A woman who paid $50,000 – around £40,000 – to clone her dog is so thrilled with the result that she has vowed to clone him AGAIN in six years time.
Amy Vangemert chose to duplicate her beloved toy poodle Buhner, 13, when the thought of him passing away made her cry every day.
The mother-of-four, 55, of Seattle, Washington, USA, contacted the same Texas company that cloned superstar Barbra Streisand’s pooch in 2017.
Just six months later, she was presented with three identical puppies, Buhner Junior, Baxter and Ditto, now two.
“It’s the best decision I’ve ever made,” said Amy, who owns a construction company with her husband John, 55.
“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 fell in love with Buhner the moment she met him in 2005 and as her four sons Robert, 30, Taylor, 29, Dyllan, 26, and Austin, 23, grew up and left home, she became more reliant on the pooch.
She said: “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, who also has a rescue dog, Bella, a six-year-old black poodle, began looking for other dogs but couldn’t stop noticing how different they were from Buhner.
“I searched for breeders and for anyway 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 puppy because I didn’t have the opportunity to breed him.
“I wanted a piece of him to live on.”
Amy first considered cloning after she watched a segment about the practice on news programme Sixty Minutes five years ago.
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 contacted Texas cloning company ViaGen Pets in August 2016.
ViaGen Pets has been cloning horses and livestock for 17 years, three and a half years ago they started cloning cats and dogs.
Cloning a dog costs $50,000 while a cat costs $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.”
To clone a pet, ViaGen requires at least two skin samples to collect the DNA.
Most skin samples are taken from the belly or the inside of a pet’s leg.
These samples are then packed in ice and sent to a laboratory where they are placed in an incubator and cells start to grow.
Within two to four weeks, there are millions of cells.
The cells are harvested and placed in vials which are frozen in liquid nitrogen tanks.
Melain Rodriguez, client service manager at ViaGen Pets, said: “They can be maintained in this frozen state forever.
“We have cells from 17 years ago which are still stored.
“Most of our clients are just choosing to store their pet cells right now because the cloning process is so expensive.”
This genetic preservation costs $1600 with an annual $150 fee for storage.
In the next step of cloning, a donor egg is taken from a donor animal.
The nucleus of the egg is removed so there is no DNA and it is replaced with one of the millions of cells that have been grown in the laboratory.
Rodriguez said: “The egg and the cell are fused together in our patented cloning process.
“Essentially the egg is tricked into thinking it’s been fertilised by a sperm.”
The embryo is implanted into a surrogate animal who gives birth to puppies genetically identical to the original dog.
Baxter, Ditto and Buhner Junior were born on January 31, 2017.
Amy did not meet the cloned puppies until April as they had to stay with the surrogate for eight weeks.
Dr Shawn Walker, the vice president of science and technology at ViaGen Pets, flew to Washington state to bring Amy her puppies and confessed that he had fallen in love with the adorable pooches.
Amy decided to give him Baxter.
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, known as BJ, leapt into Amy’s arms and she instantly fell in love.
While the puppies looked the spitting image of Buhner, she soon noticed that they had their own personalities.
“They are identical to Buhner,” she said.
“Buhner had a lazy eye and both puppies have the same lazy eye.
“They are basically identical triplets.
“But there are personality differences.
“Ditto is more like Buhner, a little lazier and a frantic licker.
“But BJ has a lot more energy and doesn’t lick at all.
“If you are cloning to replicate, you should never do it.
“If you are cloning to have a little piece of the one you love go on in life then I think it is perfect.”
Amy is so thrilled with BJ and Ditto that she plans on cloning again in six years.
“I will definitely do it again,” she said.
“I’m going to wait until they are around eight years old.”
Amy has faced criticism for her decision to clone Buhner but 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.”
Although ViaGen Pets will not release exact figures of how many animals they have cloned, Rodriguez said the company clone around 50 pets every year.
She added: “That number is growing. More and more people are interested in cloning.”