To clone or not to clone?
Meet Ace’s uncloned clone.
Last week, while I was bouncing around doing interviews on my book about dog cloning, a friend of mine at Best Friends in Utah sent along a photo of a dog she’d come across on the Internet.
That’s Ace on the right, and the lookalike on the left. She was found wandering in Michigan and — as as my friend noted — seems the spitting image of the dog I like to think of as one of a kind.
(And still do, no matter how many thousands of doppelgangers are out there.)
I’ve seen and met a few dogs that somewhat resemble Ace, but never one who does so as closely as this girl, especially when you compare her to the young Ace.
So with dog cloning back in the news, I’ll remake a point I made in the book, “DOG, INC.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry.”
If you’re looking for another dog just like your current or past dog, you can find it at a shelter – if not in your hometown, somewhere in America.
And while that dog will only resemble your dog in physical appearance, that’s all the cloners really guarantee, anyway.
In all the media coverage of the most recent canine clone to come to U.S. shores, no one has explained — or even pointed out — that Double Trouble, featured on last night’s TLC special, looks little like Trouble, to the left.
The original Trouble’s face, in most pictures, was mostly white, with some dark and greyish highlights.
Double Trouble’s face (left) is amost entirely dark, with far more brown fur and just a few little patches of white around his nose. Much, if not all, of the difference could fade away as Double Trouble grows up and his coat changes color. Photos of the original Trouble show him with darker coloring around his face, too.
Still, though, the truth of the matter is that genetic copies, in addition to not always acting alike (I’m sure you can think of some twins that exemplify this), don’t always look alike, either — as was evidenced, memorably, by the first cloned cat. It was two-colored; it’s donor was tri-colored.
For those South Korean laboratories producing clones, there’s an easy way around the physical discrepancies — produce enough clones to ensure not just that there will be live births, but that at least one of them will be identical.
That means making repeated efforts, using multiple dogs as egg donors and more yet to serve as surrogate dogs. It means more dogs rented from dog farms, only to be returned after laboratory use and sold as meat, as was the case during my visit there. It also means surplus clones.
None of cloning’s many downsides received much mention in last night’s TLC special, “I Cloned My Pet,” which followed three customers seeking laboratory made replicas of their deceased dogs.
While it did show the death of one clone shortly after birth, it glossed over cloning’s cons, and, worse yet, seemed to accept the bogus idea that clones are reincarnated versions of the original.
“Cloning offered the tempting chance to bring Trouble back to life,” the narrator said at one point. “The new old dog is reborn,” he said at another.
That, while not the reality, is the sincere hope of most customers. All three made comments about whether the clones of their dogs would “remember them.”
In addition to Danielle Tarantola, who recently received one clone of Trouble and is expecting another, the show featured Peter Austin Onruang, a California man who has spent years and hired two different labs to clone his dog, Wolfie. Two Wolfie clones have been born and survived. None of the others most recently implanted in five surrogate mothers did.
A third customer was a New Mexico woman who had made arrangements to clone her mastiff mix, Blue Frankenstein, even as she faced a prison sentence.
Identified only as Sheryl, she was allowed to meet the clone after it was delivered to the U.S. With cameras rolling, she fawned over the clone in a jailhouse visit. But, as the show pointed out, she isn’t likely to see him again given her conviction and 10-year sentence for transporting firearms.
In the most ludicrous scene in the special, Blue is taken to a “dog whisperer,” who interviews the pup. The dog, we’re told, tells the animal communicator about one memory he has from his previous life — how his owner saved one of his toenails and turned it into jewelry.
All of the owners claimed to see their old dogs in their new dogs — in terms of looks, behavior and personality.
Tarantola points out that Double Trouble lays down the same way the original did, with his rear legs splayed out behind him. “… He was bouncing around like Trouble used to do … He lays on pillows like Trouble used to do. He really, really has the same personality.”
Without going all adversarial, I’d point out this — based on what she says and my conversations with other cloning customers: When it comes to love — and that, at the root of it, is what pet cloning is all about — we sometimes see what we want to see, and don’t always see what we don’t want to see.
But that, like the ethics and morality of dog cloning, got little scrutiny in the TLC documentary.
What it did make clear — though I don’t think it did so on purpose — is that there is a degree of selfishness involved in getting one’s dog cloned. The customers all feel as if, nature be damned, they deserve their dog “back.” While it would be equally as misguided, none seem to be doing it for the sake of their dog.
And that’s another question seldom asked. As humans get their dogs cloned — to recapture a bond, erase their loneliness, or to relive, if not their own youth, at least their dog’s – how fair is it to the animals?
What does it say of the original dog if recreating him or her is a simple matter of sending a pea-sized chunk of flesh to a laboratory in South Korea?
And how fair is it to the newborn clone? On top of all the high and possibly unmeetable expectations he or she will have to live up to, will that dog ever be viewed as the unique creature it is, or only as a repeat?
Posted by jwoestendiek January 12th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, clients, clone, cloned, clones, cloning, documentary, dog inc., dogs, genetics, i cloned my pet, identical, john woestendiek, look alike, pet owners, pets, show, south korea, special, television, the learning channel, tlc