A new memoir from the National Book Award-winning author of "Middle Passage." He writes about the art and craft of writing and what he calls "the truth-telling power of fiction."
What started with a sheep named Dolly became possible for dogs in 2005. That’s when South Korean scientists produced an afghan hound named Snuppy, the world’s first canine clone. But even before the technolgy was successful, an American company, predicting vast profits in pet cloning, was promoting and marketing pet cell banks with the promise of someday bringing customers’ diseased pets back. An investigative reporter describes the unusual world of animal cloning from the very beginning. We learn about the scientists, eccentric businessmen and obsession with pets that has blurred the lines of ethics.
- John Woestendiek Pulitzer-Prize-winning investigative reporter and author of the "ohmidog!" blog.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. For most of the 15,000 years since dogs were domesticated, they've been valued for the work they could perform for people. By the 20th century, they had evolved into full-fledged members of the family. When the birth of the world's first cloned sheep was announced in 1997, the race to clone a canine began. In the new book titled "Dog, Inc.," Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, John Woestendiek, tells the inside story about the science, the ethics, the marketing and often the quirky personalities involved in pet cloning.
MS. DIANE REHMHe joins me here in the studio and we are delighted to take your calls. I'm interested in hearing your reactions to the story that John tells. Call us with your comments on 800-433-8850, send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to you, it's good to have you here.
MR. JOHN WOESTENDIEKGood morning. I'm thrilled to be here.
REHMI'm interested in the fact that you won the Pulitzer in 1987 for a series of articles that helped overturn a murder conviction of an innocent 18-year-old man who had been sentenced to life in prison. How in the world did you get from that...
WOESTENDIEKTo dogs (laugh) ?
REHM...to dogs and dog cloning?
WOESTENDIEKWell, how I got to dogs was -- well, I've always been into dogs and pretty much I've always had one, but I went through, like, a two-year period without a dog and adopted one from the shelter in Baltimore. Barks, it's called. And after I did that, I wrote -- I kind of got interested in his heritage, his story, which was a mystery. Where he might have come from and what he was 'cause at least a 100 times a day, I get asked, you know, what kind of dog is that?
REHMWhat kind of dog is that, sure.
WOESTENDIEKSo I embarked on a quest to find his roots, sort of.
REHMAnd did you?
WOESTENDIEKWell, I turned to science and did one of the DNA tests that you can do now that...
WOESTENDIEK...pinpoint what breeds are in your dog. And I've actually done that three times all in connection with writing stories about it, but they were a little bit different, but they concluded he was Rottweiler or Akita/Chow and some said he has some Pit Bull in him, too.
WOESTENDIEKHe's a very big dog. He's 130 pounds.
WOESTENDIEKBut that was part of it, then I went back to the shelter and tried to get what information they had on where he had come from and then went back to the neighborhood where he was found as a stray before he was brought into the shelter. And ended up writing an overly long series of, like, seven parts about, you know, my dog’s roots. And one part of it was going to an animal communicator to get her to talk to my dog and get my dog to tell her...
WOESTENDIEK...where he came from.
REHMAnd what did the dog communicate or indicate?
WOESTENDIEKShe said he was in a family with kids and this was in Baltimore and she thought -- or he told her that the family expected him to be a Pit Bull and then as he got older and didn't look at all like a Pit Bull, they decided to get rid of him and he was, like, taken out in the country...
REHMSort of dumped.
WOESTENDIEK...let out of the car.
WOESTENDIEKAnd then walked...
REHMGot to tell you, John, this sounds pretty weird, but the story gets even more weird...
WOESTENDIEKIt does, it does.
REHM…doesn't it? So you decided you wanted to have this dog cloned?
WOESTENDIEKNo, no, no. I knew very little about cloning at that point. Probably what I knew is mostly from science fiction movies, but because of my interest in dogs, The Baltimore Sun, where I was working at the time, asked me if I wanted to start doing a blog, this at the time where all the newspapers were trying to have as many blogs as they could. A pet blog and I said, well, I'll do a dog blog, occasionally mention cats.
