I like to think that my dog, Amos, is the Clyde to my Bonnie. Together, we sometimes break the law: I let him go off leash when we walk around our Manhattan block, for instance. And, when I bring him on the subway, I don’t always put him in a bag as the cops tell me I should. He’s a poodle-Yorkie who weighs 16 pounds, doesn’t shed and spends several hours a week in obedience class (I’m a professional dog trainer). In our seven years together, we’ve managed to largely avoid the fuzz. When cops do take notice of us, they usually just coo.
But some New York dog lovers have cajones that Amos and I don’t. Upper West Sider Gary Rintel, 45, loves his dogs as much as I love mine. But there are two big differences: He’s rich, and he’s an asshole. The latter designation explains why he’s been letting his two collie-Great Pyrenees mixes, Cosmo and Retro, roam free on sidewalks and in Central Park. According to the New York Post, his dogs run into buildings to chase other dogs, and have bitten at least one other dog owner. The former designation (rich) explains why these two dogs’
bêtises are getting tabloid ink this week: They’re allegedly clones. Reportedly, Rintel cloned his dog Astro before he passed away. Upon his death, he turned Astro’s fur into a hat. His neighbors (“We call them ‘the clones,’” one says) aren’t amused.
The second I see that guy, I make sure to cross the street,” said Jarrod Mittan, 29. “He ignores his dogs as they’re bounding down the sidewalk, and he screams at them as though they understand what he’s saying.”
Neighbors say the clones have bolted into buildings along West 96th Street to chase down other pooches, and doormen are always pushing the troublemaking twosome out.
“They look like lions in the jungle. They roam free,” said one super.
Cloning is still a very expensive pursuit, typically starting at around $50,000, and is mostly pursued by a Who’s Who of vociferous eccentrics
. One of the first pet dog cloners was beauty queen Joyce Brennan McKinney (pictured below), infamous for her sex-obsessed kidnapping of a Mormon missionary in London in the 1970s. Following jail time, the one time beauty queen asked her parents mortgage their house so she could afford to clone Booger, a pit bull mix who she said was a service dog who would do her laundry for her. This was not long after her attempt to convince a Tennessee teenager to commit a burglary so that she could buy a prosthetic limb
for her three-legged horse. Much of her bizarre tale is chronicled in the excellent book Dog Inc
, and in the Erroll Morris film Tabloid
(Motherboard interviewed Errol Morris about the film; watch it here
Rintel seems like he has equally good weirdo cred. Reports are saying that Rintel, who is apparently a self-described “trust fund layabout,” paid $140,000 four years ago to clone Astro. To do this, he would’ve had to go to Korea, which is the only country where dog cloning is taking place. The US representative of the Korean company that is doing animal cloning, RNL Bio
, is Peter Onruang, a Hollywood, CA paintball shop owner who cloned his two dogs earlier this year. On his site, myfriendagain.com, he explains the process:
A US company called Viagen sends your vet a biopsy kit. Your vet extracts the cells (your dog must still be alive at this point). Then the cells are stored in liquid nitrogen at the cost of $150 a year. When you feel ready, they’ll be shipped to RNL Bio in Korea. If the cells are viable, they’ll be inserted into a donor egg that’s had it nucleus removed. Then they’re zapped with electricity to make them reproduce, and implanted into a surrogate dog mom. If all goes well, puppies will ensue.
Your clonies might look a lot like your original dog. But they will not remember your smell, or your voice. And they will not know that their owner is giving a bad name to all the other miscreants (ahem!) who sometimes let their well-behaved dogs walk two feet ahead of them off leash.
Rintel might be crazy, but his dogs may be at their own disadvantage, as the whole cloning process is still imperfect. Like any carbon copy, the second generation of the same batch of DNA isn’t necessarily sharp and clear. (Rintel claims that his dogs are “not threatening or dangerous dogs,” and “good boys.”) Clones also frequently have health problems and often die young, which can be heartbreaking if you paid six figures because you were trying to get over the death of the original dog. In Dog Inc, McKinney says,
“Cloning ruined my life. I’m in fear constantly that I’ll lose one of them, like I did my precious Booger, and it would be like him dying all over again…I was just trying to clone my friend.”
Personally, I think I’d prefer Rintel’s dog fur hat ploy. Although, Amos isn’t that big. Maybe a merkin?
Photo of Joyce McKinney via Animal Issues. Rintel photo via New York Post.