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I dress my dog in a pumpkin costume - is that a gateway to madness? Add to ...

Thanks a lot, Joyce Bernann McKinney.

You and your pit-bull-cloning, secret-identity-having, Mormon-missionary-kidnapping ways threaten to undo all the hard work of those of us striving to prove that dog ownership and sanity can coexist.

Ms. McKinney bounded into the public eye earlier this month after she paid a South Korean company $50,000 (U.S.) to clone her beloved dead pit bull, Booger, in the world's first commercial canine cloning.

That's not even the weird part of the story.

The widely circulated photographs of Ms. McKinney ecstatically cuddling one of her five mini-Boogers rang a few bells among people who remembered the case of one Joyce McKinney, a former beauty queen notorious in Britain for allegedly kidnapping a Mormon missionary, chaining him to a bed in a quaint Devon cottage and forcing him to have sex with her.

That Ms. McKinney jumped bail and fled England in 1978 before standing trial. Now, it seemed, she had resurfaced - for the love of Booger.

Ms. McKinney eventually fessed up to her true identity, though she continues to insist the sex was consensual. (That may explain the mink-lined handcuffs, though not the chloroform.)

She told a British court at the time that the whole kidnapping-rape thing was just a big romantic gesture to win back the object of her affection.

"I love him so much that I would ski naked down Mount Everest with a carnation up my nose if he asked me to," she told a judge.

Now, you would think that if you were an international fugitive from justice, you might lie low and not deliberately put yourself in the eyes of the international press by, say, cloning your dog. However, that sort of common sense generally precludes kidnapping a missionary to be your sexual plaything. Or cloning your dog.

Is the line between crazy about your dog and just plain crazy really so thin? If so, a lot of us have reason to worry.

When the idea of commercial pet cloning first surfaced, I thought it was ridiculous - but a small part of me understood the urge. Our love for our dogs is so strong, and their lives are so short. As the owner of an ailing, 12-year-old beagle, I have the vet bills to prove that pet owners will go to lengths that seem extreme. I've endured eye rolls and smirks from people who don't understand my devotion, much as I'm sure Ms. McKinney did on her cloning crusade.

And that's the scary part. What if my concerned friends are right, and dressing my dog in a pumpkin costume for Halloween is a gateway to madness? Am I a few gourmet dog biscuits away from stocking up on mink-lined handcuffs and lying in wait for the next nice-looking young man who knocks on the door to tell me the good news about Jesus?

Perhaps I'm looking at this all wrong. The best part about being mildly obsessed with your dog these days is that there is almost always someone who is more obsessed, allowing us to protect that tender illusion of normalcy.

Sure, I may costume my dog on special occasions, but I would never put her in a stroller. That would be weird.

In that regard, Ms. McKinney is a godsend. (Or should that be dogsend?) Her shining example allows the rest of us pet-lovers to believe we have kept a firm leash on our sanity. By comparison, even the stroller people look good.

The saddest part is, Ms. McKinney ultimately left Seoul empty-handed. After her secret past was revealed, she fled without her Booger clones. Now, the miracle pups are just another litter of homeless pit bulls.

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