Because pets typically have shorter lives than their human owners, we often experience the pain of losing a beloved member of the family every few years.
One woman who couldn’t bear the thought of losing her beloved pooch has turned to cloning to solve her dilemma.
Amy Vangemert said that ever since her four sons grew up and left home, she has increasingly relied on her dog Buhner for emotional support.
But the 55-year-old couldn’t bear the thought of her dog passing away as he grew older and just thinking about it made her cry every day. She tried searching for a new dog but she kept comparing them to Buhner.
With the help of her husband John, 55, who she owns a Seattle-based construction company with, they contacted the same Texas company that cloned Barbra Streisand’s dog in 2017.
Six months later, three identical puppies were presented to her: Buhner Junior (BJ), Baxter, and Ditto, now one.
While denying that she was a “crazy dog lady,” Amy admitted that she has plans of cloning BJ and Ditto in a few more years.
She said: “It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. They are my joy in life. It was worth every penny.
“I couldn’t be happier. It’s the best decision I have ever made. I would clone over and over again. I want these puppies, there’s nothing like them.”
Amy first met Buhner in 2005 and instantly fell in love with him, saying: “I am super attached to him. I don’t think I’ve had a better friend. I love his loyalty and his sweet, gentle nature.
“I started getting emotional after he turned ten. I felt like I could never say goodbye to him. I really didn’t think I could live without him.
“My husband worried about me because I was crying every day. If Buhner whimpered, I would be terrified that he was sick.”
Amy also has a rescue dog named Bella, a six-year-old black poodle. She began looking for a replacement pet for Buhner but couldn’t help but notice how different they were from her beloved pooch.
“I searched for breeders and for any way possible to find a dog that I would be able to love like Buhner,” she said. “But every time I thought: ‘Oh no, it’s not Buhner.’
“I wished I had never got Buhner fixed when he was a puppy because I didn’t have the opportunity to breed him. I wanted a piece of him to live on.”
Amy first learned about cloning five years ago after watching a segment about it on Sixty Minutes.
She said: “I thought I could never do it but I started doing research.
“I read about a man who cloned his dog in Korea and that there was somewhere in the US who were looking into cloning family pets.
“I talked to my husband about it and we both decided that we didn’t want to live without a part of Buhner.”
She got in touch with Texas cloning company ViaGen Pets in August 2017.
The company has been cloning horses and livestock for 17 years now. Three-and-a-half years ago, they started cloning cats and dogs. One needs to shell out $50,000 to clone a dog while a cat goes for $25,000.
“I wrote them a check and just decided to do it,” said Amy. “They began the process immediately.
“I took Buhner to have his teeth cleaned and the vet did the biopsy.”
Baxter, Ditto, and Buhner Junior were born on January 31, 2017, but she didn’t meet them until April because they had to stay with the surrogate for eight weeks.
Dr. Shawn Walker, vice president of science and technology at ViaGen Pets, flew to Washington state to deliver the puppies and admitted that he had fallen in love with them as well.
Amy gave him Baxter in gratitude.
She said: “It was the longest few months of my life waiting for these puppies.
“As my husband and I pulled up, my heart was pounding.
“Dr. Walker fell in love with them so I ended up giving him Baxter. I already had Buhner and my rescue dog Bella so I knew that three more in the mix was too many.
“I never would have let him go if I didn’t think Dr. Walker would look after him perfectly.”
Buhner Junior seemed to know who Amy was and immediately jumped into her arms. But while the puppies all looked like Buhner, she quickly noticed that they had their own personalities.
While she has received some criticism for her decision to clone Buhner, she insisted she is not a “crazy dog lady.”
She said: “I have had some serious backlash from people.
“A couple of acquaintances said I was wrong and it was inhumane and there were so many dogs out there that need to be adopted.
“But that’s like telling a mother that she shouldn’t have her own child when there are children out there who need parents. I already have a rescue dog.
“I am not a crazy dog lady, I just wanted a piece of Buhner to live on.
“I had other family members who were ecstatic and envious and relished every moment of the process with me.”
While ViaGen Pets has been mum about how many animals they have cloned, Melain Rodriguez, client service manager at ViaGen Pets, said they clone roughly 50 pets a year.
She added: “That number is growing. More and more people are interested in cloning.”
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