When Talia Howard’s beloved pup Bongo was diagnosed with a progressive disease of the spinal cord five years ago, the Michigan woman was crushed.
“He has been a great companion; the best dog I’ve ever had,” she said of her pug, who suffers from degenerative myelopathy, a canine form of multiple sclerosis.
The 34-year-old relishes her time with Bongo, knowing that it won’t last much longer. She now also has a physical reminder of him that will last after he passes away, thanks to Cuddle Clones, a company that lets pet owners order plush toy versions of their animals.
The custom toymaker can create any type of animal, “but we clone mostly dogs,” said founder and “chief cloning officer” Jennifer Williams, who started the concept as a college class project in 2011. People can request special features of their pets, like a dopey smile or a hanging tongue, to make them more lifelike.
The company has seen a spike in sales over the past few months thanks to customers sharing images and videos of their clones on social media, Williams said.
It’s not hard to see why these clones have become popular on social media. Videos showing the pets puzzling over and playing with their lookalikes are hard to resist.
Adorable as they may be, these clones are not cheap. They start at $199 and customers typically wait four to five months for their orders, Williams said.
But Howard, the pug owner, said the wait and price were worth it. Bongo’s condition has worsened and Howard’s family is bracing for the pup’s departure.
“It is heartbreaking, but I know he will be at peace,” she said. “And, I have this fantastic Cuddle Clone to remember him by.”