It’s a cute and cuddly little idea.
So why does it give me horror-show-like chills?
I was thumbing through the latest issue of The Bark magazine – print version — when I came to a page devoted to spotlighting new products, including “Cuddle Clones, one of a kind plush animals made to look just like your dog! Capture the essence of your dog in this adorable product…”
Having written a book on dog cloning — the kind that takes place in a laboratory, with pet owners paying $100,000 or more to get genetic duplicates of their dogs – Cuddle Clones struck me as far less expensive, less intrusive and much more innocent way to have your pet re-created. Yet the concept was still mildly troubling. Leave it to me to find the ominous in something as harmless as a plush toy.
I think, as with real cloning, there may be — in regards to what it says about the essence of dog, and the essence of us.
For starters, you’re not going to recapture the essence of your dog in a stuffed animal, or by stuffing him, or by cloning him.
I’d even go so far to say that, even the most expert of breeders, even if they do manage to ensure many of the same traits are passed from one generation to the next, can’t recapture “essence” — a fuzzy term that, in this case, may be most synonymous with “personality” or ”soul.”
One can breed for looks and traits, but the essence of your dog — what makes him him — is uncapturable. Part of the reason for that, I think, is that what makes him him is all that he has experienced, including, and perhaps in largest part, you.
With cloning — real cloning — I arrived at the point where I viewed it as a selfish pursuit, most popular among wealthy and stubborn people who refuse to to accept that the rules of nature apply to them and their dogs. And I wondered whether, as much as having a dog re-created from a single cell might seem an homage to the original, it’s really an insult, like telling your dog, “You’re instantly replaceable; I can quite easily, if I pay enough, have another you fashioned in a laboratory.”
In reality, the clone, while a living, breathing genetic duplicate, is not the original dog. Though some customers believe otherwise, the original dog’s soul does not occupy it anymore than it would a freeze-dried version of his corpse — another alternative for those who insist on keeping a physical, though unmoving, version of their dog around the house.
Cuddle Clones, being toys, are far less creepy — and if it weren’t for the name I’d probably have no problem with the product. A plush toy that roughly replicates your living or dead pet is not all that nefarious. And the plush toy company, unlike the real cloning companies, hasn’t directed its marketing strictly at bereaved, or soon-to-be-bereaved pet owners.
That does come up, however, in the “Top 10″ reasons the company gives for buying a Cuddle Clone. (Expect to pay $300, or, for a life-sized version, as much as $850, depending on weight.)
Those reasons, according to the Cuddle Clones website, include:
”Your pet is so cute or unique looking that you must clone him or her immediately.”
“Your pet has passed away and you miss hugging him or her.”
“Your daughter can’t bear to leave her best friend behind when she leaves for college or the military.”
“You lost the pet custody battle in a breakup.”
“You’ve wanted to scientifically clone your pet for some time now but can’t quite afford the $50,000 price tag.”
“Cuddle Clones can go places real pets can’t go (work, vacation, the grocery store, nursing home).”
Cuddle Clones aren’t going to wag their tails (at least not yet), or greet you at the front door. For that you’d require a real clone, though we’d advise against it, even if you do have more money than you know what to do with.
Those are manufactured in South Korea, and the price has dropped from the $150,000 the earliest customers were charged to around $100,000.
(How dog cloning came to be, how it was marketed, and the experiences of the first pet owning customers are detailed in my book, “DOG, INC.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Pets Launched the Commerical Dog Cloning Industry.”)
Only one South Korean lab is still offering cloning to pet owners, and it’s working on broadening its customer base — mostly American — by holding a contest in England that will reward a discounted cloning to the person who has the most “special and inspiring” reason for cloning their dog. Contestants are invited to submit essays, photos and videos, and the winner will get a 70 percent discount on the $100,000 price.
It’s sponsored by Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, which is headed by Hwang Woo Suk, the former Seoul National University veterinarian who headed the team that produced the world’s first cloned dog, Snuppy. Hwang also claimed to have cloned a line of human embryos, but he was fired after those claims turned out to be fraudulent.
After starting his own lab, Hwang teamed up with an American company that held an online auction for six dog clonings and an essay contest in which a free cloning was awarded to a man who said his former police dog found the last survivor of 9-11.
As dog cloning hit the marketplace — actually doing so before dog had even been cloned — some of those who would become the first recipients of clones were chosen at least in part because of their heartwarming stories, which served to put a warmer, fuzzier face on the cold science of cloning.
