January 29, 2009 09:00 PM

When Edgar and Nina Otto lost their Labrador retriever, Lancelot, to cancer last year, they didn’t know how they’d fill the void in their hearts. He was “an unbelievable, humanlike dog, a true companion,” Edgar told Today earlier this week. The couple, who live on a 12-acre spread in Florida with four birds, 10 cats, six sheep and nine pooches (Edgar’s father was a co-founder of NASCAR; he himself founded a successful medical company), missed their top dog.

Last June, Edgar and Nina heard that BioArts International, a California biotech firm, was holding a “dog-cloning auction.” Shelling out $155,000, the couple won the right to have Lancelot cloned (they’d frozen some of his DNA six years before). BioArts partnered with Dr. Hwang S Woo-Suk, of South Korean biotech research firm SooamAn, and an egg containing Lancelot’s DNA was placed in a Korean pup. After a successful gestation period, Lancelot Encore was born. Once he was able to leave his mother, he was flown to Miami to meet his new, yet familiar, family. “He came out of the chute and he actually ran to us, so it was amazing,” Nina told Today. “He looked just like my original Lancelot.”

Now 10 weeks old, “Encore” has assumed his position as man of the house, leading the other dogs around the family’s property – just like the original Lancelot. “We noticed that he bonded immediately, within an hour, with every other pet in the house,” said Nina.

Though the Ottos have faced criticism, they told Today they donate generously to their local Humane Society, and promised that if they were in the market for pup number 11, he or she would come from a shelter.

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