Remember this picture? It’s one of the famous pictures taken of search and rescue teams at Ground Zero. This is Trakr and his partner, Halifax Regional Police Officer James Symington. They were one of the first K9 search and rescue teams to arrive at Ground Zero. Trakr found the last survivor buried beneath the collapsed towers, Genelle Guzman, the fifth and final survivor found in the rubble on Sept. 12, 2001.
For his heroic efforts, Trakr was presented with the United Nations Extraordinary Service to Humanity Award by Dr. Jane Goodall and was featured in books and magazines dedicated to 9/11 heroes.
In April 2009, Trakr died peacefully of old age at his home. He was 16 years old. He spent 10 years with James Symington, and they formed a bond that could not be broken.
This bond was so strong that a year before his death, a little bit of Trakr was preserved before he was to depart.
Trakr had been trained in the Czech Republic and had joined the police force in 1995 at the age of 14 months. Trakr worked for the department for six years, finding over $1 million in contraband, as well as finding missing people and helping in arresting hundreds of criminals.
Symington and Trakr left Canada abruptly when they saw the televised coverage of the World Trade Center attacks. Abruptly as in AWOL. Seems Symington forgot to clear it with the boss. Once back home, Symington was suspended.
Symington had also filed grievances with the Halifax Police Force over their proposed policy to euthanize dogs when they are retired from the force’s canine unit. Trakr was retired early and Symington left the force.
When all was done with his troubles with the police force, Symington and his family moved to Los Angeles, where he took a job in the entertainment industry. He soon learned of a contest being conducted by BioArts International (a biotech corporation in San Francisco) that was looking for the “World’s Most Clone-Worthy Dog” called the Clone Worthy Giveaway. At that point, Trakr was 15 years old and was suffering from degenerative myelopathy, a neurological disease, and lost use of his hind legs. Symington beat 200 other entrants to win a free cloning of his beloved animal, with BioArts. The goal was to produce one clone, but as an added bonus, he got four additional cloned puppies. All were produced at the Sooam Biotech Foundation, a laboratory in South Korea. In his winning essay Symington wrote that “once in a lifetime, a dog comes along that not only captures the hearts of all he touches but also plays a private role in history.”
That’s five new genetic replicas of Trakr. Trakr’s replicas were born between December 2008 and April 2009 and live with Symington as part of his Team Trakr Foundation.
Team Trakr Foundation is a humanitarian, 501(c) 3 organization committed to training and deploying K9 search and rescue (SAR) teams across the United States and around the world. The dogs, called Team Trakr are being trained to find live victims who are lost, trapped or missing due to any emergency or disaster. Their training included five months of obedience, agility, tracking, disaster search and rescue, and area and building searches. Eventually, Team Trakr will complete their training regimen and be available on a volunteer-basis to assist other SAR organizations and first responders during life-saving missions. To ensure Trakr’s duplicates keep the most desired traits of their original, Team Trakr employs the talents of the dog trainer who originally trained Trakr.
In John Woestendiek’s book, Dog, Inc. (yes, that John Woestendiek, of Ohmidog!) he explores the reasons behind the desires to clone your most loyal and bestest friend. Is it to preserve your long, lost love? Deny yourself the pain of grieving? Attention? What is it that we are so afraid of that we need to replicate something so unique and precious. Sounds like cloning our dogs is more of a selfish human act than anything else. I have not read the book, but looks like I will be putting it on my list.
I’m not dismissing the merits of The Team Trakr Foundation. These pups will no doubt become expert rescue animals by the traits they were given from their…template. I sincerely wish the Foundation success.
That’s right, you see six. One more genetic double was added. A female. I’m sure, biologically, it is plausible for male-to-female cloning. Pretty sure. Sort of…maybe…
For me, the jury is still out on this whole cloning business. There is something to be said for “It’s better to have loved and lost”. We are all products of our environment, even animals. Cloning alone will not ensure the best of the original traits and tendencies will be preserved. Or suppress the worst of them. If you don’t believe me, go watch this movie – The Boys from Brazil.
It’s poetry in motion. – Thomas Dolby.
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