Small stuffed dogs, all identical, were handed out as a promotional tool by one of the labs. Customers shared their stories, sometimes in exchange for a discount, and marveled at how much their clones resembled the originals. Then there were the best ambassadors of all — the puppies. Whatever fears and concerns surrounded cloning — from animal welfare issues, to where it will all lead, to the utter lack of government regulation, especially in South Korea — images of nursing and frolicking puppies had a way of pushing them aside.
Cuddle Clones — even just the marriage of those two words — could similarly, if unintentionally, serve to make real cloning more palatable to a public that may not know that dog cloning isn’t cute at all.
It involves the use of numerous dogs for egg harvesting. After the cells of the donor dog are merged with those and — with help from an electric jolt – begin dividing, more dogs yet are needed to serve as surrogates. More than 1,000 egg cells were harvested to clone the first dog. While the process has grown far more efficient, multiple attempts are still required to ensure an exact lookalike is born — into a world where dogs are routinely put down because of overpopulation.
The American company selling clonings — all carried out by Sooam – later shut down for reasons that included concerns about whether proper animal welfare protocols were being followed in the South Korean labs. RNL Bio, the company that cloned the first dog for a customer, has stepped away from dog cloning, citing negative public opinion as one factor.
But canine clones are still being churned out at Sooam, and the price — once $150,000 a shot — is continuing to drop, meaning more people will be able to afford a laboratory-produced replica of their dog.
For those who can’t, there are Cuddle Clones – soft and huggable plushies, filled with synthetic fabrics, that seem to send the message that clones are adorable.
And clones may be just that – both the real ones and the stuffed ones.
Dog cloning, though, when it comes to the process, is not so pretty, not so heartwarming, and not so cuddly.
You might even say – though it would be too late — that it’s nothing to toy with.
(Photos: Top three photos courtesy of Cuddle Clones, bottom two photos, of dogs being cloned at Sooam, by John Woestendiek)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 23rd, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adorable, animals, book, books, cloned, clones, cloning, cuddle clones, custom, dog, dog cloning, dog inc., dogs, huggable, lookalike, pets, plush, replicas, resemble, sooam, sooam biotech research foundation, south korea, stuffed, toys
Leave it to director Tim Burton to get across the point — in his characteristically gothic manner – that I’ve been trying to make for two years now:
You can’t bring your dead dog back to life, at least not without running into some trouble.
At least that’s a point I selfishly hope his new full-length, 3-D animated movie, “Frankenweenie,” will make when it comes out in October.
As the author of a book on the brave new world of dog cloning, and being generally opposed to the practice, I’ve got some confused feelings about Burton’s new movie, which comes out — unlike his 1984 short film of the same name – at a time when dogs, deceased and otherwise, are being “re-created” in South Korea.
Science has caught up with science fiction, it seems, and sometimes brings equally scary results.
In the movie, a boy named Victor, grieving the death of his beloved dog, Sparky, conducts a science experiment to bring him back to life “only to face unintended, sometimes monstrous, consequences.”
Based on that summary, Burton’s new movie, like the classic work of literature upon which it is based, could have a few things in common with today’s reality, in which the cells of dead dogs are merged with egg cells from donor dogs, zapped with electricity and, after being implanted in surrogates, come to life. The going price is $100,000.
Do bereaved pet owners get the same dog — a reanimated version of their deceased one? Of course not. Do they think they are? Sometimes.
When I started researching “DOG, INC.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry,” the first book I read, or re-read, was “Frankenstein” — given all the parallels between that classic story and cloning.
Both featured grief, selfishness and laboratories, borrowing parts from one being to assemble another, and plenty of mistakes and deformities along the way. Both relied on a zap of electricity to spur things on. Both related to the stubborn refusal of humans to accept death, and the powerful drive, among some, to bring a being, or at least a semblance of it, back to life.
Burton’s new movie itself is a reanimation. “Frankenweenie” was originally a 30- minute short film. Now he’s done what he originally wanted to do — make it a full-length feature. Here’s the official synopsis:
From creative genius Tim Burton comes “Frankenweenie,” a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life—with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students, teachers and the entire town all learn that getting a new “leash on life” can be monstrous.
While much has been written about the making of the movie, and about the stars providing the voices — Winona Ryder, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau, among others — what message it delivers hasn’t been written about much. (Not that it must have one, or that it must be the one I’d like to see.)
