By Patrick F. Cannon
The last time I looked, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized 190 dog breeds. In addition to the familiar ones like Poodles, German Shepards, Labs, Collies and Cocker Spaniels, in 2014 the AKC registered its first Coton de Tulear. As you can see from the illustration, they’re cute little balls of cuddly white fur. Neither sex weighs more than about 8 pounds, so they’re the kind of pooch you might see peeking out a handbag toted by some fashionably-dressed rich woman.
Indeed, one such woman – Barbra Streisand – is a notable Coton de Tulear owner. A recent news story revealed that her favorite Coton, named Miss Samantha, had died at age 14. Before that sad event, Streisand had some of her DNA harvested, which was then used to clone Miss Samantha, resulting in not one but two pups, Miss Violet and Miss Scarlett. It has been reported that a single cloning costs about $50,000; perhaps she got a discount for doing two.
Now, I have always admired Streisand’s singing. When she was young, her singing voice was in sharp contrast to her strong Brooklyn accent. She often appeared on the Tonight Show with Jack Paar, and had the reputation of being a somewhat kooky free spirit. She had successful careers on both the Broadway stage and later in the movies, most notably with Hello Dolly and Funny Girl. She also starred in one of the worst movies ever made, The Way We Were, which amazingly (to me) was a great success.
Needless to say, she has made a great deal of money. While she doesn’t work much any more – she’s 75 — I’m sure the royalties keep pouring in. She has been generous in supporting charities and, like all the Hollywood nabobs, Democratic candidates. Over the years, she has also spent millions on decorating and redecorating her houses. She is not only a singing star, but a favorite of the crowd that can’t wait for the next issue of Architectural Digest, where the envious gawk at the excesses of the envied. Anyway, considering how much dough she has, cloning a favorite dog seems like something she might have done out of the petty cash.
It was also stupid. Most experts could have told her that cloning may result in a dog that looks just like the dear departed, but it’s unlikely that its temperament and other qualities would be the same. Coton de Tulears are not cheap, but you can buy a show- quality pup for about $4,000, or about $46,000 less than a cloned one. And, like other breeds, there are rescue dogs that actually need a new home available for much less.
Thankfully, self indulgent dog lovers like Streisand aren’t as numerous as the cloners (mostly in Korea) had hoped. Most folks can accept that their dogs are going to die before they do. When they die, they grieve and then often go right out and get another one. I have owned no fewer than eight in my life. At my age, my sweet Poodle, Rosie, may be the last, but it’s wise to never say never.
While cloning the family pet is bad enough, I’m afraid that human cloning will come whether we legislate against it or not. The people who even now want to do it will find candidates rich enough and arrogant enough to think that they are somehow superior to the general run of their fellow humans, and thus worthy of eternal life. Not sure how much they’ll charge, but if rich folks are willing to pay $50,000 to give new life to a pooch, I guess the sky’s the limit.
Copyright 2018, Patrick F. Cannon