Return to Transcripts main page
Former Teacher Accused of Child Sex Abuse
Aired January 10, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Here we go.
A former - get this - teacher of the year confesses to molesting more than 20 little girls, and you wouldn`t believe why the judge and district attorney have to step down from the case.
Plus, pet love, obsession, addiction, the extremes some of you go to to keep your animal companions around forever, and I do mean extremes. I can relate. Daisy and Lulu are part of my life.
Let`s get started.
Thank you for joining us.
Another child sex abuse scandal is rocking an Alabama town. It involves a former, get this, teacher of the year. Watch.
PINSKY (voice-over): A small southern town, a veteran teacher, and a shocking story of child sex abuse that could stretch back decades.
Forty-nine-year-old Daniel Acker started with Shelby County school system in 1985. He taught 4th grade children for 24 years, retiring in 2009. What transpired in those decades may have scarred countless lives.
The dam broke within the last week when a girl now 12 or 13 accused Acker of molesting her around 2009.
DEP. CHIEF CURTIS RIGNEY, ALABASTER POLICE DEPARTMENT: Acker admitted that he`d molested the child, as well as 20 - more than 20 other young children during his 25-year career.
PINSKY: The layers to this small tragedy are many. Acker`s father is a powerful man, the county commissioner. Police say his father`s position didn`t help him avoid charges, but he was investigated in 1992 for similar allegations, though never indicted.
An attorney for Acker did not immediately return a message seeking comment. The details, the players and the seriousness of the alleged crimes begs one question, could this all have been stopped 20 years ago?
PINSKY: And when questioned by police, Acker Jr. allegedly confessed, 20 young girls molested. He`s charged with four counts of first degree sexual abuse.
Doesn`t this sound familiar? Just like the Penn State scandal story about vulnerable children. And also by the way, someone who was thought of as a good teacher, a good coach, capable of bad things. Young girls` lives have been impacted by a man in the community whom so many trusted.
Was there a cover-up? Who knew?
Joining us, Dr. Steve Perry, a CNN contributor and author of the book, "When Push Comes to Shove," and my friend Tom Arnold, actor and himself a child sex abuse survivor.
Tom, what is your reaction when you hear another story like this?
TOM ARNOLD, SEXUALLY ABUSED FROM AGES 4 TO 7: Well, I mean, first of all, I want to say, you know, people make fun of Alabama and the South and this thing kind of thing happens, but it doesn`t happen there any more than it happens in the north. We know that. I just want to -
I`m grateful in one way, because the guy copped to - to at least part of his crimes, and that saves so much. He didn`t do that 20 years ago, but he did it now and he admitted to - to 20.
PINSKY: Well, that`s what`s fascinating. I think you picked up on and I did not. And that`s because you had to face down your abuser -
PINSKY: -- and he wouldn`t cop to any of it.
PINSKY: Which added to your sense of shame and helplessness.
ARNOLD: Right, exactly. And I - and I still - I got what I wanted when I confronted him, but I mean it took - it was 20 some years. And so I think of all of these kids and all this time they`ve gone through.
And it`s so much like the Penn State thing, because Sandusky was charged - or, you know, he was interviewed about it years before, and if they had done something, then they could have stopped him, and maybe it`s the same with this guy.
PINSKY: What do you think that is? Do you think that there`s such incredible denial? Because it`s such a horrible thing when it happens, nobody wants to believe it`s happening -
PINSKY: -- particularly somebody who on one level seems to be a great professional, they don`t want to believe that he or she is capable of something like that.
ARNOLD: A lot of times they excel in their field. Sandusky was a great defensive coordinator, you know?
ARNOLD: And this guy was obviously a great teacher, so to speak. So they excel in this area, and the way they get some - some slack in other areas, you know, but the thing with teachers is are they doing weird - do they have lunch with this one student? Do they do outside the perimeter of the school? And there`s always signs. You see them afterwards. But now people can start looking for them now.
PINSKY: Well, and then something for people at home to keep in mind. I mean, if you get any weird feelings or - you know, these are grown men, they shouldn`t be hanging out with teenagers or kids.
ARNOLD: What is that about?
PINSKY: What is that about?
PINSKY: That`s right. You see, whenever - whenever you shake your head, what`s that about, look a little more carefully.
And here`s a time line of the events. In October, 1992, Acker Jr. placed on leave for child abuse allegations. November, 1992 he is not indicted. February 1993, he comes back and he`s reinstated as a teacher. January, 2012, Acker Jr. is charged with child sex abuse after former students come forward. And in January, admits to molesting more than 20 students.
Steve, your thoughts on the school, did they fail to protect their students?
STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR: Well, one of the challenges of finding a molester is that they hide in plain sight. These are people who are often affable, easy to get along with, sometimes the, quote- unquote, "nicest people you`re going to meet." Because they have to get the child and the people around them to accept the lie that really is their sickness.
We have to make sure that we understand that pedophilia is its own sexuality, not like homosexuality or heterosexuality. It it`s own. These are people who are attracted to children, that`s how they get off.
And so it`s a challenge on some level to find these people. But on the same token, rare is the occasion that somebody can have this level of sexual conduct or misconduct within a school setting for 20 years and no one knew anything? It doesn`t seem reasonable to me.
Children talk, colleagues talk. We all, as you said, we all look at adults and think to ourselves, man, he`s spending a lot of time with those nine-year-olds, not in a professional sense.
