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Tag: new york

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.

Rise of the French bulldog continues

frenchieleashes1

French bulldogs are now the most popular breed in New York and Los Angeles, and the fourth most popular nationwide, according to the American Kennel Club’s annual ranking of breed popularity.

This year’s national ranking show Frenchies climbing into the top five for the first time. Twenty years ago, the breed was 76th on the list.

And, no, we’re not burying the lede here.

Yes, Labrador retrievers have once again been proclaimed America’s most popular breed, but after 27 years in a row of that happening it hardly qualifies as news.

DSC06082The French bulldog’s rise is a fresher, more significant and more worrisome development, perhaps highlighting the divide between dainty big city breeds and those good ol’ breeds we’ve long held dear.

The breed jumped two spots from number six to number four in 2017. In doing so, it knocked the beagle out of the top five for the first time since 1998, and further cemented its hold on the top spot in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and West Palm Beach.

Yes, it is a trendy breed, and an urban breed. A French bulldog is not going to retrieve that duck whose life you just ended. You’re not going to see a French bulldog on the cover of Field and Stream.

One did make the cover of the Village Voice back in 2015, though, under the headline, “Don’t Buy This Dog.”

The breed had already become No. 1 in New York by then, and the article, by Michael Brandow, enumerated all the reasons that was a bad thing — chief among them the health problems the breed faces because of decades of inbreeding.

An excerpt:

“What’s wrong with French bulldogs? Where should I begin? Generations of unwise inbreeding to no good end, far beyond what would be needed to keep their signature looks, have left these cartoon critters with low resistance to illness and allergies. Physically handicapped at birth (by cesarean, because the heads are, like the owners’ pride, inflated) with squashed-in faces that are freakishly flat, they face serious challenges in performing some of any mammal’s basic functions — like getting enough oxygen and keeping their bodies at a safe temperature. Life’s burdens grow heavier under a long list of deformities preventing even mobility, and a task as simple as walking is no small feat.”

New Yorkers didn’t much heed the then-newsweekly’s warning. Demand just kept increasing, and with it so did worries about unscrupulous breeders and under-informed owners.

AKC officials say they expect the popularity of the downsized bulldogs with the pointed ears to continue as more city dwellers look for a breed that is compact and relatively quiet.

“The French bulldog is poised for a takeover,” AKC Executive Secretary Gina DiNardo said in a statement, noting the breed’s “adaptability” and “loveable temperament.”

Here are the top 10 breeds in the U.S., according to the AKC:

1. Labrador retriever

2. German shepherd

3. Golden retriever

4. French bulldog

5. Bulldog

6. Beagle

7. Poodle

8. Rottweiler

9. Yorkshire terrier

10. German short-haired pointer

NY council member calls for Wag probe

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Wag, an Uber-like app that pairs dogs with walkers, is getting more heat in New York, with city council members calling for an investigation into its dismal safety record.

Lawmakers and animal-rights advocates say Wag walkers have lost as least seven New York dogs since 2015 — four in the last two months.

“I have reached out to the Department of Consumer Affairs to investigate Wag immediately,” Councilman Justin Brannan (D-Brooklyn), a former animal-welfare advocate. “I feel absolutely terrible for these animal lovers and what they’ve been through. Clearly, Wag’s vetting process is a joke. Maybe this kind of thing flies in West Hollywood but it doesn’t fly here in New York City.”

According to the New York Post, dogs who escaped from Wag walkers in February included an Upper East Side Chihuahua named Norman, who slipped out of his harness and is still missing, and a goldendoodle named Simba who darted from his walker and was hit by a car.

New York City requires dogsitters to be licensed, but there are no rules governing walkers.

“There aren’t any regulations and there should be,” said Manhattan animal-rights lawyer Susan Chana Lask. “You can’t be the ‘Uber for Dogs’ without some kind of licensing — we already know what happened with Uber.”

Wag says its walkers must pass a background check, complete a rigorous online dog-safety and dog-knowledge test and attend an in-person orientation.

The Post reported that their are rumblings among state lawmakers as well that Wag might be worthy of some scrutiny.

“There’s a good possibility we may need some extra regulations and guidelines,” said state Sen. James Tedisco, who represents Schenectady.

(Photo: Teddy, a dog that went temporarily missing while under the care of Wag in December 2017; Facebook)

Grammy puppies-for-the-losers gag falls flat

At the 60th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday night, host James Corden handed out puppies to the losers in the Best Comedy Album category.