WOESTENDIEKBut mainly a dog blog and mainly focused on mutts as opposed to, you know, purebreds and the whole dog fancier thing. Just, you know, basic regular dogs. And I resisted the idea of blogging at first and sort of made it a condition that I’d do the blog, but only if they let me, like, also do some serious dog stories.
WOESTENDIEKBecause I don't think the news media, historically, has given much respect to dogs. It's always, you know, little cutesy, fluffy stories and, you know, send us your pet pictures and there's a place for that, but it's not what I wanted to be doing. So that has sort of changed, I think in the last few years with Michael Vick and dog food recalls and more serious stories surfacing. So they said okay. And so I started just focused on dogs for, like, six months and started up the blog, which was called "Mutts."
WOESTENDIEKAnd that -- through that is how I eventually got into the whole cloning thing. Well, a reader of that -- I'd done a small item on cloning, dog cloning, you know, very brief, like, blogs normally are and I got a call from the anonymous, up until then, woman who was the first customer signed up to get her dog cloned and she left me a series of phone messages. Each, she'd use up all the time on the message and then call back and start back up...
WOESTENDIEK...almost an hour of her life story, which was sort of how I got...
REHMReally quite something. Did she -- in fact, you did get in touch with her and the story went from there?
WOESTENDIEKYeah, I'd ended up doing, like, a real newspaper story on the topic, which sort of focused on how it had reached the stage where it was being marketed to the public now. And it was her story and some of the other customers.
REHMBut the first dog cloning was actually done in South Korea?
REHMAnd that was a dog belonging to an individual or were they just taking any dog to try to create another dog?
WOESTENDIEKThat was -- Snuppy was the first canine clone and the donor dog in that case was a dog named Ty, who was -- belonged to a veterinary student at Seoul National University.
REHMAnd it was an Afghan hound?
REHMAnd when you say the donor dog, give us an idea of how this worked?
WOESTENDIEKOkay. In very layman terms, 'cause I'm no scientist. Basically, they get a sample, cell sample, from the dog to be cloned. Then they get egg cells from a female dog in estrous and isolated those and enucleate them or take out their nucleus and then through a little tiny slit, put in the cell of the donor dog, then it's a matter of, like, zapping it with electricity to make them fuse and then wait for them to start dividing. But they wait very long and then they put it into a surrogate mother dog, so there's actually lots of dogs involved in cloning and they have to do it lots of times to get it to work successfully.
REHMSo it's very close to the human process of treating someone with infertility, only this time you've got a certain dog in mind that you're trying to reproduce. How close to the original is or was Snuppy?
WOESTENDIEKSnuppy, in appearance, I think was very close to the original. I talked -- when I went over there, I met Snuppy and then Snuppy has for five years now, I guess, been -- you know, lived in the laboratory, still lives there and so he's not real social, growing up in that setting, but I met Snuppy and then I talked to the guy who -- the student -- former student who's now a professor there, who sort of begrudgingly went along with the whole thing. He really didn't want his dog cloned, but with like a superior professor asking, making the request he said, he sort of felt like he couldn't say no. 'Cause, you know, Korean culture and respect for elders and things like that. So he says that they look alike, but they're not really at all, like, in terms of their behavior.
WOESTENDIEKSnuppy, I think he gets outside, like, three times a day, but otherwise, you know, lives in the lab and so he's -- and he moans. He kind of -- even before I met him, I could like hear his kind of eerie moans that he makes. And so Ty, the donor dog...
WOESTENDIEK...was more, you know, socialized and...
REHMWell, living in a lab, I can certainly understand why poor Snuppy...
WOESTENDIEKYeah, I’d do the same thing.
REHM…doesn't have very friendly feelings toward people. John Woestendiek is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter. His new book all about the cloning of dogs that first began in South Korea and then certainly migrated to this country is called "Dog, Inc." And if you'd like to join us, 800-433-8850, that's the number to call. When you think about what's been done to dogs and to dog owners in this process of cloning is the ultimate goal to actually reproduce the same dog emotionally as well as physically?
WOESTENDIEKThat's the hope of the owners and it was sort of the promise of the companies. The companies never really guarantee anything more than physical resemblance, but they also sort of pushed, you know, the whole getting your dog back, you know, you can have your dog back again, early on.
