Canine Clones

Joe Lavin's Humor Column

Canine Clones

March 17, 2000

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How much do you love your pet? Enough to spend $2.3 million of your own money for scientists to clone it? I didn't think so, but that's exactly what a couple in California has done. Yes, that's right. They're actually putting up $2.3 million to ensure that their dog Missy (three-quarters border collie and one-quarter Siberian husky) will be cloned. Is it me or do some people just have way too much money?

Missy This couple, known only as Mr. and Mrs. E, have enlisted the help of scientists at Texas A&M to make their dream a reality. As weird as it sounds, some of the biggest names in cloning are participating. The scientific team is led by Mark Westhusin, a well-known scientist who has already cloned a cow. (I bet that one stands out on the resume.) Many other cloning experts are also on board, and it's possible that Missy II may be born by the end of the year.

Mr. and Mrs. E obviously love their dog. Mrs. E. even refers to herself as Missy's "human mother," but isn't this all a bit much? Can Missy really be that special? The eventual clone may look like Missy, but it also may act nothing at all like her. Experience matters just as much as genetics in forming a dog's personality. Take Missy away from her deranged "human mother," and chances are she would be an entirely different dog.

The couple understands that they will not be getting an identical copy, but they still think Missy's genes are special enough to preserve. The first two clones, they will keep for themselves. After that, they actually hope to create a special Missy breed. No matter that thousands of perfectly nice dogs are being put to sleep in animal shelters. Now, we'll have hundreds of Missys wandering about.

Mr. and Mrs. E are also hoping to make some of their money back. Recently, they formed a new company called (are you ready?) Genetic Savings and Clone. Speaking of ridiculous names, the project to clone Missy is called the Missyplicity Project, and there's also a cat cloning division under development called Operation Copy Cat. Let's just hope that nobody plans to clone whoever it is that's coming up with these names.

"Our goal is that within three years the price to clone a dog or cat at GSC will be under $20,000 - less than the price of a new car," chief executive officer Lou Hawthorne told The Boston Globe. Of course, that's also significantly more than the cost of a new pet, but I guess their potential customers probably won't care.

As the name implies, Genetic Savings and Clone is also a DNA bank for pets. Scientists may not be ready to clone your pet yet, but they are certainly willing to store its DNA until cloning is possible. Here's how it works. For only $1000, you can purchase a do-it-yourself kit for extracting your pet's DNA. Hmmn, do-it-yourself? I don't know about you, but, if I have to pay a thousand bucks, I want somebody else to be doing the extracting. It's hard enough getting a dog to take a bath; I can only imagine how difficult DNA extraction will be.

"Sit, Missy! Sit! God damnit!"

After you have the DNA, you can then store it at Genetic Savings and Clone for $100 a year. Along with pets, in the future, they also hope to clone endangered species and rescue animals. As their website ( says, "Regardless of whether the animal in your care is a champion bull, a rare white tiger, or a beloved mutt, GSC is the safest place to store its DNA."

I'm not sure what they mean by safe though. Exactly how dangerous is it to keep your pet's DNA somewhere else? Are there gangs of pet DNA thieves roaming about the country that I'm not aware of? If you ask me, wherever you store Missy's DNA, it's probably going to be safe. Just put a big, honking label on it that says, "Dog DNA," and nobody will touch it. I guarantee it.

As silly as all this seems, Genetic Savings and Clone is probably going to make money. Hawthorne and the E's are even considering an initial public offering, and it makes sense. After all, if you want to have a successful business plan, it always helps to have wacky, rich, sentimental pet owners as your target audience.

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