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Tag: surrogate

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.

Twinkle to the rescue

A neglected Yorkshire terrier, named Twinkle, gave birth to a litter — all stillborn — not long after she was dropped off at the Forsyth County Animal Shelter in North Carolina.

Shortly after that, the Animal Adoption and Rescue Foundation (AARF), also in Winston-Salem, got a call about a golden retriever who had been killed by a car, leaving eight puppies behind — all less than a week old.

A volunteer at AARF had taken in Twinkle as her foster dog, and, before you know it, Twinkle was performing motherly duties, after all — for two of the deceased golden retriever’s puppies, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

Twinkle, as she was dubbed by the shelter, was given two of the puppies — named Brandi and Kahlua. She was too small to nurse any more than that.

AARF officials says she accepted the pups as her own.

“She’s happy, the babies are receiving the love of a surrogate mother, and all is well,” Janice Freeman, the chairwoman of AARF’s board, told the Journal.

The other puppies, now about 4½ weeks old, are being bottle-fed. They all will be available for adoption in four weeks.

(Photo: Lauren Carroll / Winston-Salem Journal)

Dogs and parenthood do mix — quite nicely

You hear a lot these days about young couples foregoing parenthood and opting for a dog instead. You hear a lot, too, about young couples who take in a dog as practice for when a real baby comes along.

There’s  nothing wrong, in my view, with either.

What often gets ignored though — amid the kind of scoffing the dogless sometimes do at dog peoples’ commitment to their animals — is the fact that dogs, while not the equivalent of a child, do indeed prepare young couples for parenthood.

And that’s just the beginning.

After that, they go on to help those children grow up with a healthy respect for living things, teaching them about love and loyalty. And, after the kids depart, dogs help fill the void —  though usually not the same dog — of an empty nest.

They, like some brands of dog food, in fact, are there for all the cycles of our human lives — including the the onset of parenthood.

Rebecca Dube does beautiful job of describing how her dog helped prepare her for parenthood in this week’s Toronto’s Globe and Mail — in a piece whose writing was prompted, sadly, by death of the family’s beagle, Lily:

“My dog was my baby; and now that I have an actual baby, I see that my dog prepared me for motherhood far better than any of those What to Expect books.”

Rebecca and her husband adopted Lily from a rescue group, altering their lives in  numerous ways — from cleaning up shed hair to shifting their schedules, to dictating where to vacation and where to live — and once Lily got sick, affecting the budget as well.

Lily lived much longer with cancer than the three months her vet originally predicted, long enough to meet the newest addition to the family.

Rebecca writes that, once she became ill, they never questioned the time and money they were investing in her: “She was our baby … And then along came a real baby.

“Our son, Elijah, arrived 10 days early, and we brought him home on a Saturday night. All through my pregnancy, I’d hoped for the moment we finally got, when we introduced Elijah to Lily, and stroked his tiny baby hand against her soft fur. In my greedy heart I wanted them to have years together, for him to laugh at her wagging tail, for her to wait patiently for scraps beneath his high chair. But that tiny bit of grace would have to be enough. Lily died early Monday morning…

“My dog was my baby. She taught me that a slobbery, stinky creature could pee on my shoes, poop everywhere, complicate my life in a million aggravating ways – and at the same time inspire so much love that my heart felt like it would burst with happiness. She taught me and my husband how to go from two to three. She taught us how to be a family…

Rebecca writes that, when Elijah gets old enough to understand, she’ll show him the photos of him and Lily, “and tell him that for a few days he had the best dog a boy could ever want.”

(Photo: Elijah and Lily, Toronto Globe and Mail)

Chihuahua mix serves as mom to kittens

Shyla, a Chihuahua mix in New Zealand, has undertaken the nursing of seven kittens born to a stray.

The kittens were taken in by a Pets n Vets clinic to save them from being euthanized, and Shyla, who has nursed a previous litter of kittens, was called to duty.

Dog serving as mom for rare red panda cubs

Two red panda cubs abandoned by their mother at birth are thriving at a northern China zoo thanks to milk and loving care from a tiny dog serving as surrogate mother.

You can see a photo here.

The cubs, born June 25, were abandoned immediately by their mother after giving birth in front of a crowd of visitors at the Taiyuan Zoo in northern China’s Shanxi province, according to Ha Guojiang, a zoo employee quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency.

“No one knew she was pregnant. Her plump body and bushy hair disguised her protruding belly until the babies were born,” said Ha. “We hurriedly went about to find a wet nurse for them.”

The dog wet nurse, belonging to a farmer from a nearby suburb, was selected from two other candidates that had recently given birth, according to an Associated Press story.

The dog is now raising the two panda cubs like its own pups, sometimes even refusing to feed its own pup, said Ha.

At 3-weeks-old, the baby cubs have yet to open their eyes and have doubled in length to 8 inches, Xinhua reported.

Unlike the more well-known, giant pandas, red pandas resemble raccoons with long bushy tails. There are believed to be fewer than 2,500 adult red pandas in the world.

Labrador has served as mom to many

Lisha, a nine-year-old Labrador, is helping raise three month-old tiger cubs whose mother rejected them — and that’s just the latest in the long line of species she has suckled.

A resident of the Cango Wildlife Reserve in the Oudsthoorn area of South Africa, Lisha has served as a substitute mom for more than 30 orprhaned animals, including a porcupine and a hippo.

“We have had Lisha since she was a puppy,” said owner Nadine Hall. “‘It is all about her conditioning and fear. We noticed early on that she didn’t care if it was a cat or a porcupine. She would just walk up and lick the creature she was caring for. Although in the case of the porcupine that was more amusing.”

Mrs. Hall and her husband Rob, who is director of the Cango park, realized their dog had a unique gift and started bringing orphaned animals home for her to raise.

“If Lisha sees an animal being brought back in a box, she automatically assumes that it is to be cared for,” Mrs Hall said.

Lisha has never had her own litter.

You can see the family’s other photos in yesterday’s Daily Mail.

First pups born from frozen fertilized eggs

A research team led by Prof. Hiroshi Suzuki  at Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine transplanted frozen fertilized ova of a Labrador retriever guide dog into another female of the same breed.

According to The Yomiuri Shimbun, the births could help alleviate the shortage of guide dogs in Japan. 

Potential guide dogs must be neutered before training to prevent them from becoming distracted by sexual urges. That, up to now, has meant those that excel at the work and have the best temperament for it are unable to produce offspring. Only about three of every ten dogs trained pass the test to become guide dogs.

Researchers said eggs taken from a female can be stored indefinitely before being fertilized and implanted in a surrogate dog.

Three puppies were born on Sept. 8., and though one was stillborn, the experiment was judged to have been a success. According to Suzuki, the survival rate of fertilized eggs after freezing is low, and there have been no other successful births to date.

The research was conducted in conjunction with the Sapporo-based Hokkaido Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

About 8,000 people in Japan have applied to own a guide dog, but only about 1,000 such dogs are in active service.