REHMAnd we'll take a short break. We'll talk more about whether you can get your dog back when we come back. "Dog, Inc." is the name of the book.
REHMWelcome back. John Woestendiek is with me. He's a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, formerly with the Philadelphian Choir. His new book is titled "Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man's Best Friend." And here on the cover is a Beagle, a sweet darling little Beagle. And did anybody try to clone a Beagle?
WOESTENDIEKI don't know of a -- well, for laboratory purposes, not for -- I don't know of a customer that has a Beagle cloned.
WOESTENDIEKThough I'm not up on all of them. But Beagles are traditionally dogs used for research and laboratories and so they're bred to go -- you know, to live their lives in laboratories and that (unintelligible).
REHMHere's an e-mail from Keith who says, "'This American' had a show about a guy who cloned a beloved bull. The clone was different and almost killed him." You write about that story in the book. Tell us what happened.
WOESTENDIEKYeah, there's two chapters about Chance and his clone, Second Chance. And this was a bull owned by a man in Texas -- LaGrange, Texas named Ralph Fisher who is a former school teacher and former rodeo clown and started a company that makes use of animals, mainly Texas-type animals for events -- some sort of corporate events. And he takes -- so you could have your picture taken on top of a bull or for parades and has armadillo races. And he has a very famous buzzard also that's been in a lot of movies. But it's Ralph Fisher's Photo Animals, I think it's called.
WOESTENDIEKBut he had a bull named Chance that -- originally had a bull named Tumbleweed that was unusually calm for a bull. And he's the bull that he would have people get their pictures taken on. And Tumbleweed was sort of the star of his show. And then a friend of his ran into another bull called Chance and bought him with the idea of giving him to Ralph. And Ralph eventually picked up Chance, who is a Brahman bull, which are even more notoriously unpredictable and so he had, you know, serious doubts whether Chance would ever be calm enough to be a photo animal, but Chance turned out to be like -- he became pretty much their pet and so in a way, he was the first pet cloned. That's why he's in the book.
REHMAnd this is a bull with horns. Let's be clear.
WOESTENDIEKOh, yeah, this is a monster of a bull.
WOESTENDIEKAnd it was -- it goes back -- it was an early Brahman bull, how they used to look before -- through selective breeding, they sort of made them a little smaller and meatier and less saggy skinned, but Chance was getting up in years and he had a mole that Ralph wanted to get removed because -- in case of -- or checked out in case it was a sign of something wrong. So he sent Chance to Texas A & M University, which was sort of the place to take your animal. And while Chance was there he heard about the dog cloning project that had just started at Texas A&M, which was being funded by a billionaire who especially wanted his dog cloned.
WOESTENDIEKAnd so he called the scientists involved with that project and said, but why don't you go ahead and clone Chance while you have him there? And he says he pressed him to do it pretty hard, but never got a response one way or the other whether they were doing it. But then several months later, he got a call and found at that Chance had indeed been cloned from the actual mole. And there were pregnancies and a birth was imminent. And a few months after that, Second Chance, as they named him, was born.
REHMI'm looking at a photograph, 1998, with Chance with -- the original Chance and there are two young children on top of him, a family behind him. He was clearly a loving bull. And then there's a photograph of Fisher with Second Chance, hugging Second Chance, who I gather was, for the most part, pretty mild.
WOESTENDIEKFor the most part. Not -- not entirely.
REHMBut the third photograph shows Ralph Fisher with the jeans he was wearing on the two occasions that Second Chance attacked him. What happened?
WOESTENDIEKWell, Ralph was sure that Second Chance was Chance back again and therefore was going to be the same gentle soul that the original Chance was. But he -- when Second Chance was maybe three or four years old, there was an incident where he came after Ralph. And then several years after that -- and this was actually while "This American Life" was there and they were filming, like, a pilot -- they were making a transition for the show to be a pilot for TV -- while they were there, the second attack by Second Chance on Ralph came and he got, you know, pretty badly gored and thrown up in the air and pinned down. And actually, one of his testicles was hanging down by his knees and he had to go to the hospital and get something like 80 stitches.