The original short film — we’ve posted it here — was fantastical and charming. In it, the reanimated dog, though humans outside of his immediate family fear and misunderstand him, goes on to save Victor’s life and become beloved by all.
“The reason I originally wanted to make ‘Frankenweenie’ was based on growing up and loving horror movies,” Burton explains in the new movie’s press materials. “But it was also the relationship I had when I was a child with a certain dog that I had.”
“It’s a special relationship that you have in your life and very emotional,” he adds. “Dogs obviously don’t usually live as long as people, so therefore you experience the end of that relationship. So that, in combination with the Frankenstein story, just seemed to be a very powerful thing to me -— a very personal kind of remembrance.”
The original short film didn’t go into the folly and dangers of attempting to bring the dead back to life, and — being fictional, being fanciful, being art — it, and it’s lengthier animated 3-D remake, shouldn’t be required to.
It should need no “don’t try this at home” warning.
It should be allowed to just be fun, and not be subjected to hand-wringing reminders that resurrecting dead dogs, or at least what’s portrayed as such, is actually going on, or the moral and ethical issues surrounding it, or the sometimes horrific results.
And, or course, not being my movie, it shouldn’t have to make my point — one that wasn’t even necessary to make in 1984:
A dog’s death is final, and cherishing a dog’s memory (not to mention the dog while it is still alive) is a far more meaningful pursuit than trying to artificially recapture its essence in a laboratory.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 17th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 3d, animals, back to life, book, clone, cloned, cloned dogs, clones, cloning, death, director, dog, dog inc., dogs, entertainment, experiment, fantasy, frankenstein, frankenweenie, gothic, grief, horror story, message, moral, mourning, movie, pets, reality, resurrection, science, science fiction, sparky, tim burton, victor
Lancelot Encore, cloned in South Korea in an American company’s online dog cloning auction three years ago, is the father of eight pups, born on the 4th of July to another Labrador who was artificially inseminated with his sperm.
And they are for sale, at a price yet to be announced. (AKC registration is not a possibility because the organization doesn’t recognize clones as purebreds.)
Lancelot Encore’s owners, Ed and Nina Otto, have set up a website called labraclone.com which offers “future pups from the past” and will be used to sell seven of the puppies.
The Florida couple bid $155,000 to get the original Lancelot, who died of cancer, cloned in an online auction held by BioArts, an American company that attempted to clone the world’s first dog, then partnered with one of the South Korean scientists who was the first to pull the feat off.
Not long after Lancelot Encore settled in their home, with their nine other pets, the Ottos began thinking about breeding him.
Mrs. Otto said they paid several thousand dollars for a lab to inseminate a female Labrador, named Scarlett, with Lancelot Encore’s sperm.
Nina Otto said she was “tickled pink” that the babies had arrived naturally, the SunSentinel.com reported.
“I am keeping one and we are hoping to find good homes for all the other puppies,” she said.
Given the litter’s birthdate, the Ottos gave all eight pups patriotic names: Glory, Liberty, Star, Allegiance, America, Patriot, Independence and Victory.
While some news outlets, The Daily Mail in London included, call Lancelot the first dog to be commercially cloned (so do the Ottos), he’s not. Lancelot Encore is the first single birth commercial clone. The first canine clones delivered to a paying customer were five pups manufactured from the cells of a dead pit bull named Booger, by another South Korean company.
The full story of dog cloning can be found in the book, “DOG, INC.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry.”
You can read an excerpt here.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 26th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, artificial insemination, biology, biotech, canine, clone, cloned, clones, cloning, commercial, dog, dog cloning book, dog inc., dogs, ed otto, fathers, florida, industry, john woestendiek, labraclone, labrador, lancelot, lancelot encore, natural, nina otto, pets, puppies, pups, selling, sires, website
But I just can’t.
Part two of the program, which aired Monday on TLC, followed two potential dog cloning customers and recounted the experiences of a Florida couple who were among the first to get their dog cloned.
All in all, it was, like the first installment, another quasi-documentary that avoided the harsh realities of dog cloning — at least when it comes to all the dogs used in the process of cloning just one.
Instead, reality show style, it reconfirmed how wacky people can get, especially when it comes to their pets, and the lengths they will go to get what they think, or at least let themselves believe, is a live version of their dead dog.
In reality, it’s not, though the show kind of glosses over that, and more, repeatedly referring to cloned dogs as resurrections of the original, and describing their first meetings with their owners as “reunions.”
Given that, the second installment, like the first, was high on melodrama, low on context and served little purpose other than building interest in a service that, while still on the fringes, continues to draw customers.
