Rethinking dog cloning

Several weeks ago, I glibly asked if you’d clone your dog. Because who wouldn’t want to have a second and third and fourth lifetime with their bestest friend?

I was surprised how many commenters said they’d never do it. In my fantasy, scientists could mix up a little cocktail of Isis DNA in a petri dish and boom, another baby Isis is born. I had not thought about the number of laboratory dogs involved in the process. First, an egg must be harvested from a dog, and then a surrogate dog must carry the embryo. Hundreds of dogs have been experimented on, and hundreds of mutant puppies born and killed in the quest to bring dead pets back to life. It’s a gruesome business, and sure, maybe acceptable if the end goal is curing cancer, but not for our amusement.

In Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend, John Woestendiek writes:

That dog cloning would go commercial is exactly what animal welfare groups feared most. It would mean more animals being used for their eggs and as surrogates, more capitalizing on the grief of pet owners. And in a world already overpopulated with dogs — where millions a year are put down in America alone — coming up with a new way to create them, factory style, seemed disingenuous, if not irresponsible.

Woestendiek makes a point, but overall, I found his narrative tiresome. He follows the stories of the cloning pioneers, spending more time on the politics and peculiar life histories of the players than what actually happens to the animals, perhaps because that information is not available.

How many trials and errors and eggs and surrogates it took to produce Missy’s clone isn’t known. With the work being conducted at a private institute in Korea, that data remained secret…

Another issue is that the people who could afford to pay for their dogs to be cloned are complete weirdos.

I’d said I would pay any amount to have Isis back … for science (and a book deal). Again, this is a fantasy where no dogs are harmed in the making of another Isis. My book would be about how alike or dissimilar the Isis clone baby was to the original, based on my having learned from all the mistakes I made the first time around.

Now that I know the cost to other dogs, I don’t want to tell that story anymore.

Maybe as science fiction…

Instead of spending time and money on cloning, let’s find homes for dogs in shelters, like Gibson here! He’s available at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley, and he loves to play!

Gibson

TuesdaysTailsBlogHopOfficialBadge_zpsb5025ffeThe Tuesday’s Tails blog hop is hosted by Dogs N Pawz and Talking Dogs, featuring shelter pets. Find a pet at your local animal shelter or rescue and join in!

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Buy a book, benefit shelter dogs

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This Friday is the official launch of the Bark and Lunge book tour! I will be reading, answering questions, and selling books and T-shirts at The Humane Society of Skagit Valley, and donating the proceeds to the shelter.

Since not everyone can make it to beautiful Skagit Valley for this party, but I know you all want to help out shelter doggies… I will donate to the Humane Society of Skagit Valley on your behalf if you buy Bark and Lunge this week.

Here’s how we’ll do it. Buy the book online or order it at your local bookstore. Screenshot or email me your receipt, blocking out any personal financial information, but proving that you purchased it between Monday, Sept. 22 and Friday, Sept. 26, and I will donate:

$1 for every eBook

$5 for every paperback

to the Humane Society of Skagit Valley.

Some ways to buy it: From meNookKoboAmazonGoogle PlayIndieBoundBarnes and Noble.

Send proof of purchase to KariNeumeyer (at) gmail.com, or post it on FB or Twitter, but be sure to tag me!

Let’s Bark and Lunge for the doggies!

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Don’t you just love a happy ending?

I almost burst into tears when I heard that an adoption application had come in for Abe, the shepherd-hound I fell in love with at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley. I’d made a video of him because I just knew he would make a wonderful pet for someone, if only they could see past the bars of his kennel.

A fellow volunteer shared the video and Friday, a man from Salt Lake City flew to Seattle to meet Abe and drive him home.

rescue dog

Off to his happily ever after!

While Abe was having the best day ever*, there are still lots of dogs still looking for their families. I wound up walking four dogs instead of my usual three, because I just couldn’t leave without spending time with Clarkson, known at the shelter as Clyde.

Clark/Clyde breaks my heart because he asks for so little. Just give him a yard, and some tennis balls. Look how happy he is!

 

*Update Aug. 7, 2014: Abe didn’t get along with the Utah man’s older female dog, so he shipped him back! I’m somewhat heartbroken, but hopeful that there’s an even better home out there for my boy Abe.