WOESTENDIEKBut after the first attack and after the second one, he still said, it's a fluke. It was my fault. I did something wrong to get him riled up. And he still thought that Second Chance was going to be the same gentle one that Chance was. And this was to spite the scientists all along. The scientists were kind of getting upset with Ralph because Ralph was saying, Chance has been reincarnated. And the scientists didn't like him using that word and said, it's not the same thing. It's reproduction, it's not resurrection or reincarnation. But even after both attacks, he still felt that Second Chance was going to be gentle enough.
WOESTENDIEKAnd Second Chance was never used for the photo shows. That he was more exhibited as a clone than an animal you could climb up on and get your picture taken on. And he was kinda waiting -- 'cause he got the original Chance when he was seven, he was kinda waiting for Second Chance to turn seven. And said, maybe when that happens, he'll be exactly the same as Chance.
REHMAnd what happened?
WOESTENDIEKHe eventually -- Second Chance died early. He had stomach problems, couldn't digest his food as...
WOESTENDIEK...in the case with some clones. And...
REHMYou mean stomach problems consistently with clones?
WOESTENDIEKDying early with clones.
WOESTENDIEKNot necessarily stomach problems.
REHM...with various problems.
WOESTENDIEKAnd Ralph eventually came to see, you know, it wasn't exactly the same animal back again.
REHMTell us about John Sperling and the role he played in the quest to clone dogs.
WOESTENDIEKOkay. John Sperling is the founder of the University of Phoenix and a billionaire. I think he's considered the richest guy in Arizona, anyway. And he funded the initial research at Texas A&M. It was him and -- sorta just right after Dolly was announced in the newspapers, you know, he and his friend and her son were having breakfast and he just casually mentioned, you know, we should clone Missy, which was actually his friend and lover's dog. Not his dog. And it sorta evolved from, you know, just a stray thought into, you know, let's really do this. So he assigned Lou Hawthorne to sorta investigate, go around to different universities and find out who might be willing to tackle it.
WOESTENDIEKAnd they ended up at Texas A&M where he funded. And he ended up footing the bill for Chance and for...
WOESTENDIEK…cats which were cloned before dogs 'cause...
REHM...like how much did he put in there?
WOESTENDIEKAt least 20 million over all.
REHMNow, let's go back to the woman who left you all those messages, her life story and what you found out about her. But first, I mean, she was a person in need of a dog that could help her.
WOESTENDIEKRight. Joyce Bernann McKinney, a woman from North Carolina, which was one of the reasons we sorta hit it off when we first started talking 'cause I was from there, too, and we were both, you know, dog crazy and I had -- my dog's a therapy dog and her dog was sort of a -- not an official service dog, but filled that role for her.
WOESTENDIEKWhat happened with her is she was living on a farm in North Carolina and one day she found Booger, a Pit Bull, on the highway and decided that she really needed -- she couldn't just take him to the shelter 'cause Pit Bulls sometimes don't make it out of shelters in a good way. So she took him home. She also had a dog named Tough Guy who was a Mastiff and was purchased to be sort of a guard dog for her 'cause she lives sorta out in the country. And one day, the Mastiff attacked her really badly and she says actually amputated her hands, her arm, but...
WOESTENDIEK...but it was a very serious thing.
WOESTENDIEKAnd Pit Bull -- Pit Bull -- Booger, she says, came to her rescue...
WOESTENDIEK...and fought off the dog that was five times bigger than him, got hurt badly in the process. And she was able to get up and drive down to her father's house nearby and get taken to a clinic and then – not helicopter, but an ambulance to a hospital in Winston-Salem, which turned out to be the same hospital I was born in, but after she went through a long period of rehabilitation and getting back on her feet, was actually in a wheelchair for awhile. Had several surgeries to get her hands and arms, you know...
WOESTENDIEK...looking normal and working, yeah...
WOESTENDIEK...and a lot of therapy. And during that time, Booger, she says, you know, became her assistant in everything. You know, he would help her when she fell down, he would help her up. She had a special harness made that she could -- you know, he could help her out of the bathtub.
REHMHe'd open doors for her.
WOESTENDIEKYeah, she couldn't turn doorknobs at first, so he'd open -- and get her clothes out of the dryer and, you know, assist her.
