Holding On To A Pet

Recreating Your Favorite Animal

Some people really love their dogs – they think of them almost like human beings. Take Becky Cranford, a married property manager from Novato, California. She has no children, but has been swept off her feet by her dog Antonio.

“He is my best buddy,” she says. “He's just a funny little man in a little brown dog suit.”

“I think the emotion of love is the emotion of love. And you can transfer that to an animal as easily as you can to a child.” She says she cannot imagine life without him.

To ease the pain of his inevitable death, Becky decided to preserve a piece of her beloved border terrier with the help of modern technology. Jim Axelrod reports.

Antonio will make a deposit in a doggie sperm bank. “I don't expect to get an identical twin of Antonio. That would be too much to hope for. But maybe I’ll get a better version, who knows!” she says.

Professional dog breeders have been freezing and storing semen for years, in order to sell blue-ribbon genes. But these days regular pet owners are turning to science. Veterinarian Randall Popkin of Santa Rosa, California, says it’s to make sure that pets live on in a whole new generation.

“There’s an incredible bond that’s equally as strong as the bonds that I see with their own children,” says Dr. Popkin. The pet fertility business is booming and there are now dozens of semen freezing centers across the country.

Dr. Popkin is counting on a simple whiff of a dog in heat, known in the field as a “teaser bitch,” to get Antonio in the mood. The plan works, and Dr. Popkin gets a sample of Antonio’s semen.

Antonio’s semen will be frozen in a tank of liquid nitrogen, at a little over negative-200 degrees Fahrenheit. It will be kept there until Becky finds the proper mate to inseminate.

Becky thinks that she just outfoxed nature at bargain basement prices. For $300, she’ll hold onto a piece of her precious pet long after he’s gone.

Some are troubled by the idea of cloning the family pet. “I think it fools the person into thinking that the animal is a replacement replicate of the animal that they’ve known and loved,” says Dr. Alan Beck, who runs the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University.

Denise Hoffman and her family disagree. Thanks to a sample of frozen semen, their dog Chester was born three years after his father, Spike, had died.

“He is just like his Daddy dog Spike,” says Denise. “Something was brought back into our lives that we lost when Spike died.”

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