Cloning A Beloved Pet May Be A Tempting Idea, But There Are Pitfalls Barbra Streisand's story of cloning her late dog, Samantha, prompted NPR's Scott Simon to muse on the ways cloning falls short, and the alternatives to trying to re-create a beloved pet.
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Cloning A Beloved Pet May Be A Tempting Idea, But There Are Pitfalls

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Cloning A Beloved Pet May Be A Tempting Idea, But There Are Pitfalls

Cloning A Beloved Pet May Be A Tempting Idea, But There Are Pitfalls

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Barbra Streisand talked about women in Hollywood and national politics in an interview this week for Variety. But her remark that seemed to have drawn the most attention is the star's revelation that two of her dogs, Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett, have been cloned from her late dog, Samantha, a conspicuously adorable, fluffy, white, 14-year-old dog who died last year. Miss Scarlett and Miss Violet are so similar in appearance to each other and to the late Samantha that Ms. Streisand has had to dress them in violet and scarlet coats to tell them apart. But so far, they seem to display different personalities than their genetic predecessor. I'm waiting for them to get older, Barbra Streisand told Variety, so I can see if they have her brown eyes and her seriousness.

I have no right to mock people who may seem a little daft about their dogs or cats. I am one of those people myself. I sing to our dog, which must be excruciating, given dogs' sensitive hearing. And I understand why, when you love a pet that you know is nearing the end, you may long for them to be born all over again and to enjoy another lifetime. Cloning might let you think that the dog you love can somehow be reborn, but they can't. They may have what looks like the same fur, size, nose or eyes. But that's not what gives dogs the personalities we come to cherish. Time, play and experience do that. Living beings are more than replicas.

There is also, if I may drag this phrase into a dog story, a moral point to contemplate. Cloning a dog can costs more than $50,000 and works only about a third of the time. If you go to the Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control website, you can find photos of more than a thousand dogs in their shelters, from Akitas to Maltese to whippets and all kinds of mixed breeds, ready to be adopted right now for just a $125 fee. And all of them would look happy to play Frisbee on the lawns of Barbra Streisand's Malibu estate or any other loving home.

The shorter lives of pets can seem cruel luck to us when they die after just a few years. But their highly compressed lives also make us hold them closer. They remind us of the fleeting gift of life but the endurance of love. Pet cloning may trick us into thinking that they're not perishable and rob us of what pets teach us. Time and again in our lives, we love, we lose, we learn and love again.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE WAY WE WERE")

BARBRA STREISAND: (Singing) Memories light the corners of my mind. Misty water....

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