My opinion — formed in the process of writing a book about the subject — is that pet cloning is almost always best avoided.
It, for starters, is mostly a selfish pursuit. Clients seeking to clone dogs are mostly delusional, at least when it comes to what they expect — the exact same dog, in terms of looks, behavior and personality. Only the first of those can really be achieved, and often only with repeated tries. But beyond that, cloning dogs, at least as practiced in South Korea, raises a host of animal welfare concerns, ranging from the intrusive procedures involved, the number of dogs it takes, both to serve as egg donors and surrogates, and the fact that many of the dogs used in the process have been farm dogs, raised in South Korea for their meat.
Amid all the melodrama in “I Cloned My Pet 2,” there was little discussion of any of that. But amid all the silly moments, there were a few telling ones, some of them even believable.
“Yes, it is the same dog,”” Nina Otto insists in the show. “Yes, it is the same personality. Yes, we got more than we ever bargained for, and we were thrilled to death.”
Nina and her husband Edgar, the grandson of a NASCAR co-founder, had their dog Lancelot cloned three years ago as the highest bidders in an online cloning auction sponsored by an American biotech company. Lancelot Encore was born in a Korean laboratory and delivered by the American company, which has since moved away from dog cloning.
While happy with the dog, Edgar Otto came close in an interview on the show to admitting that their belief Lancelot Encore is the same dog may be a delusion: “Maybe we’ve set ourselves up wanting it to be the same dog, and it probably is not the same dog. Just leave us alone in our beliefs; we’ll be happier.”
The Ottos in 2009 bid $155,000 for the cloning — one of five winning bids in the auction – leading to the dog’s creation at South Korea’s Sooam Institute, the only facility in the world now cloning dogs.
Our favorite part of the show came when a Los Angeles woman named Myra, still grieving the death three years ago of her basenji, Kabuki, debated whether or not to proceed with cloning him.
Her boyfriend thinks it’s a bad choice. She wants it more than anything. Seeking guidance, she contacts a medium who gets in touch with the spirit of Kabuki, a dog whose ashes now rest in a decorated cardboard box in Myra’s bedroom.
It was — if you believe in that kind of stuff – the first time a dead dog was asked his opinion on whether he should be cloned. And he said no.
According to the medium, Kabuki advised Myra to, more or less, get on with her life.
The show’s third main character was Dr. George Semel, a Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon, whose Chihuahua was killed by a Rottweiler last year while on a walk.
While struggling to come up with money for the cloning, he eventually works out a payment plan with the Korean lab and receives three copies of his Chihuahua.
Along the way, he holds a “cloning party,” selling his skin cream to raise money, and has a song recorded about cloning his dog. It does not become the viral hit he hoped for:
(Photo: Nina Otto and Lancelot Encore / TLC)
Posted by jwoestendiek May 23rd, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, auction, basenji, beverly hills, chihuahua, clients, clone, cloned, clones, cloning, cloning book, cloning song, copies, customers, dark side, dog cloning, dog inc., dogs, duplicates, edgar otto, egg donors, farm dogs, genetic, genetics, george semel, i cloned my pet, installment, john woestendiek, kabuki, laboratory, lancelot encore, meat dogs, myra, nina otto, online, part two, pets, plastic surgeon, resurrection, reunion, second, sooam, south korea, surrogates, television, tlc, video
“I Cloned My Pet” lives again.
And, no — unlike the dogs the show is about – it’s not a repeat.
It was back in January that TLC aired a special broadcast about people who have gotten their dogs cloned — a “documentary” that amounted to little more than an advertisement for the dog cloning industry.
Now the production company that made it has put together a second installment, featuring three new pet owners seeking to resurrect dogs that have died, and TLC will air it tonight at 10 p.m.
If it’s anything like the first, expect another soap opera/infomercial hybrid, with three more highly passionate dog owners, some possibly bordering on bonkers, willing to go to whatever lengths are necessary to bring back a cloned version of their departed dog.
And expect virtually no discussion of any of the disturbing ethical and animal welfare issues surrounding the process.
(You can find those, and the real story behind dog cloning, in my book, “DOG, INC.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry.”)
The first installment of “I Cloned My Pet” focused on three customers of dog cloning — a service that began being marketed before dog cloning was even achieved (in 2005) and, for a while, was being marketed by three different companies. It’s now provided by only one laboratory in South Korea.