 

Walking dogs for fitness and fun

I really wanted to call this post How I lost 30 pounds walking dogs.

Turns out that won’t happen unless I also cut back on the M&Ms and french fries.

When I first started volunteering at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley, I went two or three times a week and walked three dogs about 20 minutes each on a trail that included some steep inclines. As sweaty and dirty as I was when I returned to work afterward, I thought surely I’d drop a ton of weight.

(In my early 30s, I lost 3 pounds just by walking Isis several days a week, with no changes to my diet. Sadly, I am now in my late 30s.)

Realistically, I couldn’t keep up that pace, so I cut back my volunteer hours to once a week. I’ve watched happily as many of the dogs I’ve befriended have found families of their own.

Two of my favorite inmates at the moment are Abe and Dylan, whom I like to cally Dilly, Dilly Bear, or Dillsbury Dough Boy.

Abe looks a lot like my old pal Buddy, who recently got his own home, soccer ball included. He’s a lean, but very tall hound-shepherd mix, with a boisterous bark that might intimidate visitors who only see him behind bars. But let him loose in the play yard and he’s a big, smiley goofball. Yesterday, I let him run loose for a few minutes before our walk. I let the dogs drag their leashes in the yard, so I don’t wind up playing keep-away when it’s time to put the leash back on. Abe ran so hard that he tripped over his leash and flipped onto his back like a cartoon character.

Don’t hold it against him, but Abe is a bit of a puller. It’s not his fault; no one taught him any better. I make kissy noises and give him treats when he comes back to me. (A clicker would be impractical; I need both hands on his leash.) On the wooded trail, I let him pull ahead a little, because he is a hound dog and deserves quality sniffing time. Yesterday, while he had his head buried under a bush, I saw a deer ahead on the trail. The deer ran off before Abe saw it.

It didn’t go entirely unnoticed though. Abe sure perked up when we reached the spot where the deer had been. He went bonkers, squealing and sniffing, making snuffling noises against the ground and, sorry to reuse the imagery, looking like a cartoon dog. I worried a little that he might pull me off my feet, but I held onto that leash for dear life as he dragged me up the trail until he lost the scent of the deer.

After returning sweet Abe to his kennel, I visited Dilly, a medium sized brindle pit bull mix. Dilly is the ideal dog for snuggling on the couch. He has this way of leaning up against you, like all he wants in the world is to be touching you. I sat down on the floor of his kennel and he crawled into my lap and I just held him for a few minutes, kissing his head. Honestly, I wouldn’t trade Mia and Leo for anything, but Dilly could teach them a few things about cuddling.

On my walk with him, I paused a few times to crouch down and rub his belly (and kiss his face, I admit it). At one point when I stood back up, he had a sudden burst of energy and sprang ahead. Unprepared, I let the leash slip out of my hand.

(Somehow, I managed to hold onto huge Abe, but let Dilly go? How did that happen?)

I quickly recovered from the heart-lurching fear that I’d just lost a shelter dog, realizing that Dilly would come back to me if I sat down and offered him a lap to sit in. And he did.

At this point, I was feeling pretty fatigued, still recovering from a recent head cold.

Maybe I won’t walk a third dog, I thought. I had planned to walk Clark, whom I like to call Clarkson. Now that Buddy has found a home, Clark, the so-dark-gray-he’s-almost-black pit-lab mix, has been there the longest of my pals. He initially was surrendered by a family with an apparent allergy, then was adopted to a family who brought him back after he got in a fight at the dog park. He’s been pretty anxious since I’ve known him, chewing through at least one collar and two harnesses. The shelter staff says he didn’t do that kind of thing during his first stint in the clink.

I couldn’t let Clark down, especially since shelter staff felt the need to rename him Clyde, so in lieu of a trail walk, I played with him in the yard. I swear, never has a dog been happier to chase a tennis ball. And then… he got even happier when I threw a second ball to him.

Two balls! I get to play with both of these? At first, Clark dropped one ball to pick up the other, but then he realized he could fit both in his mouth. There’s an old boat on a trailer in this play yard, and Clark likes to lie under it and tear the fuzzy skin off tennis balls. Tail wagging, huge smile on his face.

