Giving a stuff about preserving man’s best friend
Some people just can’t let go. Take taxidermy. I don’t understand why people want to preserve things.
I can’t think of anything more creepy than having a few fusty hawks looking at me from inside a glass dome, or the marble eyes of a dead deer following me round as I try and chuck a hat onto its antlers.
Preserving once living things has been going on a long time. The Egyptians felt the need to embalm people and it seems to have gone on ever since. Nutty Norman Bates embalmed his mum in the film Psycho. The 18th century surgeon Sir John Hunter was for real. He was one of the first doctors to do autopsies. When his first wife died, he had her stuffed and put in the corner of his bedroom.
Whatever floats your boat I guess, but it didn’t float the second Mrs Hunter’s boat when she went upstairs on the night of her honeymoon to find the first Mrs H bolt upright in a chair by the bed. Can’t think why, but she fled, much to the pained bemusement of the good doctor.
Hunter had practised on a number of things before Mrs Hunter the first. He kept a zoo in his garden in London. When a giraffe died he stuffed it with the intention of displaying it in his front hall. Unfortunately it was too tall to get in the house, so he cut it off at the knees…
Empress Josephine stuffed her beloved orang-utan when he snuffed it. He could be seen as dead as a door knocker sitting at the diningroom table complete with a jacket and tie. Florence Nightingale had a stuffed owl and Charles Darwin a stuffed raven.
But I digress somewhat. Taxidermy, it seems, might be a bit passe. Instead dispense with the sawdust and reincarnate Fido by having him cloned. Dolly the sheep made headlines 22 years ago. She was the first mammal to be cloned, and certainly won’t be the last if a clinic in South Korea is anything to go by.
Now, cloning is regularly being carried out in the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in Seoul. They’ve successfully created 1,191 cloned dogs over the last few years and the work has attracted a lot of interest from wealthy owners, including singer Barbra Streisand.
So if you’ve got about £75,000 to spare you too can try and get your animal pal recreated in physical form.
It’s too much 1984 for my liking. I get the need for medical science, to improve life expectancy and help with life threatening conditions. But pet cloning doesn’t appeal to me. Apart from anything else, there’s the sheer faff involved. You have to wrap your dog in a wet towel and keep it cool in the fridge (be sure you don’t need to go to spec savers and end up roasting it instead of the Sunday joint).
Then you have got five days to successfully extract live cells. The biopsy of various tissues has to be done by a local vet and then flown in hand luggage to Seoul. I have difficulty getting a lipstick through so I don’t fancy my chances of getting a dead dog’s bits past the gimlet eyes of an airport security person nor a sniffer dog letting fresh flesh past its nostrils.
But if all goes well and you have not panicked and thrown the poor creature’s bits in the “water, paper or other” bin before security, then once in Seoul the cells are cloned and grown in a lab before being implanted in the womb of the surrogate mother. Now, I don’t underestimate the sadness and pain of losing an animal. It is devastating.
But I just can’t imagine, even in the depths of grief, wanting to recreate the life of that faithful friend. Animals, like people, should be part of the tapestry of our memories.
Even if I had it, I’d have a really have a hard time spending that much money (let alone Hubs, who would, without doubt, have a coronary if I suggested it) knowing there are so many lovely animals wanting a good home. How far would £75,000 go on making their lives happier?
So if we don’t stuff ‘em or clone ‘em, we could always sing about them. Extraordinarily, a French artist has persuaded the likes of Bono, Jarvis Cocker and another 40 or so musicians to sing tracks on an album created in memory of her cat.
Sophie Calle, a photographer and writer, described as “the most celebrated conceptual artist in France” embarked on a tribute album to her moggy Souris when he was still alive. Not for the first time do I think we live in a wonderfully eccentric world.
As I write this, I’m aware of a pair of barley sugar brown eyes looking at me. My dog is looking concerned. Don’t worry Millie, you won’t be stuffed, cloned or sung about. I’ll remember you just as you are.
I can’t think of anything more creepy than having a few fusty hawks looking at me from inside a glass dome, or the marble eyes of a dead deer following me round as I try and chuck a hat onto its antlers. Preserving once living things has been going on a long time