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Pet Cloning Expensive, So Love Living Creatures

By Dr. Jeff Nichol
For the Journal
    PET CARE: Q: My dog is 10 and is a great friend. What's the latest on dog cloning (how/cost/etc.)? Dr. Nichol: Cloning of nonhuman animals is on the fast track. Remember Dolly the sheep back in '97? She didn't end up doing so well, but her short life was followed by the successful cloning of a cat, a rabbit, cows, mice, goats, pigs, mules and recently a horse. Soon primates, dogs and endangered species are expected to be cloned.
    Companies like Genetic Savings & Clone, Lazaron and Perpetuate will stamp out replacement pets for about $20,000. It all sounds exciting, but there is another perspective.
    Any serious pet lover can relate to your feelings about your dog. My Airedale, Juan, stuck with me through the best and worst times of my life. Through our work in obedience training and competition, he helped pave the way for my eventual fatherhood by teaching me patience. I wanted him to stay with me forever. He could not. Juan passed away at age 13. We had a strong bond; his picture hangs over the Nichol family fireplace.
    Juan's death was painful for me, but it carried a hidden promise. Down the road a piece came a fine young border collie we named Peter Rabbit— a very special individual with his own gifts. Every day the two Nichol boys learn and relearn the value of forgiveness and a positive attitude from, of all things, a dog. A dog which, like each of us, is a unique and precious mortal.
    Your dog is one of a kind, but she is not alone. Every year in this country, 8 million-12 million pets enter shelters. Sixty to 70 percent are euthanized because there aren't enough people like you.
    If you adopt just one of those pets, you are throwing some of that $20,000 cloning fee at the pet population problem. Think of how prospective pet owners could be educated: careful selection at the time of adoption, the value of spaying and neutering, and behavior counseling to prevent and correct bad behaviors— the primary reason pets are relinquished to shelters. You can make a real difference.
    Pet cloning solves nothing. New pets, on the other hand, are a lot of fun. In fact when I first read your question, I thought you were asking about pet clowning. I can relate to clowny pets. It's the only kind I've ever had. A new puppy is sure to be just as goofy as the one you have right now. Your older dog can even help you train the new kid. Ah, life is good.
    Q: Recently my cat dug a hole in the litter box and began urinating. It produced a thick, white foam! Should I stop putting baking soda in the bottom of the litter box?
    Dr. Nichol: Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is great for odor control but a big enough pile of it will react with the acids in cat urine to produce carbon dioxide gas. The resulting white foam is sure to impress your friends but not your cat; cats hate science experiments. Dump used litter pans daily and lose the baking soda. Your cat should be allowed to do her business without special effects.

Dr. Jeff Nichol cares for pets with behavior and health disorders at VCA Wyoming Animal Hospital in Albuquerque. Contact Dr. Nichol on his Web site www.drjeffnichol.com (click Submit?) or 1300 Wyoming NE, Albuquerque, NM 87112. Unpublished letters may not be answered individually.