Giv­ing a stuff about pre­serv­ing man’s best friend

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - News -

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

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