PINSKY: Do you have any suspicions? Do you have any suspicions that he was protected by his relatives in positions of authority or for that matter are there such stringent laws to protect the employee that the school couldn`t do the necessary investigations? Is there something like that going on?
PERRY: That has nothing to do -
PERRY: No, it has nothing to do with the schools` laws. They could have gotten him.
But I think it has something to do with something more - more basic, more pedestrian, which is people work with people. They like people. This is an affable guy. People don`t want to believe that a person that they like has done something horrible.
PERRY: And we`ve created this image of a molester as this horrible, Quasimodo, scary person, but in many cases they are the people who you`ve least likely think that they are. And it`s because of those conditions that they`re allowed to do it.
I have to say to Tom, you know, it`s a tremendously courageous thing for you to come out at any point in your life. Because there are people who are watching us tonight who themselves are grappling with something that happened to them 30 years ago, and they`re frightened, even though the person may be long gone, to come out.
Because most people feel like if they come out, these children in particular, that someone is going to say that they did something wrong. Because in order for a molester to really get at a child, they have to break them down to the lowest parts of who they are.
PINSKY: That`s right. They have to make the victim feel responsible for the victimization. Tom, you`ve been telling (ph) that.
ARNOLD: Right. Exactly. And that happens and that`s part of how they get you to hold on to it. It`s bad news. And, you know, since I`ve done this show a couple of times on this topic, I`ve heard from so many people that my age and even older that are holding on to this thing, and their molester is gone, but they`ve left them with this stuff, and they`re looking for us to give them some answers. And I hope we can do that for people.
PINSKY: Well - and, again, the first thing is to speak up and to realize it`s not your responsibility.
I want to read a statement from the Shelby County School Superintendent Randy Fuller. Quote, "We are cooperating with the Alabaster Police Department in their investigation. Steps have been taken to make sure he, Acker Jr., is not used in any unemployment capacity in the Shelby County school system until this matter is brought to a full and final conclusion."
ARNOLD: His father`s position had to play a role in how he was treated. It`s impossible in a small town for something, a guy that powerful, because a commissioner is a big job and that reflects on - in America, we elect people`s son president, you know, just because, you know, they`re son of the president.
PINSKY: Just because.
ARNOLD: We respect that. And I`m sure he got some slack from that. But obviously this guy, looking at his eyes and thinking he`s one of the few pedophiles that felt guilty and it got to him and got to him, and he finally blew it last week, finally told it.
PINSKY: You see that - you see that in the picture.
ARNOLD: That`s what I see. That`s what I hope to see.
PINSKY: Well, I hope so. Steve, last word to you. Go ahead.
PERRY: One other thing we could tell parents to keep in mind a couple things. Adults who have an unreasonable interest in their child, these are your kids. If it feels wrong, it`s wrong.
Another thing is, parents, if your child is developing intimate infections, you ought to be concerned about that, especially if it`s a child, because that could also be a sign.
And another thing is, if a child is beginning to be withdrawn, she used to love basketball, she doesn`t like basketball any more, she doesn`t want to talk about why, or she used to love art but she doesn`t like - you don`t know why, unreasonable, or they could become promiscuous. There are signs that we do have of a child already who`s being affected by this. Sadly, we cannot always predict where it`s going to happen.
PINSKY: Yes. I think, Steve, just sort of piggyback on what you`re saying, don`t ever say to yourself not my kid. That`s the scariest thing a parent can say, and, oh, kids are just being kids. Really when there`s a change in their behavior, take a look at it.
Thank you, Steve. Tom stays with me.
Next, how do these girls heal, what more do these parents need to know. Tom, as I said, is here to help get the message out to all of the potential survivors, in fact, any of us who are parents, that will be after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NATHAN LAW, OUTRAGED PARENT: That is very disturbing. It`s, you know, if that happened to my kids, I would be just, you know, it would make me sick to my stomach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RIGNEY: Information that we`ve been given that I`ve seen, it`s - it`s despicable. I mean, it`s terrible. If you get a sense from your child that they`re being - they withdraw, then you need to contact the police department.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Yes, I would say even a very characteristic change in your kids, like a drop in grades, a sudden drop in grades, that may be time to - if they wouldn`t tell you anything, maybe at least get them evaluated, talk to the school. It doesn`t mean they`re being sexually abused, but it`s a powerful indicator of something going on with their mental health.
Welcome back. That was the police chief talking about what parents need to ask their kids. We`re in Daniel Acker Jr.`s class.
And I`ve said it many times in this program, this is something I`m going to choke on, because I know everyone gets all bent out of shape when I say this, but abuse, this is actually an Adam Carollaism (ph), he used to call it the gift that keeps on giving. Somehow it will be OK now when I say I attribute it to him.
Meaning that once this is something that happens to somebody by these perpetrators, these kids have that in their life forever, it changes how the brain is developed. If you remember, we had Dr. Alan Shore on here a couple of weeks ago talking about that. And they have to have treatment to be able to move forward without being encumbered by this experience.
Tom Arnold is back with us. Joining us on our discussion, Florida Prosecutor and author of "Genius with a Penis, Don`t Touch!" Stacey Honowitz, and Clinical Psychologist Lisa Boesky.
Lisa, now, you`ve been on the show many times. There`s something I didn`t know about you is -
ARNOLD: I was going to name my book that, oh, darn it.
