by Yvette Barnett

Want to get your pet cloned? Well, read on...


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For the uninitiated, Missyplicity.com is the website dedicated to 'Missy the dog.' By now, Iım sure that everybody, barring those that have been on Mars for the last year have heard of Dolly the sheep - well Missy is Dolly's doggy equivalent.

I stumbled, quite literally, upon the site a few days ago whilst looking for something else. This seems to me to be the best way to find new websites. Missy's site provides a factual account of up-to-the-moment research on dog cloning. In fact, the site provides you with an 'everything you ever needed to know about cloning your dog.' Well, almost.

The research was the brainchild of a multi-billionaire from San Francisco, who for the payment of a very large fee has secured his anonymity. He provides the money, the research team provide the knowledge. The research and development company A&M initially wanted no part in dog-cloning, namely taking the DNA of a dog preferably alive although this isn't absolutely essential. As long as the dog's corpse is dealt with quickly and effectively after the moment of death, the DNA can still be used. Sheep are one thing, but the ethics surrounding cloning family pets is a completely different story.

It was only when people started registering interest and paying deposits in dollars that A&M began to realise the money-making potential of the scheme. The website fails to give the exact number of people who have paid advance deposits in order to have their dog's DNA taken the moment the 'dog pops his clogs.' But according to Wired Magazine, the figure is somewhere in the region of 20,000. The deposit is $2000 with a sum of $250,000 to be paid once the process begins. In the meantime, until a reliable method is found to successfully clone dogs, the family pet's DNA is frozen and awaits the glorious day when the family pet can be yours literally forever (in one form or another.) This certainly leaves us asking why so many people want to cling to the past the way they do.

I have gleaned all this information, and much more from the missyplicity.com website and with the help of a little background reading. I have to note at this point that the actual website, continues to secure Mr X's anonymity. His Missy tales are there for all to read; how she was found, how she rescued the other family pet 'Liebe.' She sounds like Lassie's great grand-daughter from his accounts of this much adored pet. There are also photographs of the dog in various poses; on the beach, on the moorland, playing ball with Mr X himself, (although only a shot of his butt is visible.) In fact there is not a place where we donıt see the dog having fun. There's even a portrait of the dog, which one imagines takes pride of place on Mr X's wall in his 'den.'

As you enter the first page, at once you are greeted by a large picture of Missy completely filling your screen. In case, you don't fully appreciate how beautiful she is, you just have to glance in the top left hand corner where Missy is standing in all her glory, her tail wagging in perpetual motion.

The best moment on the website is when you click at the bottom of the portrait gallery, on the 'animated Missy' section. At first when I clicked I thought to myself 'what's going on? This isn't animated.' I suppose I was expecting some sort of cartoon version of Missy. And then it happened. Missy's head managed three jerky movements, straight ahead, sideways and backwards. I was astonished. This was certainly not what I expected. I waited a few seconds, giving it the opportunity to improve, and then the best bit came; Missy got warmed up and started moving in a series of fast jerky movements. Her movements became fluid and she was no longer the stilted dog that I had just witnessed. Her head was now jumping across my screen.

The one thing that is not shown on the web-site which surprised me a little is that there are no photos or cameras of the actual experiments taking place. I'm not entirely sure that I would actually want to see this, but I'm sure there is a market for the material. The scientist who is being paid large sums of money by Mr X has been making a film of these experiments, which I'm sure he will release when the moment and price are right. This probably explains why we aren't seeing it on the website.

There are links from the website to take you to other dog related sites and other cloning sites. For pure navigability, the site is very easy to use and there is no problem finding your way around. There's lots of information on dog cloning, a section dedicated to telling us who is in the team of scientists and a section completely devoted to providing press releases. To my British eyes, the Missy site is very American. It is the aim of the Bioethics department, we are reliably informed, to ensure that all of the dogs are suitably adopted within a 'reasonable time period.' There's even an opportunity to adopt one of the puppies that have been used in the experiments. Simply pay $100 to prove commitment, which incidentally includes a basket to transport the dog and a puppy is yours presumably forever, and not just for Christmas.

Personally I find myself questioning the ethics of releasing puppies to just anyone with $100 in their hands and time to kill surfing the net. But obviously there is no law to prevent it, and therefore they have a carte blanche to continue.

The web-page then goes on to explain how well trained the puppies are; they sit, heel, stay and presumably fetch things when asked. They even know the word 'no.' This is intended to fill every prospective dog owner with the confidence that they will get a well-behaved puppy as opposed to one who is naughty and disobedient. I have yet to meet a puppy who is this perfect.

The moment when I can get a perfect puppy is probably closer than I might prefer to think. Imagine having a dog who instantly knows right from wrong, is genetically bred to be obedient, not to chew my sofa and will provide me with the perfect no-hassle companionship that many people would crave.

Although we are informed that cloning dogs is a more complex procedure than sheep, (apparently dogs don't ovulate as frequently as sheep) it looks as if cloned dogs are literally just around the corner.



Check it out: www.missyplicity.com

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