Some dog owners commission portraits of their dead pooch.
Others have the animal stuffed and placed over the fireplace. (Most of us are content with the memories.) But for James Symington, a painting or a statue apparently wasn't good enough. So last year the retired Canadian police officer entered a contest to have his dog, Trakr, cloned.
This wasn't just any ordinary hound. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Symington and Trakr traveled to New York, where they participated in the search and rescue efforts at Ground Zero. Trakr, a German Shepard, is widely credited with helping pull the last human survivor out of the rubble.
“Once in a lifetime, a dog comes along that not only captures the hearts of all he touches but also plays a pivotal role in history," Symington wrote in an essay for the contest, which was sponsored by BioArts International, a California animal cloning company. The judges didn't take long to name Trakr the "most cloneworthy dog in the world."
BioArts regularly clones pets, usually for a fee of more than $100,000. Symington, though, got his clones for free – all five of them. According to Symington, the cloned puppies Trustt, Solace, Valor, Prodigy and Déjà Vu are dead ringers for Trakr, who passed away a few months ago.
The puppies were delivered to the former police officer and his wife on Sunday, at their Los Angeles home.
A great story, right? Well, yes. But today some are raising questions about the South Korea company that helped BioArts with the cloning process. That company is headed by Hwang Woo-suk, a scientist who was publicly disgraced in 2006, after he claimed that he had successfully cloned human cells. A panel at Seoul National University eventually concluded that Hwang had fabricated all of the evidence. (Hwang is still credited with cloning the first dog in 2005.)
Symington, too, has swum in his share of hot water. A few years back, he found himself under attack for his role in the 9/11 rescue efforts. The specific charge? Symington was officially on medical leave when he drove to New York, according to the Associated Press.
So follow us on Twitter, where we've been trying to clone a bird mascot of our own.