PINSKY: "Genius with a Penis"?
ARNOLD: Yes. Darn it.
PINSKY: Let`s just call you that and sell (ph) your book. So that`s Tom`s nickname from now on.
Thank you for giving us that, Stacey. But, Lisa, I want to - something I guess happened to you in high school I was not aware of, so can you share that story with us?
LISA BOESKY, PH.D., CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, there was a teacher in my high school here, it`s actually junior high school here in Los Angeles, and though he had the word molesting in his nickname, so the students know, I mean they knew what was going on, he was investigated as well.
And a girlfriend of mine, we`re 12 years old, he offered to take pictures of us for modeling. She had done it several times before. And he had a covered truck where we would change our clothes. And we found out later that he had a camera back there and was actually taking pictures of young girls changing their clothes.
There was also some evidence or some reports that he had a camera in the girls` bathroom, and not sure what happened with that.
ARNOLD: One interesting thing is, she told me that her friend, I related to this, your friend wanted attention, you know -
ARNOLD: -- and I wanted attention. When I was four, five, six, seven, I wanted an adult attention. You know, I was a lonely kid. I wanted - so this guy gives me attention. So he wants to play games with me and whatever, and I ended up getting the wrong kind of attention. But it starts off with a place -
BOESKY: My friend took pictures with him many times and she`s the one who convinced me to do it and said he`s a really nice guy and she really I think was lonely, didn`t have a father figure and liked the compliments that he gave.
PINSKY: Of course. Then I think people that don`t - have never been around this - and, again, I want to emphasize, this is a common occurrence in our society today. Those of us that work in mental health, majority of our time was spent on these kinds of things, OK.
PINSKY: What`s hard to understand is that grooming process. How does it happened? How do they get under the skin of these kids? And they don`t understand - and I don`t think the perpetrators are necessarily even consciously aware that they`re grooming.
BOESKY: I don`t know about that.
PINSKY: Well, no, but they - I think they just like being around kids.
Stacey says they are. So, go ahead, Stacey, you tell me.
STACEY HONOWITZ, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR: Yes. Well, listen, I`m prosecuting these cases for 20 years, and we sit on these panels and we talk about this.
But parents and school officials are still so nervous to ever have this discussion. I mean, my books are met with such resistance by so many schools because they say to me, you know, we laughed about the title, well, we can`t say penis. And I would say, well, that`s what it is. It`s not a foreign object, it`s called a penis.
And parents always say to me I don`t know how to have these discussions. Schools need to take a proactive approach. They can`t be scared because things like this happen. It`s an epidemic. It happens all the time. And we only hear about the big, major cases.
We have over 1,000 cases in the office and this happens every day. People don`t take it seriously and they really need to. These groomers, these predators, they know exactly what they`re doing, they know who to prey upon.
So it`s not only people seeing things going on in the school and not saying anything, but it`s the ability for these children not to feel like they can`t tell. And that`s really why I wrote the books, because children are made to feel like it is their fault, but if they tell, they`re going to be bringing down this person. And if you`re in a small town with a guy that`s wielding a lot of power, you`re going to be the bad person that brings down this predator.
PINSKY: That`s right. Well, they do - but Lisa, they do -
BOESKY: So many - so many factors.
PINSKY: They do identify with the perpetrator, many times.
BOESKY: Absolutely. That`s what I was going to say. This guy was probably so manipulative, he didn`t just manipulate the kids, he manipulated the parents and the other teachers. They voted him teacher of the year.
So I actually think that some of these girls may have thought that this was a special relationship. He convinced them that you`re my -
PINSKY: Because that`s how they get their way -
BOESKY: Well, that`s I`m telling you, so he knew what he was doing, so they may not have a drop in grades. They may not show the classic signs we`re looking for because they don`t realize they`re being abused. These predators are so manipulative.
PINSKY: We had a television producer in the show who went through that throughout her adolescence with a - with a coach, and she felt like special, and he had selected her to be his girlfriend when his wife wasn`t enough, you know, those kind of -
ARNOLD: My guy game me a great, big candy bar and I loved candy bars. My dad didn`t want me to eat sugar, but he gave me a big candy bar, I thought I was pretty special.
HONOWITZ: There`s bribery. There`s so much that goes on in the process.
PINSKY: Stacey, it`s -
PINSKY: It`s a kind of - I feel, because Tom is my friend. And when I hear him being taken advantage of like that, it`s a special kind of disgust that I almost don`t feel at any other time. It`s like how dare he. I`m sort of outraged. How dare he take advantage, not just of the child`s personal body boundaries -
BOESKY: It`s their soul.
PINSKY: -- but of you.
BOESKY: It`s their soul.
PINSKY: And that just pisses me off. It really makes me angry. And I can`t just imagine what you feel.
HONOWITZ: My kids often - I`m glad you used that - I`m glad you used that terminology, that it pisses (ph) - I hate to say the word, piss enough people off. Because when I try to go out there and I talk in the community quite often, so many people raise their hand and they say we don`t know how to talk to our kids. We don`t know what to say. It`s almost burying their head in the sand and it`s a denial. It`s not going to happen to my child. I don`t need to learn about it.
HONOWITZ: And you know this, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: Yes, Stacey.
HONOWITZ: Sexual abuse knows no boundaries.
PINSKY: That`s right. Listen - and not only that, you`re right.