How, I ask you, HOW does this dog not have a yard of his own? I want to give Clark a yard, and a family with kids to play with him, and a bucket full of tennis balls to tear apart. Who cares if he doesn’t play well at the dog park?

I want to give Dilly a couch and a person to lean on.

I want to give Abe a person with patience to teach him to walk nicely on a leash (using force-free methods of course), and yard to race around in without a leash to trip him up.

I would use those wishes before I wished to lose 30 pounds.

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It’s been a while since I joined the FitDog Friday Blog Hop brought to you by SlimDoggy and co-hosts Peggy’s Pet Place and To Dog With Love. Hop along using the Linky Tools link below.

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R is for Relax Harder

I had a hard time finishing this post about getting dogs to relax, because Mia kept whining and trying to climb onto my lap. Think she’s trying to tell me something?

The idea of relaxing harder used to be kind of a theme in my life. I suffered from TMJ and headaches, and the medical professionals insinuated that these were stress-related ailments. My recovery would come when I relaxed harder.

Then I had an anxious dog, and I realized how alike we were. Could I have caused her anxiety? Was my inability to relax contagious? Or just a coincidence?

My TMJ got better, not because I learned to relax, but because I had Craniosacral Therapy that involved having a dude massage inside my mouth. In a general sense, I feel like I am more relaxed than I used to be. Certainly I’m more relaxed than I was during the seven months we lived with two dogs who couldn’t be in the same room together.

Outside of my house, though, there seems to be an epidemic of nervous and fearful dogs.

Among the possible treatments, which include Tellington Touch, ThunderShirts, ThunderCaps (just wait until T day in the A to Z Challenge), and anti-anxiety meds, is Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol.

The Relaxation Protocol conditions a relaxed response by rewarding a dog for sitting or lying calmly for various lengths of time in the presence of various stimuli.

Paws Abilities explains it well here.

Rubicon Days also writes about it in this post and that post.

I wish there were something I could do to help shelter dogs relax harder. In the short time I’ve been volunteering, I’ve seen anxiety escalate alarmingly in a couple of dogs. One started grabbing the harness out of my hand before I put it on him, and shaking it violently. He also grabbed my hands and wrists with his mouth; definitely not behavior that is going to get a dog adopted.

Another dog who was fairly timid when I first started walking him also has started grabbing my hands. A fellow volunteer gaped at me trying to extricate my wrists from his mouth, her eyes wide like she was witnessing a murder. Like she’s never seen a spazzy dog before. He actually mouthed me kind of gently; Leo used to leave marks when he did that as a puppy. Still, the behavior can’t continue. My strategy is to turn my back and cross my arms until he calms down, but it’s not like I have all day. Maybe I can reach in with lightning speed, clip the leash to his collar and then step on it, so he can’t jump up.

As a volunteer, I take these dogs for walks and play with them outside, which I hope enriches their lives with a little stimulation and exercise. I wish I had enough time that I could also massage their ears and jaws, and do Tellington Touch body work. I wish I could hang out with each of them every day and work through the Relaxation Protocol.

While I’m throwing out wishes, I might as well wish for them all to have loving homes, or at least foster homes while they wait. Living for an extended period in a kennel is too stressful.

R is for Relax Harder

R

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M is for Mystery

When you “rescue” a dog, unless it is an owner surrender with a uniquely upfront surrenderer, the dog’s previous life is a complete mystery.

We look at Mia all the time and ask her, “What were your families like before us?”

Mia hopped right in our car the day we met. Who would abandon this face? (Those aren't mites on her face, but white microbeads from a headrest Leo tore apart while we were meeting Mia.)

Mia hopped right in our car the day we met. Who would abandon this face? (Those aren’t mites, by the way, but white microbeads from a headrest Leo tore apart while we were meeting her.)

Mia came to live with us when she was about 7. The only things we know for sure are:

  • She answers to the name Mia.
  • She was microchipped but not registered.
  • She was spayed.
  • She was vaccinated.

Mia was living with a family on an Indian reservation for a few weeks, where she was probably outside, off leash, and unfenced most of the day, but slept inside at night. Her foster mother said Mia had two other families before us, and that the most recent one moved away and couldn’t take her along.