In the first show, viewers saw Danielle Tarantola receive a clone of her beloved dog Trouble; Peter Austin Onruang finally got a clone of his dog Wolfie; and Sheryl Carpenter of Albuquerque got to meet the clone of her mastiff mix, Blue Frankenstein, even though she was serving a 10-year prison term for gun running by the time the dog arrived.
In tonight’s episode, we meet George Semel, a Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon seeking a clone of his rescued Chihuahua, killed last year when attacked by a Rottweiler; another Los Angeles resident, identified only as Myra, who’s still struggling with the loss of her dog Kabuki and wrapped up in other emotional turmoil as well; and Edgar and Nina Otto from Boca Raton, who won an online cloning auction with their bid of $155,000 and got a copy of their golden retriever, Lancelot.
If it’s like the first one, the new show will put a premium on creating drama while conveniently overlooking cloning’s dark side. Things like:
- The number of dogs used in the cloning process — both as egg donors and surrogate mothers, all of which are sliced open in the process.
- That those dogs — both in the research stages and in commercial cloning — often come from South Korean dog farms, where they are being raised for meat. The dogs responsible for making a clone of your dog possible could end up on dinner plates.
- What happens to the surplus clones that are often produced, because the process doesn’t work everytime and is done repeatedly to ensure a healthy lookalike.
Expect it to perpetuate the myth most customers seem to believe — that a clone of their deceased dog is the same dog, resurrected. While clones are genetic copies, that doesn’t assure they will have the same personality or behave as the original did.
We’re hoping the second installment of “I Cloned My Pet” doesn’t behave as the original did, but that’s doubtful, because the makers of bad television are a lot like cloners — they like to stick with the formula, churning out the same thing over and over again.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 21st, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, blue frankenstein, book, clients, clone, cloned, clones, cloning, commercial cloning, concerns, copying, customers, danielle tarantola, dark side, death, documentary, dog cloning, dog inc., dogs, edgar otto, eternal, eternity, ethics, genetics, george semel, issues, john woestendiek, laboratory, lancelot, life, media, myra, nina otto, peter onruang, pets, science, sheryl carpenter, south korea, television, tlc, trouble, wolfie
What it means, I don’t know.
True, there are few resources as renewable as cats — except maybe bunnies — but this sign makes me wonder just exactly what an “organic kitten” is.
And, for that matter, what a non-organic cat would be.
Chickens and cows, all pumped full of hormones and chemicals, wouldn’t be considered organic. But wouldn’t all pets be — except maybe cloned ones?
If electricity is involved in creating something, can it be called organic?
The photo was taken a few months ago by a friend traveling through rural New York state.
(Photo: By Tamara Granger)
The controversial South Korean scientist widely viewed as the father of dog cloning has announced he will team up with a Russian university to clone a woolly mammoth, 4,500 years after the species went extinct.
Hwang Woo Suk, head of the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, signed a research pact this week with Russia’s North-Eastern Federal University (NEFU) to clone the creature from remains found in Siberia.
According to a news release on the Sooam website, scientists plan to gather egg cells from elephants, replace their nuclei with mammoth’s somatic cells, provided by the Russian university, and implant any resulting embryos into more elephants.
Sooam says it plans to begin the process this year. If successful, a woolly mammoth clone would be born after a 22-month pregnancy.
Hwang was a veterinarian at Seoul National University when his team cloned the world’s first dog in 2005 — an Afghan hound named Snuppy.
Two years later, he would be fired and criminally charged after irregularities were discovered in his human stem cell research. Hwang claimed to have cloned human embryos and created lines of human stem cells from them.
Hwang would receive a two-year suspended sentence for using eggs from his own researchers, embezzlement and falsifying data.
After his firing, he opened his own lab, Sooam, with funding from supporters, where he has continued to clone dogs for pet owners, and continued non-human research projects.
According to the press release, NEFU will continue expeditions to collect biological samples of mammoth remains in Siberia, with help from Sooam. Those samples will be exported to South Korea.
The press release notes that NEFU has been collaborating with the Japanese for more than 10 years on the mammoth restoration project, but without any official agreement.
Over the last three years, the remains of two mammoths have been discovered in the Sakha Republic in the northeast part of Russia. Those remains found in the permafrost layer are often well-preserved and suitable for use in cloning, the press release says.
