Rowdy, meanwhile, wasn’t doing so well. On Sunday, he had a seizure.

His owner updated the situation Monday on Instagram:

“Rowdy saw a neurologist in the ER today. They are not sure if it was a seizure or a stroke or something else. They did a lot of tests and without a “much needed” (expensive) MRI and CT Scan, we may never know. He could have a tumor or a mass causing a lot of his issues.

“We left with them prescribing a new medication for seizures as well as some codeine for his pain. This could be age related, an isolated event, or he may have more episodes like today. . I want to thank EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU for the prayers, well wishes, and support!”

(Photos: By Niki Umbenhower / Instagram)