"It's simply too wonderful for words," gabbled my friend Gina, who loves Hannibal, her huge, shaggy 12-year-old mongrel, more than anything else in the world, and that includes her husband, Joe. Fortunately, Joe loves their other pets, a crow and a boa constrictor, better than anything including Gina, so they are a reasonably happy if eccentric ménage à cinq.
She was referring, of course, to the news that South Korean scientists have produced the world's first cloned dog, an Afghan hound called Snuppy, which will probably end up braised with seaweed and rice wine on the chief scientist's dinner table.
Despite several visits to the Orient - China, Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong - where most restaurant menus feature canine dishes, I've never eaten dog, never knowingly at least. Once, on a visit to the tea gardens of Yunan, I found something resembling a small paw with tiny soft pink pads at the bottom of my soup bowl, but it might have been cat or monkey.
They weren't cloning dogs for consumption, said Gina, horrified; their motives were totally honourable. It was to push back the frontiers of veterinary medicine. But on the off chance that one day it might be possible to clone a favourite pet, she was going to have Hannibal's ear cut off (he only has one), when he's dead of course, and freeze it. At home, in her freezer, I asked? - making a mental note to avoid dinner with Gina and Joe.
If you haven't been following the Snuppy saga, you should know that they scraped the DNA from the inside of Snuppy's father's ear and injected it into the donor egg before inserting it into the surrogate mother, a labrador I believe. Having once spent two hours in Gina's car driving to Hampshire with Hannibal in the back seat whining, scratching, dribbling and suffusing the confined air of the interior with the fetid stench you usually associate with alleys in Old Tabriz, I can think of nothing I would rather do less than scrape the inside of Hannibal's one remaining ear.
What's left of it. The fight that saw off his right ear all but did for his left, which is raw and frayed, oozes intermittently and is usually covered with flies.
That's the trouble with dog lovers. They're blind to the basic social niceties. They wouldn't dream of taking a cantankerous, incontinent, malodorous octogenarian great aunt on a two- hour drive in the back of a car, but they think nothing of inflicting their antisocial dogs on you.
The idea of cloning Hannibal is repugnant. The first time I met him, he bit me, admittedly more a nip than a bite, but while I'm bound to agree with Gina that his bark is worse than his bite, his halitosis beats both, hands down. If you can teach chimpanzees to pour tea, why can't dogs be taught to brush their teeth?
I'll probably change my tune about dogs when I'm old, cantankerous and incontinent with no one to love me but a smelly old pooch. Unless, of course, I get a cat like Meg, my mother's 16-year-old moggy. Now there's a pet I wouldn't mind cloning.
Unlike dogs, cats are meticulous about personal hygiene and can be just as friendly. There are many other ways a pet can show affection other than Hannibal's wild stampede as soon as the doorbell rings, followed by huge forepaws on your chest and an even huger tongue slavering all over your face. There's Meg's deep-throated purr as she rubs her smooth back against your legs, and for the connoisseur like Joe there's Boa, his constrictor, slivering down the banisters, her tongue darting expectantly for the kiss he always gives her. Ugh.
The greatest proof of affection an owner can show his pet must be to have it cloned, I suppose, though I once sat next to a nutter who said he never went anywhere without his stuffed, dead Siamese cat called Fu Man Chu or Phooey for short. It was a TV programme about pampered pets, and halfway through he reached under his chair for a wooden box and produced Phooey who looked exactly like one of those zip-up pyjama cases, except it smelt of formaldehyde.
The nutter said it was the ultimate proof of his love. I said I loved my mother but I didn't intend to stuff her and carry her about in a box. I wonder if anyone loves Snuppy. What was that - did I hear someone say delicious?Reuse content