Tag Archives: Pets

Poochie 2.0

Heard a story on the radio this morning that touched a bit of a nerve. Apparently, for $100,000 a lab in South Korea can clone your dog for you. NPR did a profile of a couple in Louisiana who did this with their dog Melvin, twice.

There are a number of troubling things about this, and to NPR’s credit they did a good job of touching on them. For starters the eggs for these clones need to be harvested from female dogs and placed into surrogate mothers. The procedure is often unsuccessful and requires multiple attempts to produce a viable clone. And most clones have defects that can cause them to be sickly.

But as all science fiction writers have a tendency to do, let’s set aside all of the medical complications and consider the question from a more ethical perspective, assuming eventually the technology will get better.

The US Humane Society estimates the owned dog population (in 2013) to be about 80 million. Another 6-8 million dogs wind up in shelters, with approximately 2.7 million not adopted each year. That’s 1 dog for every ten people in the United States. Clones don’t appreciably affect this population (NPR reported the particular lab has only produced 600 or so cloned dogs), but there are still many dogs out there who are alive and need a home.

Okay, dog over population is bad, it’s why Bob Barker always told us to get our pets spayed and neutered (and not because of his amusing last name). But again, not my point.

We lost our first dog, Simon, about a year and a half ago*. Like the family in the radio piece, it took two dogs to replace him, our beagle-boxer Riley (who we adopted from a shelter 3 days after we put Simon to sleep) and Murphy, a beagle like Simon who we adopted a few months ago. Simon was a great dog, very chill, but always greeted me when I got home. Those last days with him were hard as a tumor in his brain caused seizures, but he still was able to enjoy walks, and even a Five Guys Burger.

Losing a pet is hard. It took us a while to grieve for Simon and every now and then Murphy gives us a look that reminds us of our dog when he was younger (though we’re doing a better job at keeping Murphy thin). Riley and Murphy are very different dogs. Riley is playful, energetic, a lot taller even though he can curl up surprisingly small and isn’t much of a snuggler, though he has his moments. Murphy is a lap dog (at least he thinks he is) who I suspect would explode if he wasn’t on a human for more than an hour.

Cloning Simon, I would have missed out on the new experience of my dogs now. And cloning anything, a pet or even a loved one is trying to deny a fundamental part of our nature.

Things end. People and pets pass away. It’s sad, and it can be hard to deal with sometimes. But I can’t help but feel like cloning a pet is denying that truth, trying to set aside grief, to cheat death. But it’s a trick. A dog might be a genetic duplicate, but that is not everything that made it who it was. Even a cloned animal is still a different being than the one that preceded it. Part of life is about letting go, and letting others into our lives. Simon had a happy full life with us, and we’re trying to do the same for Riley and Murphy.

$100,000 could help hundreds of dogs. You could pay the adoption fee for the whole Franklin County Animal Shelter with that kind of money, and let families who might balk at the upfront money still provide a loving home. You could pay for medical expenses for older dogs and help them live a little longer with their owners. You could buy free bags of dog food for needy families who otherwise would have to give up their pet.

I understand this Louisiana family’s choice. But I can’t help but think of it as selfish, offensive, and ultimately self-defeating.

* My wife has had other dogs, but this was the first one she adopted herself. I came along a couple of years later so he predated me.

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Did I tell you about the new dog?

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His name is Murphy (the one on the bottom of the dogpile underneath by beagle-boxer mix Riley). We’ve had him about two months now, and other than a little toy aggression on Riley’s part (used to being an only child), they get along great. Murphy is much more respectful of Dax (our cat) than Riley, who still hasn’t figured out that hissing and swatting are not a game.

On a side note my cat is a bit of a badass. About three weeks ago she came inside with a wound about the size of a quarter in her side. She didn’t meow or complain about it, even when the vet had to put three staples in her. She didn’t pick at the wound or anything, and is now well on the way to recovery. Both my wife and I have a greater respect for her, though we still have no idea how she came by such a battle scar.

And in case I didn’t mention it, Coonie, who graced our house for about three weeks was adopted from the shelter a couple months back. We would have loved to keep her, but Dax wouldn’t have it, which in the long run is for the best since Murphy came around.

So here’s how Murphy happened. I was out at Starbucks working on my sermon when I get a call from my wife telling me I had to come home immediately. She was getting Riley into the car, and was going over to the shelter to meet this new Beagle she’d spotted on the website. I wasn’t sure we had enough room in the house for two dogs (even though we have a four dog yard) but my wife has always loved purebred beagles. Truth is, though I was a bit grumpy about it for the first few weeks, Murphy has been a great addition to our home. If he’d been as energetic as Riley I might not be so thrilled, but he’s a real snuggle-bug. He’ll latch onto you on the couch and huddle close all evening. And he’s pretty tolerant of being flipped to the side so he can get some back-scratching along with Riley. And he’s adopted the laz-y-boy in my basement office as his new favorite spot.