HONOWITZ: It`s black. It`s white. It`s Catholic. It`s Jewish. Everything.
PINSKY: I have to deal with it every day. But not my kid is the scariest thing I ever hear parents say.
Here now is a mother whose child goes to the school. Listen to her reaction of the news of Daniel Acker Jr.`s arrest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BECKY ANDERSON, OUTRAGED PARENT: I was just sickened. My kids have both gone through that school system, one is there now. And it just -just made me sick. You think that the teachers are there to take care of your children and teach them and love them, and you never think that they`re going to be in harm`s way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: And guys, I - in opening my segment I said we would talk about recovery. So, Tom, let`s talk about the recovery process. And Lisa, I let you go on the heels of Tom here. How do people heal from this?
ARNOLD: Well, I don`t know if you completely ever heal it out, you know? It`s just - what I say is it`s not in your top 10 issues when you wake up in the morning. You know, you wake up in the morning you think about, damn, it hits you, life. It`s not in the top 10 and it`s maybe in the top 100.
But, you know, it`s always going to be a part of you. We`re not damaged but we`re wounded a little bit.
PINSKY: Yes. Scarred.
ARNOLD: We need to nurture that. I did things proactively, confronting the guy, talking to everybody else, finding other victims. I`ve been involved with a lot of victims` causes. I do, I`m here talking, blabbing about this, and that - that all helps, but it`s still there. When the show is over tonight and I go home, I`m still going to be thinking a little something about it.
PINSKY: But, Lisa, being of service, and the other big issue is that people that have been through trauma are unregulated. Their brain is affected so their emotions are unregulated.
PINSKY: And it`s professionals have to help them re-regulate.
BOESKY: Absolutely. And I think prevention is still - I think we really preventatively, we really teach our toddlers, you know, stranger danger. Here we need to be talking - these are nine-year-old girls. That a lot of times predators look nice, they`re nice, they`re people you know. They`re people you trust.
So we should be saying your private parts, nobody should be looking at them, nobody should be touching them. If anybody wants to do that, come and tell me.
PINSKY: Thank you, Lisa. Thank you, Tom. Thank you, Stacey.
Now, what do you think about what you`ve just heard? I`m taking your questions and comments after the break.
And later, pet love, it`s ruined marriages and driven people into debt. We`re going to talk about it with someone who cloned her dog. There she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIELLE TARANTOLA, WANTS TO CLONE HER DOG TROUBLE: These are the ashes that I have and I keep them by the bed. I put his ashes in the middle of it because he likes to lie on things and be like with blankets around him. I just crawl into bed, and I just lay here like this.
So I`m actually hoping that the cloning can be done and I can get Trouble back, so he can be sleeping with me in bed. I would prefer Trouble to be in bed with me than any big movie star out there, than anybody out there. I`d take him over anyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: We`ve been talking about a former so-called teacher of the year who police say has confessed to molesting at least 20 little girls. This case is complicated by the fact that his father serves as a County Commissioner and knows the judge and district attorney who are being asked to recuse themselves from the case.
We`ve got lots of reaction. Let`s go to the phones. Christine in Arizona, go ahead.
CHRISTINE, CHINO VALLEY, ARIZONA (via telephone): Hi, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: Hi, Christine.
CHRISTINE: I just want to say that as a teacher for over 30 years, it doesn`t really surprise me that this teacher was popular with students. Young people often have a hard time recognizing an educator with boundary issues.
CHRISTINE: What may appear to them to be a friendly, cool, outgoing person who really understands them and their problems is often a teacher who cannot recognize when they`re getting too close. It is the teacher`s responsibility to keep a professional distance.
PINSKY: No, that`s absolutely right. And, you know, kids have a predilection to looking at teachers that are a little younger, youthful, maybe rebellious, as somebody that`s more understanding of them. But that person that they have not such great boundaries, you`re right, that`s when it gets them into trouble.
Rebecca in Alabama, go ahead.
REBECCA, MOULTON, ALABAMA (via telephone): Hi, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: Hi, Rebecca.
REBECCA: I just wanted to say that as I`m from Alabama and I remember in 1992 when the Grand Jury didn`t indict Danny Acker.
PINSKY: Oh, interesting.
REBECCA: I found out who his father was, and I wasn`t very surprised that a conservative town like Alabaster didn`t indict him. However, I knew in the pit of my stomach that this guy was dangerous and it`s really sad that this could have been stopped years ago.
PINSKY: Yes. I mean, it`s kind of a disgust that I have that I`m tired of having, you know, that these things are happening, it comes to the attention of administration and people in charge and these things aren`t swiftly and surely taken care of.
I hope, I hope that by putting these things out there over and again on programs like ours that we will raise awareness and this will be the end of that kind of ambivalence about dealing with these phenomenon, swift and sure. It`s not OK.
Facebook writes - thank you for your comments, by the way.
We got Facebook now, Sabrina, "Do you think we exaggerate the number of sexual deviants amongst us?", she says.
And I absolutely do not. I`ve got to tell you, you`ve got to understand something. We are - everyone in mental health has the same position. We are in an epidemic of this. Someone who acts out on children, take this particular teacher, doesn`t do it once, it`s not a one to one thing, he did it to 20 or 30, and the problem here is kids that have been sexually abused have a percent of probability, some of them, of becoming the perpetrators in the future, and they act out more.