“Who would leave behind a Mia?” Rob and I ask ourselves every day.

Lately, we’ve started wondering if maybe she didn’t have a home because she ate it. We thought we’d solved the problem of door-chewing by leaving all the inside doors open, but then she started working on the door from the laundry room to the garage, and the moulding by the sliding glass door to the backyard. I fear she’ll turn on the front door next. When we got home from work on Friday, she’d torn the doorknob OFF the door to the garage, so now we can’t open it from the inside.

I took her for a long walk that evening and tried to figure it out. Why does she hate closed doors so much? Why was she close to perfect for two years before this started?

All the solutions that I can think of — leaving her outside, taking her with me, having Rob’s parents come by more often — none of those would have made a difference on a Friday when I couldn’t have taken her to work, didn’t want to leave her outside from 9 to 6*, and Rob’s parents were out of town. The best option is blocking her access to the doors. We can put an X-pen across the door to the kitchen, which keeps her away from the sliding door and the laundry room. Maybe we should blockade the front door too …

Later that night, our security cameras started beeping. After Mia’s first door destruction, I blamed the beeping from Rob’s car alarm key fob. Oh, the cruel irony. The very device that allows us to watch Mia destroy the doors could be the thing that causes her to destroy the doors.

Rob got on the phone with customer service and we think we’ve got the beeping fixed.

Again, my suspicion is that the beeping makes Mia anxious, so she tries to escape it, this time out to the garage or the backyard. Then again, maybe she’s trying to get inside the garage, where I like to hide cooked liver for her to find. I may never know.

And that’s what makes Mia a Mystery.

M

*Wondering why I don’t want to leave Mia outside from 9-6? Check back in two days for the letter O.

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Pit Bulls are Lovers, Not Fighters

During my morning hop through the blogosphere, I learned that today is National Dog Fighting Awareness Day, and feel compelled to contribute.

I’ve never known any fighting dogs, and until recently, I didn’t really know any pit bulls very well. I’ve been a fan of Pit Bulls and Parolees since it started, and I’ve been working on a novel for a few years that prominently features fighting dogs. At first, I gave a main character a pet pit bull, but my fascination with the Michael Vick case led me to broaden the storyline to include dog fighting and pit bull rescue. And that’s led me to go out of my way to make friends with some pitties.

Maverick
In the past few weeks, I’ve been hanging out with Maverick, a pit mix at my local shelter. I think he’s a really special dog. I love the way he smiles at me, and he knows how to have a good time in the play yard. But I fear that every day that goes by with him spending most of his hours in a kennel, the less adoptable he becomes. He needs lots of attention and consistent reward-based training. So far, I’ve been working on teaching him his name.

Yesterday, there were two dogs barking at us from the adjacent play yard, and a little girl walking a teeny tiny dog on the other side of the fence. Maverick looked very interested in all of the dogs and not remotely aggressive.

In case you missed it, here are a few of my posts about volunteering at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley:

And here’s another video of ol’ Mav, this time with a floppy disc.

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This post is part of a special Dogs n’ Pawz Tuesday’s Tails Blog Hop dedicated to raising awareness about dogfighting and special bullies in need of adoption. Cohosted by Lola the PittyBarking from the BayouTalking Dogs Blog, and Love is Being Owned by a Husky.

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Five doggies looking for new Best Friends

My writer friend Pam is doing the Blogging A-Z challenge, and when I saw some of my Wordless Wednesday friends doing it as a blog hop, I wanted to join in. I’d already posted this, and realized that it fits perfectly.

B is for Best Friends!

Two weeks ago, I posted pics of three dogs at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley, where I volunteer. Two have been adopted since then! It’s really gratifying to see doggies find new Best Friends.

I’m worried about the third dog though. Maverick. He’s very sweet and cute, but he’s restless from being cooped up, and doesn’t make the best impression when you first meet him behind bars. He also suffers from Black Dog Syndrome, which makes him more likely to be overlooked in the shelter. (Black Dog Syndrome also starts with a B.)

Here he is loving life in the play yard with a rope toy.

 

And here are a few more doggies, still looking for for their new Best Friends.

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B

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