By Leslie Adatto
Remember Uno, the irresistible 15-inch tall beagle with long, floppy ears and the jaunty gait, who took the Westminster dog show by storm in 2008? He howled at the judge and charmed the massive Madison Square Garden crowd, before being crowned the country’s top dog and winning Best in Show. Uno continued to appear on TV, participated in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (on the Snoopy float, of course) and remained a celebrity long after his 2008 trophy was passed to future canine winners. Sadly, the dogs we love never live long enough, and eventually even charming champions succumb. Last fall in 2019, we lost Uno, who was then 13, to cancer.
In the normal course of events, a top dog like Uno would have sired many litters of puppies, and those offspring would have had more puppies, which should have softened the blow of losing Westminster’s most popular Top Dog of all time. But Uno, it turns out, was sterile and could not sire puppies.
Could science come to the rescue? Could we clone Uno?
Theoretically, the answer is yes. In 1996, Dolly the Sheep was the first cloned mammal, and in 2005, the first dog was cloned. Dog cloning entered the popular imagination in 2018 when Barbra Streisand revealed that she cloned her precious Coton de Tulear lap dog, Samantha, and approximately $50,000 later, she has two dogs that are genetically identical to her previous pooch.
This begs the question that if Uno had been cloned, could his genetic identical twin have competed at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show’s annual competition? On February 11, 2020, the 144th consecutive Best in Show competition will take place in Madison Square Garden. This is America’s second oldest sporting event; only the Kentucky Derby predates Westminster. Steeped in layers of tradition, the underlying ethos of the Westminster Kennel Club pedigree dog breeding philosophy is all about improving dog breeds the old-fashioned way: making puppies by pairing champion bitches and dogs. So the short answer is that even an Uno clone (might he have been called Duo?) could not qualify to compete at Westminster.
Thousands of the world’s top dogs representing 204 distinct breeds, not a single one of them a clone, will compete to be the Top Dog at the 144th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show over three glorious canine-filled days. Dogs, handlers and judges will be in the rings at Pier 94 on Manhattan’s west side on February 9 and 10, with the Best in Show round at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Monday, February 11, 2020. Full moon or not, get ready to bay and howl with delight as 2,630 of (hu)man’s best friends fill our hearts with joy.