So it has an exponential growth built into it. Unless we do things to contain it, it continues to grow like a cancer amongst us and it is at all- time highs. Believe me it is not being overstated. In fact, it`s been grossly understated for a long time.
Mark on Facebook writes, "Explain something to me. How in the world do pedophiles learn how to groom?"
It`s not something taught. It`s just that they try certain techniques and see which ones they can get away with, which is the easiest, the most easily - and I think we had that conversation with Tom a few minutes ago and Lisa that it`s something - I think it`s so - they love being around these kids so much, they`re so gratified by it, and then they learn how to do it and then they do it.
Now, if you want to know more about any of the stories you`re watching tonight, go to HLNTV.com and start reading.
Next up, we`re going to talk about pet love, pet love taken to extremes. Yes, that is Trouble there. That is a mural of Trouble.
Is cloning your dog, that`s right, cloning, is that the best way to go? We`ll talk about that after this.
PINSKY: The stark reality that all humans with which all humans must contend, life must end at some point in death. It`s a painful process for us all, but what if we could overpower death somehow? This has been the pursuit of mankind throughout history. Well, scientists now are able to clone exact genetic copies, nearly exact anyway, of animals.
TLC`s "I Cloned My Pet" features the extremes to which people go to try to keep their cats and dogs around forever. Watch this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trouble was hand fed, like a child.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the top of the head, I know every inch of her body.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would have married him if I could have.
PINSKY (voice-over): They`re talking about the loves of their life, their pets. Nothing or no one could take their place.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would prefer trouble be in bed with me than any big movie star out there.
PINSKY: These animals are more important than the people in their world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think a lot of girls would be jealous. Even when my friends asked me about it, why is he so into his dog, I mean, they have that special connection. You don`t try to tear those connections apart. You just accept it.
PINSKY: Pictures and memories just aren`t enough to compensate for the loss of affection and companionship when Fido dies. So, some go to extremes, paying at least $50,000 and going broke in the process to make an exact physical copy of their dearly departed. We`re talking clones.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want him back in the same form of when he left.
PINSKY: But there`s a dark side. Version 2.0 may have a personality all his own. Just ask the owners of chance, the bull. The gentle giant cloned second chance attacked and maimed his owner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He looks like Blue. Yes, you do. You look like Blue.
PINSKY (on-camera): "I Clone My Pet" airs Wednesday at 9:00 on TLC. Just a quick bit of science here. Cloning, as we talk about it here, reproductive cloning with animals is taking the genetic nucleus material from the pet that`s being cloned and injecting it into the egg of another animal. So, it`s something called mitochondria which were sort of energy factories of the cell which their own DNA.
So, it`s not an exact copy, but it`s pretty darn close. Please welcome to the program, clinical psychologist, Lisa Boesky. She`s back with me, and one of the pet lovers you just saw, Danielle Tarantola, whose dog, Trouble, was everything to her. We heard her talking about it there. Her cloned pet, there he is, Double Trouble, is here tonight.
All right. Danielle, just how big a presence in your life was Trouble?
DANIELLE TARANTOLA, CLONED HER DOG, `CHANCE`: Oh, very, very, very big. I mean, he was with me through most of my adult life, when I was 18 to about 36, which basically is a big, important time in your life.
PINSKY: Was he -- I saw you sleeping with his ashes and things. Would it surprise you to know that people looking at that with sort of look askance? And it makes me wonder if people have et you down in your life.
TARANTOLA: No, I`ve never been let down by people in my life. I mean, I have a great family, very, very close with my mom, my dad, my sister, and even my, you know, cousins, aunts, uncles. It was just the attachment that I had, you know, with the dog. I mean, it wasn`t only me. I mean, my parents were very attached to him, you know, my sister was.
I mean, at the time my husband was. It wasn`t just me that, you know, was attached to him. I mean, he was my dog. So, I felt that special bond with him, but it`s not that I wasn`t treated right in my life by, like, humans.
PINSKY: I just wonder, boyfriends, husband didn`t come until the late end of that list of people in your life, I noticed. But, Lisa, what do you make of this.
LISA BOESKY, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: I do think that, you know, I think we shouldn`t minimize the love and attachment and bond that some people have with their pets. I mean, it really can be as intensely strong as it is with humans. But I will say, when that love is so strong with the pets, there`s often not a lot of intimacy left to develop that with humans. And so, they don`t -- they`re not as open to meeting new people, and a lot of times, we see this even in families.
People who`ve lost a child. They become so obsessed with a memory of keeping that child alive that the siblings that are still alive, and the husband are saying, what about us. We`re really here in flesh and blood, and we can love you.
PINSKY: Is that incomplete grieving? Is that what we`re seeing?
BOESKY: I do think. I wonder if this is incomplete grief, because we do say that after a pet dies, you can replace a pet or not, that`s your personal choice, but we often say try a different breed, try a different gender, because we don`t want you to try to actually replace the pet, where here, we`re actually seeing her literally replace the pet.
But I have to say, Double Trouble is not the same as Trouble. The DNA may be the same, but their personalities are different, because they don`t have the shared experience that Danielle has --
PINSKY: Well, that`s the question. So, Danielle, is Double Trouble significantly different or are they very close?
TARANTOLA: Well, so far, Double Trouble is exactly like the original Trouble was. From the day I got him and I took him out of his little doggy carrying case, and I put him on the floor, and I was watching how he would act and interact with me, he was bouncing around like trouble used to do.