REHMSo she decides to have this dog cloned.
WOESTENDIEKWell, initially, she actually wanted to clone the dog that maimed her.
WOESTENDIEKAnd she actually called Ian Wilmut...
WOESTENDIEK...yeah, the cloner of Dolly and asked about that and he said, you know, dogs haven't been accomplished yet. She ended up getting Tough Guy stuffed or mounted, to use the correct term, but she started thinking, you know, about, you know, maybe by the time Booger dies or when he gets near the end, maybe scientists will have achieved cloning dogs, so she had thought about it even before Booger died. And then when Booger died, she took steps to have him -- his body refrigerated and, you know, kept on ice so she could pursue that.
REHMFor how long?
WOESTENDIEKShe -- well, originally, she signed up -- this sorta gets into the whole two companies that were competing aspect of it, but she signed up with the company that came out of the research being done at Texas A&M, the Sperling's company, that was actually headed by Lou Hawthorne, who is the son of Sperling's longtime friend. And so he (laugh) -- I don't want to get too deep into the whole -- I don't want to get too confused. It's a confusing subject.
REHMBut all I was asking was how long she kept that dog frozen?
WOESTENDIEKWell, I think he still is, actually.
REHMHe still is.
WOESTENDIEKYeah, but she signed up with the American company, which was called Genetic Savings and Cloning, which was Lou Hawthorne's company, and had a sample sent to that company.
REHMJohn Woestendiek and the book is titled, "Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man's Best Friend." Let's open the phones. I think there are lots of folks who'd like to join us. If you'd like to join us on 800-433-8850. First to Keith in Gainesville, Fla. Good morning, you're on the air.
KEITHGood morning. Thank you for having me.
KEITHI'm interested in the cost of actually having your dog DNA typed. I had Akitas, which your guest is somewhat familiar with because of his dog, for years. And my insurance company asked me -- handed me a list for my homeowner's insurance. And on that list put Akitas, Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Cocker Spaniels and Bassett Hounds. And if you have any of those dogs, they would rate me higher.
KEITHYes. Or depending on the breed, some of them they just wouldn't insure you at all. And so now this is in Florida, maybe the laws are different elsewhere. So I'm looking at my precious Akita who had been an aid dog to me when I had surgery, such as what you just described, and I said, well, I don't have any papers on her, so I don't know what she is. And they came out to assess the house and said, that looks like an Akita and I said, yeah, it sure does. But I got no way to prove it unless you guys want to pay to do a DNA sample on her. And that pretty well put a stop to the issue.
KEITHBut I wanted to -- you know, in terms of dog behavior, we have this whole nature versus nurture issue, which I assume he'll go into some in terms of making a decision to clone an animal and what's happened there. But I just wanted to point that out that having a dog DNA typed could cost a lot more than just knowing what your dog is.
REHMLike how much?
WOESTENDIEKWell, it's not just Florida, I don't think. It's all over certain breeds are being pinpointed and wrongly so.
WOESTENDIEKCocker Spaniels can be -- yeah, they (laugh)...
WOESTENDIEK...they have bad reputations. And my dog, all four breeds in my dog, Rottweiler, Chow, Akita and Pit Bull are, you know, all on all the bad-dog lists. And the bad-dog lists, you know, change over the decades.
WOESTENDIEKIt used to be, like, Doberman's and...
REHMSo what would you estimate the cost to be of having your dog's DNA tested?
WOESTENDIEKThe actual test is -- there's several and it's been improved over the years it's been out, but it's probably, like, 150 now. It was, like, 60 the first time I had it done, but now they can distinguish more breeds and so the price keeps rising.
WOESTENDIEKYeah, depending -- there's, like, two different kinds. One you can just swab your dog's cheek and send it in.
WOESTENDIEKAnd the other, they test the blood.
REHMYeah, and the other question becomes how reliable those DNA tests actually are.
WOESTENDIEKYeah, I've heard from a lot of people who have, you know, little tiny dogs and are told it's, you know, German Shepherd/Mastiff.
WOESTENDIEKAnd they just say, no way. But, you know, who knows. No tell what nature's going to turn out.
REHMSo Keith, are you about to do this with your dog?