Yuk. Yuk.

Amid all that self-righteousness about the “Me Too” too movement, all those white roses to show solidarity, and all that trying way too hard to make a point about exploitation of the vulnerable by rich and powerful show business figures, Corden’s boneheaded idea was to hand out puppies as booby prizes, apparently having no clue just how hypocritical that stunt was.

Not only did it put some very young dogs in a fearful and stressful situation, it sent a pretty revolting message at the same time — that dogs are property, or at least comedy props.

News media on the day after seemed to be going along with the stunt, portraying the dogs as actual gifts, and not one lifting a finger to find out where the dogs came from, or report on where they ended up.

EBL News, in one of the most insipid reports, called the use of the dogs “hilarious and darling.” Entertainment Tonight reported that “those adorable consolation prizes” all went home with their trainer.

The puppy distribution came after Dave Chappelle’s win for the Best Comedy Album.

“Congratulations Dave Chappelle. Now I should say to all the nominees this evening who are not going home with a Grammy … I don’t want anybody to be upset tonight,” Corden said. “So the good news is, nobody goes home empty handed, because all night we’ll be handing out consolation puppies. Okay, so if you didn’t get a Grammy, you get a puppy!”

Handlers then delivered puppies to the losers — Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Gaffigan and Sarah Silverman.

PETA, in a statement, said the stunt showed how out of touch Grammy organizers are.

“It’s beyond belief that Grammy organizers are so out of touch with the issues of the day that they failed to grasp what is now commonly understood: that dogs are intelligent, complex animals — not toys, props, or prizes. While the stress of being passed around under bright lights by strangers may have been upsetting for these young pups, using them as prizes for runners-up sent a dangerous message to viewers that dogs aren’t the family members for life that they should be. In a country where millions of homeless dogs are waiting in shelters every year and are euthanized because there simply aren’t enough good homes for them, this stunt is no joke.”

Sarah Silverman later tweeted that she fell in love with her puppy at first sight, whereas Jim Gaffigan tweeted, “That dog was delicious.”

The sad part is, it could haven been a stunt that worked. It could have used adoptable pups. It could have made a point about adoption. It could have alerted and assured viewers that dogs were humanely treated and weren’t being handed out willy nilly, as if they were parting gifts for the also-rans.

Dog cafe opening soon in East Village

borisandhortonleashes1What’s being billed as New York’s first dog cafe will open later this month in the East Village.

Boris & Horton, on 12th Street and Avenue A, is slated to hold a soft opening within the week and be fully open by the end of the month.

The owners describe it as a place where you can “have great coffee, eat, have wine and beer, hang out, and also bring your dog inside.”

It’s named for the owner’s own dogs — Boris, a pit bull mix belonging to Coppy Holzman, and Horton, a Chihuahua-poodle mix who belongs to his daughter, Logan Mikhly.

It’s designed like a living room, and the owners hope it will be the kind of place where people bond with their dogs and other people, as opposed to their laptops.

boris-horton-dogs2“It’s not just a coffee shop where people sit there with headphones on their laptops,” Holzman told Grub Street.

For humans, there will be pastries from Balthazar and Bien Cuit, plus gluten-free options from Husk Bakeshop, and coffee from City of Saints, as well as a more substantial menu and, in the evening until the 11 p.m. closing time, wine and beer.

There will also be a shop for dog products and store swag, and a puppy Instagram booth. On weekends, adoption events will be held.

Because the health department tends to take issue with dogs being allowed where food is prepared, the establishment will be divided into a café side, with food and drink sales, and a dog side, featuring tables and dog-focused retail.

Dogs must remain on their leashes and employees will be trained by the School for the Dogs to read canine body language and be prepared for altercations and issues.

(Photos: Milla Chappell / Boris & Horton website)

Korean Jindo mix lost by Wag! walker is back home safely in New York

teddy

I can attest that a loose Jindo — at least one who has been rescued from a South Korean dog meat farm — can be hard to recapture when it gets off the leash.

Now Wag! — the app that has been called the “Uber of dog-walking” — can too.

The two-week search for Teddy, a 4-year-old black Jindo mix, saw the company use drones, hire Jindo experts and procure the services of a professional trapper.