Then, he started laying down with his legs extended in the back, and his front paws, used to lay down, look like a seal. And then, he started running underneath my bed. And Trouble used to always do that, loved it. He lays on pillows like Trouble used to do. He really, really has the same personality.
PINSKY: Well, let`s take a look at another clip from TLC special, "I Cloned My Pet."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TARANTOLA: When my mom had passed away, I mean, it was devastating. I felt like somebody ripped my heart out of my chest. And then, when Trouble passed away, it was worse because his life was basically in my hands. I laid him on the blanket, and then, the vet gave him the shot to put him to sleep. It was terrible. I couldn`t stop crying. I just cried -- I cried for weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Well, Danielle, I must tell you that when you just told that story, that clip we just saw. Lisa and I looked at each other, oh, there we go, because the incomplete grief with mom, and then the inconsolable grief following on the heels of that with the dog, I mean, that`s avoiding grief, is it not?
BOESKY: Well, I think, you know, we don`t really get taught how to go through grief, and grief is painful. And I think, oftentimes, when you have one grief, it`s hard enough. When you have a second one, it`s even more painful. And I think that this is a way for Danielle to possibly avoid going through the grief, because, you know, I think she really is going to have to at some point.
PINSKY: Did you expect, Danielle, almost feel as though this dog should know you when you first got him?
TARANTOLA: No. When I first opened the case and saw him, I did say, do you remember me. I mean, listen, I know the original dog did die, and, you know, the grieving process that I had, you know, with my mom passing away and the dog passing away, I grieved. It`s not that I didn`t grieve, and I still need to grieve.
I mean, I understand the grieving process. This was just my way of, you know, I was just trying to duplicate what I already had, because that`s what I wanted.
PINSKY: And listen, I`m not taking issue with you doing whatever you want to do. It just feels like there`s a part of you, the part of you that welcomed that dog as though it were the same dog. That piece of you may not have completed the grieving process yet. That`s what people do that.
They wall off parts. They get left behind and they sneak out in circumstances like this, like when you meet a cloned dog for the first time and expect that dog to recognize you. Now, some might consider having --
TARANTOLA: I didn`t think he was really going to recognize me.
PINSKY: All right. I understand, but that part of you -- all right. Listen, the cost for this can be as much as $100,000 and up. So here, look at this. Another tape, piece of tape from TLC, "I Cloned My Pet."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TARANTOLA: I have a piece of chicken that I have in here for three years, since Trouble passed away. Obviously, you can tell it`s aged a bit. When Trouble passed away, I took his water which was always over here, and I poured the rest of the remains of his water in here.
The water really, really means a lot to me, because it was the last thing that Trouble actually got to drink. His mouth was in there. That`s why I actually saved it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Now, Lisa, this is a hard concept for people to get. I`m trying to sort of get Danielle to get her head around it, that there are parts of us, the part that would save the dog food and the dog water that our conscious brain goes what`s the big deal, but there`s that part of us that is not dealing.
BOESKY: Right. It`s just the same as someone who loses a spouse and they don`t take any of the clothes out of the drawer, and they leave all the clothes and the closet for 10, 15 years. We know, and they say, well, I just like it that way, and we know that they would have liked it that way.
I mean, I think the reality if anybody is watching this, I`m sure some people are very upset about the loss of the pet, maybe instead of cloning a pet and spending $100,000, maybe they could foster a pet, nurse a sick dog back to health, or maybe, I don`t know, train a service dog for someone with disabilities. There`s ways of getting that connection back without maybe going to such an extreme.
PINSKY: And Danielle, not taking issue. If you want to do it, it`s cool.
BOESKY: Right. You`re happy with it. No judgment.
PINSKY: Yes. Really, not being -- we`re not being judgmental. I think it`s lovely that it`s worked for you.
TARANTOLA: No, no, of course, listen. I know what I did isn`t for everybody to do. This was my decision, my choice. And I know it`s not for everybody out there.
PINSKY: It takes money to clone a pet. The question is, should you do it. And next, the incredible inside story of dog cloning from the man who wrote the book on this subject. TLC`s "I Cloned My Pet" airs, I`ll remind you, this Wednesday at 9:00 on TLC. And we`re back after this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TARANTOLA: I usually come in this room, and I say hi, Trouble. Hi, Trouble. Boy, how are you? He came first before anybody. He came first before my husband. He came first before my parents. Nobody else matters. He was like the child that I never had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: Well, if man`s best friend is being cloned, I guess, one of the fears is that, perhaps, men or children might not be that far behind. Danielle is back with her cloned dog, Double Trouble. And by the way, he`s really cute. I understand why you love him, by the way.
Right or wrong, though, it does beg the question of what will come next, and of course, the issues of the ethics around cloning. Joining us is journalist, John Woestendiak, author of "Dog, Inc." He has followed the dog cloning story since its inception. John, first of all, I guess, I`d ask you, how big is this dog cloning industry?
JOHN WOESTENDIAK, AUTHOR, "DOG, INC.": Not huge yet. Not sure if it will ever be huge, but it`s a niche market. I think they`re staying pretty busy, the two companies that are doing it.
PINSKY: And as someone who has followed this story from the inception, what are your concerns about it?
