Dog, Inc. by John Woestendiek

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Rating: 4 1/2 stars

Dog, Inc. (The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend) by John Woestendiek tells the story of cloning from before it was called cloning. He covers the people, the scientists, the countries and the history in a smooth narrative style that is easy to read and understand.

Although John truly is a dog lover (visit his blog and read about his travels with Ace, his adopted mixed-breed companion), he manages to write the book dispassionately–without any hint of emotional distaste when describing the Korean habit of eating dogs (although they usually just eat the mixed breed dogs and keep the purebreds as pets).

There is little judgment in the book, just fact after interesting fact. One fact in particular I found interesting was how the Koreans were so successful at cloning dogs. In the United States the cloning of dogs was difficult because of the number of dogs it took to harvest the eggs from and use as surrogate mothers. The researchers, in their efforts to placate possible animal rights protests, took care to treat the dogs well and, when their services were no longer needed, find homes for them.

The Koreans, on the other hand, had a plethora of dogs from the farms where dogs were raised for meat. They were able to use as many dogs as needed for the egg harvesting, and there was no need to make sure the dogs were well treated–after all, they were simply animals raised as food. A picture included in the book that struck me as especially heartbreaking is of a cage of lovely, large golden dogs who look like Golden retreiver mixes. The caption reads, “Dogs waiting to be bought and butchered at Moran Market…Easy access to dogs, and few restrictions on their experimental use, helped South Korea corner the market on dog cloning.

And although one might think that cloning a beloved dog is a pasttime for the wealthy, the book also describes some not-so-wealthy individuals whose dogs were cloned. The human characters range from downright strange to extraordinarily brilliant. And the clones? Not as much like the originals as the uninitiated might think. The book emphasizes the scientific cloning wisdom: exactly the same DNA does not ensure exactly the same resulting animal.

Even indentical twins, who share the same DNA, are not identical in all aspects even when they are raised in the same home by the same parents. Clones, on the other hand, are raised in different circumstances, and that fact can make a huge difference. Just ask one Ralph Fisher, whose cloned bull, Second Chance, attacked him. The book has a plethora of stories about various cloned animals–all well researched.

Dog, Inc. will interest dog lovers and science enthusiasts. It’s also a book that will be passed on to friends.

John Woestendiek writes the blog ohmidog! , where he communicates stories with similar good humor and keen perception. Here is an excerpt from one entry:

“I’ve written my name in books before — but always as a reminder to other people to keep their grubby paws off of them, or at least return them when they’re done.

But yesterday was a first: I signed my own book — own, as in the one I wrote.

…I won’t compare the excitement of tearing open that cardboard box to seeing your baby arrive — that would be wrong — but there are some similarities, the main ones being, “Wow, that came out of me?” and the realization that all the labor pains were worth it after all.

The book is about the cloning of dogs — how, and why, it came to be achieved, and the colorful characters involved: from the Arizona billionaire who funded the initial research; to the scientists who produced Snuppy, the first canine clone, in South Korea; to those who marketed the service (even before the first dog was cloned); to those who bought it, the bereaved pet owners seeking replicas of dogs dead or near death.”

Buy Dog, Inc. Get it for yourself or a dog-loving friend. It will not only enlighten you, it’s a great topic for conversation at parties. Best of all, it will make you think about cloning in a new light. And cloning is not going away.