(Photo credits: Mammoths by Mauricio Anton / Plos; Hwang and Snuppy photos by John Woestendiek)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 16th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: agreement, animals, biotech, biotechnology, clone, cloned, clones, cloning, coyote, dog, dogs, extinct, hwang woo suk, mammoth, north-eastern federal university, pact, pets, project, russia, science, siberia, snuppy, sooam, sooam biotech research foundation, south korea, species, wolves, woolly mammoth, wooly mammoth
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
The Learning Channel airs an hour-long special on pet cloning tonight that looks at three dog owners who sought laboratory-made replicas of their deceased pets.
Judging from the little I’ve seen of it, I think the piece is likely to reinforce the notion that dog lovers who seek to “bring back” their pets are a pretty determined, if not rabid, lot. That notion, as anyone who has read my book knows, isn’t far off the mark.
As shown in “DOG, INC.: How a Collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Dogs Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry,” the customers seeking clones, the South Korean scientists who worked to make dog cloning a reality, and those who marketed the service, all had one thing in common — a strong, sometime boundary-exceeding will to make it happen.
Tonight’s TLC special, “I Cloned My Pet,” focuses primarily on Danielle Tarantola, who has received one clone of her dog, Trouble, and expects to soon to take delivery of a second.
But I’m curious to see if — in addition to showing cute puppies — the show will give equal time to the less than cute, often downright ugly, side of dog cloning: such as deaths and deformities, and how many dogs it takes to produce a single clone; such as what happens to surplus clones who don’t come out exactly right; such as what goes on to happen to the egg donor and surrogate dogs after they make their contribution to creating a clone in South Korea.
Trouble died three years ago and his owner’s home in Staten Island is still a veritable shrine to the canine. Trouble’s face graces the walls, and the comforter on her bed, in which she sleeps, or slept, beside an urn of his ashes every night.
She’d even saved the last piece of chicken the 18-year-old dog nibbled on.
Tarantola got a big discount on her cloning bill from South Korea’s Sooam Institute in exchange for cooperating with the makers of the documentary, so we’ll have to wait and see how objective she, and it, are.
I’m told the report also includes the stories of two other customers intent on getting their dogs cloned, one of whom is a California man featured in my book. The other is a New Mexico woman who had her dog cloned even as she faced a prison sentence of a duration that will likely preclude her from spending much quality time with his replica.
“I Cloned My Pet” airs tonight at 9 p.m. on TLC.
You can catch a sneak peak of it at People Pets.
You can expect me to weigh in on it in days ahead.
(Photo: Snuppy, the world’s first canine clone / By John Woestendiek)
Posted by jwoestendiek January 11th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, author, book, business, canine, clone, cloned, clones, cloning, danielle tarantola, death, documentary, dog, dog cloning, dog inc., dogs, grieving, i cloned my pet, john woestendiek, loss, marketing, pets, science, south korea, television, the learning channel, tlc, trouble, tv
The end of this week got a little frantic — as things generally do when air travel is involved — but I managed to make it to my New York hotel room just in time for a live phone interview on Atomic Dog Radio.
But I was trying to keep an earlier promise to Atomic Dog to be on the show, by phone, Thursday night, to talk about my book, “DOG, INC.: How a collection of Visionaries, Rebels, Eccentrics and Their Pets Launched the Commercial Dog Cloning Industry.”
My flight to Newark was delayed, and re-delayed, but I managed — by skipping the large cup of coffee I required by then to be semi-articulate — to check in at the hotel and make it to the room in time, at what was 8 p.m. for them, but was 11 p.m. for me. Or, as I informed them at the beginning of the interview, bedtime.
Still, I mostly managed to speak in complete sentences, and hosts Jillian Boyd and and Russ Avison were great to talk with. In addition to having actually read the book, they both, being dog trainers, know their dogs, and both have senses of humor to boot.
The next morning, Dan Harris at ABC interviewed me for his report about one of the latest customers of dog cloning — a New York woman named Danielle Tarantola who cloned her dog Trouble, producing Double Trouble, and, soon to arrive, Triple Trouble.
Purchased from a pet store, Trouble died at age 18, and Tarantola’s home is all but a shrine to him.
“He was bascially my son,” she said.
Tarantola contacted Sooam Institute in South Korea, agreeing to pay $100,000 initially for the cloning, an amount later discounted in exchange for sharing her story with TLC, which is doing a report on pet cloning next week.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 7th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, atomic dog radio, book, books, books on dogs, cloned, clones, cloning, dog books, dog inc., dogs, interviews, jillian boyd, john woestendiek, la talk radio, nightline, pets, russ avison