KEITHNo. My Akita, who lived a very healthy 14 years, which is a long time for that breed, passed some years ago. I then got a very high end German Shepherd who was struck by lightning. And if I'd ever been tempted to clone a dog, it would've been her.
REHMOh, I'm so sorry, Keith. Well, thanks for calling and we're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back as I talk with John Woestendiek. By the way, let me spell his name for you. His last name, Woestendiek, spelled, W-O-E-S-T-E-N-D-I-E-K. And of course, that will be on our website. There are photographs in this book, one of Joyce Bernann McKinney. She holds up one of the clones from the dog we talked about earlier. She made the trip to South Korea to meet those dogs.
WOESTENDIEKTwice. Well, she went to meet them shortly after their birth. And then several months later, went back to...
WOESTENDIEK...pick -- no, take all five of them.
REHMTake all five.
WOESTENDIEKAnd that turned out not to go smoothly at all.
REHMWhy not? What happened?
WOESTENDIEKWell, first, there were delays because she still needed to come up with the money to pay for it 'cause she was...
WOESTENDIEKThat was the initial price, but she agreed to do publicity.
REHMFor the South...
WOESTENDIEKFor the company, yeah.
WOESTENDIEKIn exchange for getting the price reduced to 50,000, but she didn't even have 50,000. Unlike most of the cloning customers, she wasn't wealthy.
REHMSo did she ever get the dogs?
WOESTENDIEKShe got the money together or part of it and they agreed to...
REHMTake what she had.
WOESTENDIEK...take the 30,000 and the 20,000 later. She went over to get the dogs. Before she went, she got them all assistance dog "certifications" -- "certifications" in quotes because the dogs were really too young to...
WOESTENDIEK...to have any sort of training, but her plan was she didn't want the dogs flying in the plane's cargo area.
WOESTENDIEKSo she planned to go over there, try to take them all in the cabin with her. If that didn't work, to find people to pose as if they were handicapped.
REHMAs their owners. Oh, I see.
WOESTENDIEKAnd that didn't work too well, either.
REHMThis gets messy. This gets messy.
WOESTENDIEKVery messy. And she was stuck there for a couple weeks trying to get the dogs back and...
WOESTENDIEKEventually ended up, you know, starting off doing it, you know, taking one, flying over, flying back, getting another one...
REHMOh, good grief.
WOESTENDIEK...until the last two, she finally found people that would agree with her ruse.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Wayne who's in Kalamazoo, Mich. Good morning to you. Wayne, are you there? All right. We'll go to Marion in Rochester, N.Y. Good morning.
MARIONGood morning, Diane, very interesting show.
MARIONI would just like to ask as this process evolves, how has the health and the personality of these animals withstood the test of time?
WOESTENDIEKWell, I think it's still got a lot more evolving to do as there's been so few. Maybe -- last figure I heard, maybe 20 dogs -- clones had actually been...
WOESTENDIEK...delivered to customers.
WOESTENDIEKMore than -- hundreds of dogs have been cloned mostly in connection with laboratory work, but...
REHMBut, you know, John, what strikes me is, aren't people looking for exact replicas? And there's no way one could guarantee an exact replica personally. I mean, your dog is your dog. He is your dog because he's lived with you...
REHM...for these years, developed that kind of personality with interaction. Not to say you couldn't eventually develop the same kind of relationship, but surely it can't be the same dog.
WOESTENDIEKYeah, I don't think so. I think it's more nurture than nature in what a dog becomes. I mean, our dogs, in a way, sorta become us, which in turn, you know, leads us to the sort of emotions that might lead somebody to want to clone one, but yeah, I put more stock in the nurture side of it.
REHMAnd even thinking about twins, human twins.
WOESTENDIEKYeah, which is what clones are, twins.
REHMAnd how different they are. I mean, goodness gracious. All right. Let's go to Peninsula, Ohio. Good morning, Ellen.
ELLENGood morning. There were two things that struck me while I was listening to -- earlier in the show when you were first describing the early -- how the first dog was cloned. One was a little bit sadness hearing about the life of that cloned dog, of course, but the one that struck me more -- and I was surprised at my reaction, was when you said that they use electricity to make the cells start to divide. It just brought me right back to Dr. Frankenstein and how they were on the right track, you know, with raising him up and getting the lightning on him. It just kind of amused me.
