In a recent New York Magazine gift guide, an interesting option was presented: The gift of cloning your dog. The price tag is $100,000. We can thank Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in Seoul, South Korea for this expensive (but amazing ) technical feat. The company has cloned more than 700 dogs since it was first successfully accomplished in 2005, and the cloned pups have lived healthy lives with normal life expectancies. Laura Jacques and Richard Remde, of the U.K., recently mourned the loss of their dog Dylan, who died in June from a brain tumor. "Dylan was my first dog and we had an amazing bond," Jacques wrote to Refinery29 via email. "He was given around six to 18 months with treatment, but I lost him unexpectedly 19 days later, before it had even had chance to sink in that my boy had a terminal illness. I was traumatized." After watching a documentary about Sooam's work, the couple decided to clone Dylan, taking DNA samples 12 days after his death. Yesterday, they happily announced the birth of not one, but two cloned puppies: Shadow and Chance. "The whole thing just feels surreal," Jacques told the Guardian.
Cloning, in theory, sounds simple: Extract the DNA from the live cells of your original donor. Then, inject the DNA into donor egg cells, which are then transferred to a surrogate dog, who gives birth to a cloned puppy or puppies. Voila, Fido gets a second chance at life. The reality, however, is a difficult — and expensive — process. For Jacques and Remde, the first complication was time: Sooam typically suggests that clients extract live cells from their dog within five days of death; Jacques and Remde's 12 day period was the longest wait time yet. Dylan had been frozen for five of those days, which makes the cells especially delicate. But Jacques was confident.
And luckily, despite the complications, the process worked — the couple now has a pair of typical puppies. "They are lively when awake but sleep a lot! And are both very greedy!" Jacques wrote. Chance and Shadow are expected to stay in South Korea until they are seven months old. Until then, the couple will have to travel back and forth from Yorkshire to Seoul to see them. "We will be making as many trips as possible to ensure we can bond with the puppies and their mothers, who we are also hoping to adopt," Jacques wrote. Still, there is an ethical dilemma with cloning. The E.U. Parliament just voted to ban the cloning of farm animals in September (past research has shown that most cloned animals end up with health issues). But after witnessing some procedures at the lab, and the good condition of the lab where the animals were kept, Jacques and Remde were convinced they'd done the right thing. To combat the potential controversy, however, the two asked a friend to create a social media campaign to tell their side of the story. Now there's a Vine video and multiple Twitter accounts — @WeLovedDylan, @ChanceIsMyTwin, and @ShadowIsMyTwin — to inform dog lovers of what is possible. Although the cloned dogs won't be exactly the same as their genetic doppelgänger, Dylan. Environmental cues might affect behaviors, and the nature versus nurture debate could be played out in interesting ways in the next year or so. But ultimately, the couple is happy with their decision. "We have gone down this route out of love," Jacques wrote. "Our love for dogs, my love for Dylan, and Richard's love for me."