Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Book Review: Dog, Inc. (cloning) Part One of Two

Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend, by John Woestendiek, Avery Publishing (Penguin Books), 2011, 320 pp, $26.00. (Current cover subtitle: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics, and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry)

Cloning for Love and Money

Who among us hasn’t had at least one dog in our life that we bonded deeply with, a dog who was truly our best friend - and when that dog died, so did a huge hunk of our heart? Do you ever wish your heart dog could come back? Did you freeze your dog after he died like one character in this book? Did you stuff and mount him? Did you freeze-dry him?

Dog, Inc., examines the recent global race (between  the US and Korea) to clone* a dog so that an owner might replicate his heart-dog. But wait - is that really possible? And at what cost, in millions of dollars and hundreds of dogs - deformities and abnormalities (tumors, skeletal problems) are still only one of the unfortunate consequences part of dog cloning.

If you like The National Inquirer, you’ll love this book. If you’re a dog person (dog lover, dog professional), you’ll have to read Dog, Inc., an objective account of the international dog cloning wars of the past decade - a race to be the first to clone a dog and a dog named Booger (I kid you not!). If you are a scientist (biologist or geneticist) you might be bored and frustrated, as I was.

The Characters (and characters they are indeed!)

-The Southern Baptist raised but briefly Mormon, former beauty queen (though she never lived in the state she represented, is now on welfare, and was arrested for kidnapping) wanted to clone a dog (for $150,000) that she was convinced saved her life.

-The heroic German Shepherd Dog who may have unofficially searched the Twin Towers on 911 and whose owner won a contest to have him cloned, thus saving the $150,000 fee. 

-The Texas owner of a gentle Brahman bull, Chance, who wanted another Chance (Second Chance).

-The 70-something millionaire, founder of the University of Phoenix, who gave the project its first spark (and $20 million in funding) to clone his dog Missy – and the Missy Mission (Missiplicity Project) was born at Texas A&M University.

Clonaid, Clonapet, Genetic Savings & Clone, Perpetual Pet (freeze-dried pets), Forever Pet, PerPETuate, gene banks. . . . Nature, Time, The NYTimes, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Science - who among us doesn’t remember the news?

Dog, the 18th species to be cloned, turned out to be the most expensive, the most difficult to duplicate genetically, and closest emotionally to man.

Suits and Countersuits

The beauty queen sued her father. Two dog cloning companies (from different countries) went to court. What more could a reader ask for?

International Dog Wars

“The battle, once cloning went commercial, would play out in the marketplace, in the courtroom, and in the arena of public relations. . . .” (p 199).

It proved to be harder to clone dogs than mice or steers or goats or horses or cows or rats or deer or oxen or pigs or mules or buffalo or mice or frogs or sheep or cats – dogs come into heat only twice a year and their eggs are opaque.

Successful dog cloning became a race between Korean scientists and US scientists/businessmen with the Koreans eventually winning: in Korea, ‘farm dogs’ refers to dogs raised on farms for food (mutts are part of the food chain in at least three countries) so there were plenty of dogs with which to start.

In addition, animal welfare regulations like those in the US do not exist in Korea.

And finally, the Korean scientists’ work week consists of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Friday, and weekends, from 4 am to 11 pm – true factory assembly lines.

*clone: nuclear transplantation resulting in a genetic identical twin

To be continued in the next blog:
An Ethical Dilemma? A Three-way Battle for Success?
How Expensive is Cloning?
How to Clone a Dog
Would We Recommend This Book?

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