Family clones beloved dog who once saved their lives by attacking rattlesnake

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV/CNN) - A California family wasn’t ready to say goodbye after the death of their dog of 12 years, who had once saved them from a rattlesnake, so they had him cloned.

Ziggy is like a lot of other Labrador retrievers, exuberant and very curious, but he’s a clone of his owners' first dog, Marley. (Source: KGTV/Tschirhart Family/CNN)

Ziggy is like a lot of other Labrador retrievers, exuberant and very curious, but he’s a clone of Marley, the first dog of his owners, David and Alicia Tschirhart.

"It's gone beyond my expectations, as far as what Ziggy would be," David Tschirhart said.

The Tschirharts had Marley for 12 years, and when he died, they weren’t ready to say goodbye. So, the family turned to Viagen, a company that offers cloning services for pets. It uses the same technology famously used to clone Dolly the sheep in 1997.

"They have the same personality. They play the same. They favor the same toys," Alicia Tschirhart said.

The costs for Viagen's services are listed online with dogs at $50,000 and cats at $35,000. A spokesperson says they currently have a one year waiting list.

But for the Tschirharts, it was a small price to pay to give new life to Marley, who the family says saved their lives in 2014.

When Alicia Tschirhart was about four months pregnant, the family was on a hike on Battle Mountain, and Alicia was looking for a walking stick. Marley sensed something his owners did not.

"I saw this really big stick, so I was focused on grabbing that. I didn't even see the snake until Marley came and was clawing," Alicia Tschirhart said.

A coiled rattlesnake had been right next to the stick, but it slithered away when Marley jumped in to prevent disaster.

Five years after Marley’s death, the growing family has Ziggy – and, therefore, a piece of Marley – with them.

“I just couldn’t think of any better way to do that, to have their years growing up to have Ziggy around,” David Tschirhart said.

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