WOESTENDIEKYeah, that's sort of the one part of the process that I think jolts, no pun intended, most people is that, you know, they have to -- that electricity is involved in the -- otherwise, it's all...
WOESTENDIEK...you know, pretty organic and just cells being shifted and moved around, but -- and that's to get it to fuse and then start dividing, but...
WOESTENDIEK...it is a little Frankensteiny...
WOESTENDIEK...to me, anyway, being an layman.
ELLENRight. Right. Me, too (laugh). All right. Thank you.
REHMThank you. And to Hooksett, N.H. Hi there, Ray, thanks for joining us.
RAYGood morning. Thank you.
REHMGo right ahead, sir.
RAYOkay. We've been talking about the nature versus nurture argument. And wouldn't it have been in the Korean's best interest to ask the student of the donor to raise the clone dog to kinda show the correlation between their personalities, especially if they're trying to market a product?
WOESTENDIEKYeah, that's a...
REHMYou mean to raise the dog in the same kind of environment.
RAYJust like we've been talking about to show that you can nurture the dog to try to raise the same dog, that it's possible, rather than -- I mean, like you said, you can make a twin dog, but it's not going to be the same if you raise it in a laboratory.
WOESTENDIEKRight. And that would be interesting. And that's pretty much the case with some of the customers who have received clones of their dogs. They are attempting to, you know, raise them in the same environment and nurture them the same way. But, yeah, it reminds me of the movie that's mentioned in the book, the 1978, I think, movie "The Boys from Brazil," in which the R11 book, which Hitler is cloned. In addition to cloning the 80 Hitlers or something like that, they also placed them all in families that are, you know, designed to be exactly the same as the ones he grew up in, in an attempt to get the same being again.
REHMDoesn't happen. That's all there is to it. Here's an e-mail from a listener saying, "I assume cats can be cloned. Is it only dogs being cloned in Korea or at least a majority? And why do you think that is?"
WOESTENDIEKCats actually were cloned before dog and again, were another result of the attempt to clone dog was in Texas A&M University. After working on a dog for awhile, they started getting a lot of calls from cat owners. And they decided to try and clone a cat. Cats were -- most animals -- all animals were easier to clone than dogs because dogs, they're egg cells are opaque. You can't really see through them, so it's harder to manipulate. Manipulate is the word they use. And they also only go into heat, like, once, twice a year. Cats were achieved -- I don't remember the year right offhand, but the first cat was named CC, short of carbon copy. And it was actually a pretty huge factor in how things took place because it was a clone of a calico cat. And calico cats have this genetic weirdness about them and...
WOESTENDIEKYeah, yeah and so the actual clone of the cat wasn't the same color as the original cat, which didn't bother the scientists at all, because they were saying, you know, it's a genetic duplicate still, but it very much bothered Genetics Savings and Clone, the company that was trying to market cat clones.
REHMGenetic Savings and Clone?
WOESTENDIEKIt's pretty weird name (laugh).
REHMGive me a break. You write about a dog named Trakr, whose owner won a contest to have him cloned. Tell us about Trakr.
WOESTENDIEKWell, what happened was Genetic Savings and Clone, after succeeding with cats, eventually shut down, went out of business then they came back as BioArts International. And in that they started off with a -- they were gonna -- they ended up -- they weren't able to clone a dog themselves, but they ended up hooking up with one of the two lead scientists on the Snuppy Project who had since left Seoul National University, was fired, actually, but they hooked up with him and he started cloning the dogs, which they were -- and the American company was marketing them.
WOESTENDIEKAnd so they started off with -- they announced an online cloning auction and were gonna take the top five bidders who one of their dogs cloned. And sort of in conjunction with that, when they did that, they started hearing from people who were complaining that, you know, it's not right that only rich people can clone their dogs, I should be able to clone my dog, too. Which Hawthorne, you know, didn't really see the logic in that, but sort of decided because of that concern, that he would do a free dog cloning and they'd have like an essay contest and people could write about why they -- why their dog was the most clone worthy dog in the world and they would clone that dog for free.