Teddy is now back home safe after being lured into a cage containing hot dogs treated with Liquid Smoke at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Sunday.

“She’s good!” Teddy’s owner Kane Giblin said. “Her paws are a little beat up, and she has a tick and has lost a little weight, but she’s doing alright.”

Teddy, like my Jindo, Jinjja, was rescued from a dog meat farm in South Korea and brought to the U.S. for adoption.

jindolJinjja has escaped four times. It’s a function of nature and nurture (or their lack thereof in dog farms). The breed is notorious for escaping.

And, with dog farm dogs, once they do escape, they are off — not heeding calls to come back, or offers of a snack. On dog farms, coming when called is unlikely to result in a positive outcome. So once loose, they get in a wild dog frame of mind, and the harder you try to catch them, the harder they become to catch.

Jinjja is a sweet and otherwise normal dog, who will come to me when called while in the house. If he’s outside, and gets off the leash, it’s another story. Can that be overcome? Stay tuned.

giblinandteddyKane Giblin adopted Teddy after the Jindo-Lab mix was rescued from a South Korean dog meat farm in May.

The dog managed to get free while on a stroll in Prospect Park on Nov. 30 with a Wag! dog walker.

After nearly two weeks of roaming, Teddy was spotted Sunday morning in a trap set by by trappers hired by Wag.

A Brooklyn Botanic Gardens employee notified Giblin by text that she’d been recaptured.

They’d baited the cage with hot dogs and liquid smoke to lure Teddy, the New York Daily News reported.

Wag! had taken other steps to find the dog, including setting up a special hotline and hiring workers to hang missing dog flyers. It used drones to search for the dog aerially, and it hired a Jindo expert who brought in her own Jindos to help track Teddy.

Giblin says she appreciates the efforts Wag! made in locating Teddy, but that she’s no longer comfortable using the service.

A Wag! spokeswoman said in a statement, “We are delighted that Teddy is back home with [her] owner, safe and in good health.”​

Teddy’s escape isn’t the first time a Wag! walker lost a dog. Buddy, a Beagle-Lab mix, escaped in September while his owners were on vacation. And a Brooklyn Chihuahua named Duckie went missing in 2015, and was fatally hit by a car.

Thief returns dog’s ashes to owner

The thief who stole a package containing a dog’s ashes from a woman’s front porch in Staten Island has returned them, along with a note of apology.

Gloria Johnson said a box containing the ashes of her Yorkie, Dakotah, was returned to her home Tuesday morning with a note from the thief.

“Dear Mam,” the note begins. “I’m sorry for all the trouble I caused you. I wanted to bring back to you what’s dear to you and to me.

“My mind was mesed (sic) up without my mental medication and I feel bad. I love dogs and I made sure I placed him in a rose basket for the time being until I could return him where he belongs!!!”

Johnson told the Staten Island Advance Tuesday she was “ecstatic” to have Dakotah’s ashes back.

Surveillance footage obtained from Johnson’s neighbor showed a man enter her gate after the package had been dropped off by Fed Ex on July 27.

What happens when he approaches the porch can’t be seen, but he walks back into view with his backpack in his hands, walks out of the gate and leaves on his bicycle.

Johnson learned the ashes had been stolen after checking with her vet to see why they hadn’t arrived. She was told they had been delivered the previous week.

After seeing the surveillance video from a neighbor’s home, Johnson searched the neighborhood, knocking on doors, asking questions and checking inside trash cans to see if the thief might have tossed the package after seeing what was inside it.

Dakotah died from complications after a possible stroke.

“I go outside a hundred times a night to see if maybe someone put him on the fence,” Johnson, a widow, told the Advance in an interview after the theft. “After my husband died he was the one I hung on to every night.”

She had bought a crystal ash box for the dog’s cremated remains that she planned to fill and place on her mantle, alongside those of her husband.

In a plea for the return of the ashes, she added, “It matters to me that I have him, that I can talk to him. I’m not coping well.”

It’s not known if the thief saw the initial news reports, but apparently he had a conscience, and three weeks after the theft the box was returned.

“Got a little bit of faith in humanity,” Johnson told ABC 7 in New York.
“But still, he held it for three weeks. He didn’t throw them in the garbage, that was my fear, he’d just open it up and throw them in the garbage because it didn’t mean nothing to him.”

Johnson said the ashes were returned on what would have been Dakotah’s birthday.