WOESTENDIAK: Well, on top of all the animal welfare concerns, the number of dogs it takes to produce just one clone which can be, you know, 10 or 12, could be involved in that process, maybe more. Questions about what happens to them afterwards, because these are dogs that are used in this process for the eggs and for the surrogate mothers or often farm dogs.
On top of that, just the fact that we euthanize millions of dogs every year and the person can pretty much, in some shelter if not locally, at least in America, find the dog that looks just like their dog, and the look alike part is really the only part that is getting cloned, like you discussed, it`s not the personality.
PINSKY: And so, John, I want to just put a little emphasis on what you just said to make sure my viewers actually heard this. So, the eggs are harvested from possibly a number of different dogs who are raised on a dog farm. Then that egg, once it receives the DNA from the cloned dog, from Trouble, then it is inserted in the uterus of another dog, is that correct?
WOESTENDIAK: Yes. Unless, they changed it since my visit there, that was how it worked. It`s becoming more efficient. I mean, they needed hundreds of dogs when they first started doing it. Now, it`s down to, you know, double digits or 10 or less.
PINSKY: Danielle, did you understand that`s the process?
TARANTOLA: Well, I did do a lot of, you know, homework and research, you know, because, of course, I`ve heard about what goes on, you know, in Korea, but (INAUDIBLE), which was the cloning company assured me that that wasn`t the case and that the surrogate moms were taken care of it.
They weren`t adopted by us, or if, you know, we don`t take them, they have a place where they go, which is a farm, which I know staying on a farm doesn`t really sound too well, but this is what they assured me, and that they are taken care of by them until they die of natural causes or if they are adopted. I mean, I would never, ever sacrifice one dog for another, not to get anything that I wanted.
PINSKY: OK. Let`s take look at the moment Double Trouble came home. TLC caught the homecoming on tape. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TARANTOLA: Oh! Look at how cute you are. Oh! Wait, I have to pick him up. Am I allowed? Let me see. Oh, you`re giving me kisses. Oh, how cute are you? You know I`m your mommy, don`t you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: It is pretty cute, but Lisa, that part we were talking about where there`s a part of her that wants to believe that this is the same dog.
BOESKY: Well, absolutely. and I think societally, this is a little scary, actually, a lot scary to me , because think about if a parent were to lose a child to leukemia or in a car accident, and then said, I miss my daughter so much or my son so much. I`m going to clone my six-year-old.
And so, again, they would look like their six-year-old, but wouldn`t have the shared experience, the memories that Danielle had with Trouble. And I hope she`s happy with Double Trouble, but Double Trouble is not, may look like Trouble, but they`re not the same dog.
PINSKY: John, is that the kind of concern we should have about stories like this, that this is sort of the beginning of a science fiction where people are being cloned?
WOESTENDIAK: I think the whole what`s happened with dog cloning could be like viewed as a cautionary tale, as far as that goes, because the sort of all the scary things in the science fiction movies sort of happen with dogs, there were deformities and deaths. Dogs coming out, you know, odd colors. Bad things happened. And, so, that is occurring.
That`s a concern, but I think the bigger concern is just that people - - the customers, anyway, are still holding on to the thought that even if it`s not the same dog, it`s going to be the same dog. And in effect, they`re paying, you know, $100,000 for a blank canvas.
What makes their dog special, what made their dog special is that whole shared experience. I spent over the years, that`s the part that can`t be cloned.
PINSKY: I agree with you on that, but let me play devil`s advocate for a second. And we are talking about cloning dogs here. And so, the biology of the personality of a dog is a little simpler than the biology and personality and character of a human. And Danielle, you say that Double Trouble really is just like Trouble. Is that right?
TARANTOLA: Yes, he is, absolutely. From the day that I got him and more and more every day that I have him, he`s showing me more and more that he does the same things that Trouble used to do.
PINSKY: My fear, Lisa, is that people will extrapolate from the dog experience -- the human experience where it is a much more complex relationship between the biology of this thing up here and the environment that really structures who we are.
BOESKY: Absolutely, because we`re not born blank slates. We know that that there`s a part of genetics and there`s a part of environment. Environment is a huge part, and I wonder how much would Double Trouble seem like Trouble because Danielle might be parenting him the same.
That she`s interacting with him the same, although, I mean, maybe he`s a lot like Trouble, but I do think that she may be treating him some early, too (ph).
PINSKY: Danielle, are there messages you have for people out there that may be contemplating, doing something like this, who can`t tolerate the fact that their time with their pet may come to an end?
TARANTOLA: I mean, I`m very happy with (INAUDIBLE), the cloning company. I mean, what I got out of it. I mean, I got exactly what I wanted. I mean, it is not for everybody to do, but I think if somebody really wants to do it, I mean, they should do it. I mean, everybody has a choice to do what they want to do.
And if they really want to clone their pet, I`m not saying that`s the only way to go to get a pet. I mean, you like could adopt dogs. I`ve adopted dogs before. But, I mean, I`m not against the cloning part of it, because, I mean, to me this was the best thing that I ever did. I mean, and it worked out perfect for me. I got exactly what I wanted.
PINSKY: And let me ask again, I`m playing devil`s advocate on both sides here. Let me ask another tough question which is, you spent 18 years with your dog, Trouble. That was a special relationship. That was something you can value the rest of your life. Why not just cherish that and get over and grieve the loss and not try to prevent.