WOESTENDIEKAnd so the winner of that, who was actually an earlier -- had his dog's cells banked at Genetics Savings and Clone, so he was an earlier customer. The winner was a man named James Symington, who used to be a police officer in Nova Scotia and then became -- moved to California and was an actor for awhile. But while he was a police officer, he had a dog named Trakr, a police dog, who was very exceptional and...
WOESTENDIEKYeah, from Czechoslovakia. And the dog had a, you know, very distinguished police career and then retired. But then on 9/11, his owner saw what was going on on TV and decided -- you know, he started thinking, what can I do? And says he looked down at his dog and said, you know, that's what I can do. So he took his dog to Ground Zero and started joining in the search there without authorization either from his police department or New York police department, but Mr. Symington claims that his dog, Trakr, found the last survivor of 9/11.
REHMIs Trakr still living?
WOESTENDIEKNo. Trakr -- after Symington won the contest, the essay contest, Trakr was still alive at that time, but he died a few months before the clones arrived.
REHMI see. But the clones are surviving?
WOESTENDIEKYeah, and again, it was -- there were five of them. Again, it's -- you know, since it's the sorta thing they do a lot, sorta scatter shot approach. They see how many -- they do the process as often as they can in hopes of getting, you know, one exact match, so there's often surplus clones. But he took all five, just like Bernann took all five of hers.
REHMThe book is titled "Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man's Best Friend." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." How many cloning operations currently exist?
WOESTENDIEKJust one that actually does the cloning and it's in Korea.
REHMAnd how much -- oh, it's in Korea.
REHMThere are none here in the United States?
WOESTENDIEKNo. There's companies you can go through, there's lot of companies you can bank your dog's genes at, but the only place that's cloning dogs now is RNL Bio in Seoul.
REHMAnd what are they charging these days?
WOESTENDIEKIt's now down to 100,000.
REHM100,000, good grief. Okay. Let's go to Sebring, Fla. Good morning, Mike.
MIKEGood morning. Hi, I just had a comment about -- I mean, the whole idea of cloning, how maddening it is when you think about all the dogs -- we'll only talk about dogs that are being euthanized every year and all these dogs that, you know, need a home, but here's someone who's gonna spend 100,000 to clone a dog that will never be like their dog. Anyway, it's just a comment.
WOESTENDIEKAn excellent comment, I think, and a point I hope the book makes is that, you know, if you want an exact copy of your dog, you can probably find him through -- at a shelter somewhere waiting. I'd have to agree with that.
REHMI mean, the fact of the matter is people are looking for exact replicas and it's not to be had.
REHMBut they keep looking.
WOESTENDIEKThey do. And I did that myself. I mean, I went through like -- I've had a bunch of dogs, but there -- my ex-wife's dog, when we were married, was a dog named Oggy who was kinda black wiry coated and medium-sized dog, scruffy looking, the scruffy look. And when Oggy died, we got -- went to the shelter and got a dog that greatly resembled her. And then when that dog, Hobo, died, we went to the shelter and got, you know, another one that looked a lot alike. And I think looks wise, you know, you can find pretty much close to the same thing in your local shelter.
REHMYou just said the key word, looks wise, but not necessarily temperamentally.
WOESTENDIEKRight, right. That's...
REHMExactly the same. And that's what, in part, people are looking for. Well, it does strike me that -- I mean, I was fascinated to read these stories of people who've pursued this kind of ideal that exists in their own mind about their pets. We all love our pets, but I gather, even as of early 2010, there's a man who operates a spy gear shop in Los Angeles, is -- was waiting for the clone of his Yorkshire/Terrier/Schnauzer mix, Wolfie, who died in 2009. Did he get his dog yet?
WOESTENDIEKHe, as of a couple weeks ago, was still waiting. He's actually getting his two dogs clones, Wolfie and Bubble. And he -- when I talked to him, he actually thought -- I didn't know if he thought it, but he held out the possibility that his original dogs' souls will enter his clones.
REHMJohn Woestendiek, the book is titled "Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man's Best Friend." Fascinating, John. Thanks for being here.
WOESTENDIEKThanks for having me.
REHMAll right. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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