22 January, 2011
Churchill was my protector, my confidant and my best friend. I first decided that I wanted a French Bulldog around 15 years ago when one used to follow me to work. Every day I would walk to work, and every day this stalky little guy, who was allowed for some reason to wander off unattended, would find me and accompany me along my route. (I did eventually meet his owner and realized he was well-taken care of).
I had never seen a French Bulldog before and every time my little companion would arrive, I would laugh - he was like a cartoon character with all the sounds and personality that could turn a bad day into a great day. I knew I had to have one. I met Churchill when he was 5 weeks old, when he was more pink than white. He had dark brindle patches across his body including one over his left eye. He was the cutest thing I'd ever seen and we were bonded for life within moments.
At the time I also had my wonderful Mackenzie, a puppy himself, and I knew at once that Churchill would make the perfect brother for him. I was right because they became best friends from the minute they met and were inseparable from then on. Churchill, Mackenzie and I were together for 12 wonderful years. We traveled all over Canada and the U.S., one adventure after another. I thought Churchill would live forever, he was so strong, and energetic and full of life. When he was about 11 1/2 yrs his health started to decline.
It seemed like overnight that he became old. He had been struggling with rear leg issues, but that didn't slow him down; however the heart tumor did. He hung on as long as he could, I think in large part because of his overwhelming need to take care of me, but on July 10th, 2008 he died in my arms. I was devastated and a day still doesn't go by where I don't think about him and miss him in my life.
When I was given the opportunity to review John Woestendiek's book titled "Dog, Inc - The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man's Best Friend" I was instantly flooded with all the feelings I had when I lost Churchie. The concept of cloning immediately had me thinking of sci-fi movies where the clone retains not just looks, but also personality and memories. What if someone could offer me the chance to bring my Churchie back? Well to be honest, I would do it in a second. In reality however, cloning is far from that seen in sci-fi movies. Still, when you have experienced grief and loss, the idea can be overwhelming.
So yes I agreed to review this book. I wasn't sure what to expect with Dog, Inc. Would I be able to connect with the story or would it be like reading a scientific journal? I was pleasantly surprised. While this book provides a detailed account on the history of cloning efforts around the world, it is more about the connections people make with their pets and the lengths they will go to preserve their memories, than a scientific recap. The book recounts the stories of several unrelated people who turned to cloning as a way to recapture and extend their time with their four-legged loved ones.
There was James Symington and Trackr the hero police dog and loyal companion, Bernann McKinney with Booger who became an indispensable service dog and family member, Ralph Fisher's Texas longhorn named Chance, and of course Missy the dog that in many ways started it all.
Why did they all go to such great lengths and costs to hang on to their loved ones even after they were gone? Each touching story, recounted in great detail by the author, brings us into the hearts and minds of each of these people as they explore the mystery of cloning.
You can't help but become engrossed in the emotional struggle that these pet owners went through and at times empathy turns to pity as the line between resurrection and reproduction becomes quite blurred. Expectations that are more based in science fiction than in science create confusion, denial and disappointment.
Wrapped within these touching stories is an incredible amount of journalistic detail, taking the reader step by step through the efforts that researchers went through all over the world as they pursued the first cloned dog - a task that proved much more difficult than first imagined. It was hard to miss the underlying current of capitalism and greed when you find out that for some, the motivation was more than science, more than the long term benefits of cloning in the form of stem cell therapy, but rather the commercialization of cloning.
The race to clone the first dog, was really the race to launch what was believed to be a multi-million dollar business based on a promise to bring back loved ones. Sometimes people and often science got in the way and Woestendiek's book takes us through the roller coaster ride often disguised as progress.
I recommend this book for anyone that has ever lost a pet or thought about the possibilities that stem cell research can bring to the animal world. This unique story combines the cold reality of science with a softer, human side where decisions are made with the heart and lives are changed forever.
Mackenzie is still with me and will be turning 15 in March and I can't help but think of the inevitable.So I cherish every minute of every day that I have with him, and I put thoughts of losing him aside so I can enjoy the time we have left. So now I have to ask; would you ever clone your pet?