I mean, isn`t it -- I`m going to ask it in a tougher way -- isn`t it a little bit disrespectful to the memory of Trouble to replace him or her with Double Trouble?
TARANTOLA: Well, I actually started looking into the cloning back in 2005 while Trouble was still alive. I wanted to clone Trouble while he was still alive, but it wasn`t perfected or wasn`t really -- they weren`t really doing it. And then a part of me thought that if I ever got another dog, I felt like, I guess, I would be like cheating on Trouble, if that makes sense.
PINSKY: That does make sense to me, but I`m looking at the pictures of all of the things that you dedicated to Trouble, including the murals and the duvet covers and everything. But again --
TARANTOLA: Well, the mural was actually on my wall while Trouble was alive.
PINSKY: I understand, but might people think, Danielle, get a little over the top here with all this?
TARANTOLA: That`s their opinion. That`s what they want to think, they can think that.
PINSKY: But everything -- again, Lisa, we always look for functioning in other areas of life if she`s, otherwise, having a relationship --
BOESKY: And I think that`s the question. Is she happy in her relationships? If she`s happy in her relationship, she said she`s close to her family, the one thing I would ask is, you know, is she romantically involved? Is she looking for someone? I would just be a little scared that if she has such intimacy with her animals, she may not need that intimacy from humans, and I think it`s important to have it from both.
PINSKY: But you say you get it from both, Danielle? Yes? Both?
TARANTOLA: Yes. Absolutely.
PINSKY: Yes. OK. Fair enough. Thank you, Lisa. Thank you, Danielle. Thank you, John.
When we come back, we`re going to hear from you at home, your Facebook questions from these guys are next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TARANTOLA: How cute is he? He is so cute. He resembles Troubles 100 percent. He`s dark and he`s got those white patches in the same spot that Trouble had.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: And welcome. We are talking about how far some people will go to keep their animal companions around forever, in this case, through cloning. We`ve got some Facebook questions for Danielle Tarantola, so let`s begin with a post from Debra. She writes, "Danielle, have you tried -- did you ever think of therapy to help you with the loss of your pet?" Danielle.
TARANTOLA: No, I don`t think I needed therapy for the loss of my pet. I mean, I think I grieved the way I normally would grieve.
PINSKY: OK. Amy on Facebook wants to know, "how much exactly does this cost? I hear it`s anywhere from 50,000 to $150,000." John, I want to go out to you with this. What are the current costs?
WOESTENDIAK: I think the going price is 100,000. They gave, as with Danielle, the very first customer of dog cloning got a discount in exchange for doing publicity. She ended up paying 50,000, but it started out 150,000. I think it averages around 100,000 now.
PINSKY: John, let me ask you this. Is there a reason it`s not being done in this country?
WOESTENDIAK: I think it`s probably because of the higher animal welfare standards in this country. I mean, there was an American company that was selling the service, but they were working with a Korean scientist to actually get the dogs cloned. They ended up going out of business, and one of the reasons they cited was animal welfare concerns.
PINSKY: Another Facebook question. This is Dave on Facebook who asked for Danielle, "Can Double Trouble breed?"
TARANTOLA: Can Double Trouble breed? Oh, I`m sure. I think he can if I wanted to, but I`m not going to do that.
PINSKY: And then, Adam writes, "How do you know that it`s definitely your cloned dog? OK, Danielle, what about that?
TARANTOLA: Well, I got authenticity. I mean, that shows -- you know, it shows the DNA of Trouble, and then it shows the DNA of the surrogate mom, then, it shows the DNA of Double Trouble.
PINSKY: Lisa, again, I think the concerns that we`re sort of raising here are sort of ethical issues about how animals are treated, ethical issues about where this is going, and then ethical issues about, and I don`t think the government should necessarily have any claim on this, but how people spend their money.
BOESKY: Yes. I mean, and we`ve been talking about this in terms of grief, but as you listen to Danielle, maybe that`s not what it is. You know, we could put it a little bit more, you know, how we pathologize everybody, more in the obsession --
PINSKY: you and me.
BOESKY: Yes, we.
BOESKY: -- in the obsession category. I mean, I would say that whether it`s pathological or not, she`s got an obsession with Trouble and now with Double Trouble, and like you said, freedom of choice, she has her choice of how to spend her money. But again, I would look for, is it impacting other areas of her life? If all her energy and money is going to Double Trouble, then we worry. If not, then, more power to her.
PINSKY: And she says it`s not. And so, we`re raising these issues more for --
BOESKY: Other people and societally, because Danielle seems very happy, but there may be other people who watch this and say, wow! I want to clone my dog. And it sounds like she did a lot of research. She thought about this, and we just want to make sure everybody looks at all angles of it.
PINSKY: Well, Danielle, thanks for joining us. John, thank you for joining us. Double Trouble, thank you for joining us as well.
TARANTOLA: Thank you.
PINSKY: It`s a very cute dog. I understand --
BOESKY: Bye, Double Trouble.
PINSKY: Bye, Double Trouble. I understand why you get so attached to him. I get it.
PINSKY: And of course, thank you, Lisa.
TARANTOLA: He slept through the whole thing.
PINSKY: Well, that`s good. That`s good. I wouldn`t want him to be in any way entertained or interested when I`m talking about it. But, again, interesting topic. We`ll have many more to come. And I want to thank you all for watching, and we will see you next time.