5 years ago, Nina and Edgar Otto of Boca Raton, Florida, lost their beloved yellow Labrador, Lancelot. According to a recent Associated Press article from January 28, 2009, deeply saddened by the loss of their Lancelot, the Ottos had samples of his DNA frozen, guessing that some day dog cloning would be available. Just 10 weeks ago, their wish came true, as a biotech company known as BioArts International successfully cloned Lancelot (the 10 week old puppy clone is named Lancelot Encore) for the mere low price of $155,000. Lancelot Encore is genetically identical to Lancelot the first.
While the scientific achievement is remarkable, the ethical question remains if this should be done. For animal rescue workers, they would likely view spending $155,000 on a dog as rediculous, with shelters overflowing with dogs in need of homes (many of which are pure bred Labrador Retrievers). To people of faith, they may feel that this crosses the line into playing God, with science attempting in an indirect way to cheat death.
There is also the question of whether the cloned dog is the same as the original dog. Although they are genetically identical, the cloned dog will ungergo, even with the same owners, uniquely different sets of experiences that may lead to this dog being an individual pet, separate and distinct from the original dog. From a faith perspective, does this dog have the same soul as the original dog (I am a person of faith who refuses to accept that our pets do not have souls)?
These implications of the Ottos’s choice to have their deceased dog cloned, are very subjective and difficult to ponder from any perspective. I do not agree with their choice, but my disagreement has little to do with animal rescue or faith. For me, this circumstance reminds me of my previous blog post, “Oh Bernie, My Bernie,” an article that deals with pet loss, using my own personal experience of the loss of my beloved Yellow Lab, Tiffany, to get my point across. For this topic, the following excerpt from my article seems to be the most relevent:
The point of this story is that I see owners everyday devastated by the passing of their beloved pet. They feel as I did after Tiffany’s passing, that they will never bond with another animal like the one that have just lost. They are correct that it will never be the same, but make no mistake, when the time is right, there will be other great animals in your life that you will love for a completely different set of reasons, yet with a sense of fulfillment of the same magnitude.
Obviously comsumed with a sense of loss, it seems that the Ottos either could or would not understand this sentiment, and so chose to instead attempt to relive the past. I understand their desire to do so, but the past is behind us for a reason, to carry memories of and learn from, but not to try to relive. In any endeavor, when we try to relive the past, we are almost always met with disappointment and the realization that we were different people in the past, and what sustained us then, simply is not appropriate in the present.
It has been 2 1/2 years since my loss of Tiffany, and I still miss her dearly, as if I left a part of me behind. As much as I will always miss my dog, I realize that Tiffany was the right dog that came at the right time for that period of my life. The right dog for my present journey is my current Yellow Lab, Bernie. It took me a little while to accept, but since this realization hit me, I have been enjoying every moment of our ride together since – not any better or any worse than the journey I enjoyed with Tiffany; just different. I love Tiffany and will always miss her, but even if I had $155,000 to throw away, I would not even netertain the idea of having her cloned.
While I know that the Ottos actions, however misguided, were born out of the memory of the joy and love they experienced with Lancelot the first, they would have done better for themselves to move on from the past, and engage in a future with an enitirely new dog.