Pets are not meant to last forever

Jacob Summerville

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The loss of a pet is a dreaded moment that pet owners wish they could postpone until they are mentally prepared, but once that day arrives, owners usually keep their pet’s collars, favorite toys, fur or even make a grave for their deceased pet.

However, some owners resort to other options.

On March 2, The New York Times released an interview with American singer-songwriter Barbra Streisand where she discussed her decision to clone her late Coton de Tulear dog, Samantha. 

Cloning pets, let alone animals, is not a brand-new discovery. Dolly the Sheep was the first animal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell, which was 21 years ago. 

I think there is nothing morally wrong with cloning animals or even pets. To be honest, the science involved is fascinating. However, the latent theme that I noticed in this article was that Streisand does not seem willing or able to let go of her deceased pet. I think that replicating your pets as a coping mechanism is not a fruitful decision mentally or financially.

The reasons I do not find animal cloning disturbing are that first, I am a biological sciences major fascinated by nature and genetics, and second, animals have been cloning themselves for millions of years. Asexual reproduction is no new concept. It occurs through binary fission in bacteria, fragmentation in starfish and through budding in coral and jellyfish. On top of that, the idea of cloning a mammalian pet is not too different from donating to a sperm bank. The only two major differences are that the DNA from the egg is removed in cloning, and some form of seed is not needed for cloning. 

In terms of mental recovery from the loss of a pet, spending tons of money on a genetically identical pet does not help a pet owner get past the loss.

In her interview, Streisand started by explaining why she was compelled to clone her pet.

“I was so devastated by the loss of my dear Samantha, after 14 years together, that I just wanted to keep her with me in some way,” said Streisand. “It was easier to let Sammie go if I knew I could keep some part of her alive, something that came from her DNA.”

This interview starts off with a contradicting phrase. The way she chooses to “let Sammie go” is to “keep some part of her alive.” Streisand seems to be unable to cope with the loss of her dog. So, she resorts to spending around $50,000 at ViaGen Pets for an identical dog. Then again, with a net worth of $390 million in 2017, it probably was not a financial issue for her. For those outside the wealthy one percent, spending 50 grand on a pet may seem a bit excessive.

Streisand ended the interview by sharing her happiness in the decision.

“You can clone the look of a dog, but you can’t clone the soul,” said Streisand.  “Still, every time I look at their faces, I think of my Samantha…and smile.”

For beginners, genetically cloning an animal does not guarantee that they will have the same appearance. The National Human Genome Research Institute explained why the first cloned cat looked different from its mother.

According to Genome.gov, “the explanation for the difference is that the color and pattern of the coats of cats cannot be attributed exclusively to genes. A biological phenomenon involving inactivation of the X chromosome in every cell of the female cat determines which coat color genes are switched off and which are switched on. The distribution of X inactivation, which seems to occur randomly, determines the appearance of the cat’s coat.”

Second, what will Streisand do after those dogs die? Will she clone the clones?

What I think Streisand should have done is given herself the time to grieve and then purchase a dog. She claimed to not be able to “find another curly-haired Coton.” If she is able to spend 50 grand on cloning, I think she could have found a similar dog. 

As a pet owner, I understand the loss of a dear pet. I grew up with an orange-and-white tabby cat named Bob from age five until I was 16. After noticing that Bob would stay in the same spots for most of the day, we took him to the vet. Lo and behold, he had lung cancer. It was an all-day task to find some ways to help him, but when evening came, my family decided to put him down.

Yes, I was devastated for the rest of Thanksgiving break, but can you guess my family’s solution? Seven months later, we bought two more orange-and-white tabby cats.

For me, Bob’s death prepared me for the loss of my house from the flood in 2016, for the death of one of my other cats, Rikah, and helping a dear friend overcome the loss of one of the students he tutored for several years.

I think the death of Samantha should have been a test of mental strength for Streisand. I am not blaming Streisand for the act of cloning. Rather, the intention she had throughout the process was to escape the death rather than grow from it, but if she finds some solace through cloning her pet, I am not here to disturb someone’s peace or freedom of choice. 

Whenever the day comes to lay your pet to rest, try not to avoid reality. Embrace the moment, and if you are not willing to spend up to $50,000 anytime soon after, just wait a while before buying a new pet.

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