Probably most of my reluctance at first was that he reminded me of our previous dog, Simon, who I’d known for eight years and missed a little more than I’d realized. Still Murphy is his own dog and he’s a great companion. He’s definitely more of a mama’s boy, but both of them barrel to the door to jump on me when I come home from work.

So two dogs, a cat, and maybe in a year or two a mini-me. Life is good.

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Introducing Coonie

We are now outnumbered by our pets. Actually you could also look at it that I’m outnumbered, three women against me and the dog.

Perhaps I should better explain, we have a new cat.

I have long resisted my wife’s suggestions that we get another cat, perhaps a kitten that our cat, Dax, could train up as her own. This could also help to reduce any loneliness in Dax, though she has always seemed perfectly content to lie in the sun and torture our dogs (Simon and now Riley).

DaxAndRiley

I am not a cat person, though I am directly responsible for the first cat.

Dax ran up on our porch on Beggar’s Night five years ago and whatever inclination we might have had to let her back out into the night was shattered when I uttered the words “we have to take care of the least of these.” Incidentally my pastor finds my interpretation of this passage hilarious. We did make a considerable effort to search for her original owner, but to no avail, and truthfully in that time she had wormed her way into our hearts. We love Dax, though she is a pretty high maintenance cat (now about 9 years old). We give her comfort treats in the morning and the equivalent of kitty Prozac every night (which is a two man job). All of this in an effort to reduce the amount that she pees on our doors, and like many cat owners we have become subject to the whims of our cat, letting her in and out at times of her choosing, lest we be punished.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s very cute. She does the thing where she hides all her legs under herself like a loaf of bread, and makes a really cute purr noise if you poke her when she’s not expecting it. She’ll snuggle with you and purr and particularly likes to lick your feet just after you get out of the shower.

Anyway, about a week and half ago my wife and I were sitting in the living room. She’s watching Bones and I’m catching up on some Arkham City when the dog hears a noise. I love Riley, but we’re still working on the not barking at even the slightest provocation, though in this case his interest was justified. We heard a very pathetic animal noise. My wife and I interpreted this noise very differently as it happens. I thought I heard the cry of an injured animal, maybe a raccoon that had been in a fight, and was probably something to be avoided, lest we get scratched. My wife describes it now as the most pathetic mewing noise you could hear.

Turns out she was right. An extremely friendly little kitty came out of the bushes and started rubbing all over her feet, even allowing my wife to pick her up and more shockingly pet her belly.

I know!

The day before I’d seen some lost cat signs and said that this cat was probably theirs. So we put her in the cat carrier and drove her to her supposed owners. But as it turns out, though she looked quite similar, this was not their cat. We called around for shelters but on a Sunday night there’s really nothing you can do. We searched PetFBI, Craigslist, Facebook, etc. but had no luck finding anybody looking for her. We didn’t want to let her back out into the cold, and she was such a sweet kitty that we wanted to make sure that wherever we dropped her off it was a no-kill shelter. As it turns out, at least in the state of Ohio, this is not an easy thing. We (Ohioans) care more about dogs, who I guess are less capable of taking care of themselves, but still.

But the truth is it was no use anyway. A day in the house and my wife had already fallen in love. Coonie (as I originally nick-named her) has a bushy tail (like a raccoon) and is only about 6 pounds (the vet thinks she’s 6 months to a year old). Her right eye is deformed which also was behind our motivation to make sure she got into a no-kill shelter or had a good home with us.

Cat integration is proceeding well. We may actually have detentes, Dax and Coonie don’t particularly like each other, but they stay out of each other’s way which is way better than Dax has been with the basically feral cat that often came by our house (an orange male we nick-named Worf). Riley actually seems to get along better with Coonie than he ever has with Dax (he has yet to realize that hissing and swatting does not mean the cat is playing). We even caught him licking Coonie yesterday night which she seemed to tolerate, at least initially.

So, I don’t know, I guess now we’re those crazy pet people. This had probably been brewing ever since we bought a coat for the dog (though he has thin hair and it can get very cold outside). If nothing else all the animals keep things exciting, and now I have another adorable ball of fur running around while I try to convince the dog we need to stick together.

Coonie

Any tips on cat-cat, cat-dog integration?

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