A hairdresser to the stars including Britney Spears has welcomed a CLONED French bulldog to make his quarantine bearable.
Roberto Novo, 61, paid a staggering $50,000 to have his beloved Machito cloned and received the adorable genetic duplicate Machitwo in the midst of the pandemic.
The stylist admitted that New Yorkers taking their daily exercise in the locked down city still coo over the pup - which wears a mask - but from a safe distance of six feet away.
"Machitwo is as cute as can be and people want to pet him.
"But because of coronavirus no one can touch him so they take a picture from six feet away."
Shockingly, Machitwo was born on February 7, the same day that the original Machito passed away at the age of fourteen.
Roberto, who has styled the hair of Grace Jones, Naomi Campbell and Britney Spears, said: "Machito was the son I never had.
"Fourteen years was not long enough, I needed him for at least 14 years more and that's why I decided to clone him."
Machito was doted on by Roberto's celebrity clients and the bulldog was pictured with Grace Jones, Alec Baldwin and John Galliano.
The hairdresser began the cloning process with Texas company ViaGen Pets in early 2019 while Machito's health was beginning to decline.
Roberto explained that the thought of losing Machito convinced him to pursue cloning.
"Machito was always there for me.
"He was a French bulldog with soulful eyes.
"I knew when he was gone I would suffer and cloning him was the best thing I ever did."
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.
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.
Melain Rodriguez, client service manager at ViaGen Pets, 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 which gives birth to puppies genetically identical to the original dog.
After two failed gestations, Machitwo was born on February 7 which was, sadly, the day that Machito passed away.
Roberto was devastated - and unaware that the pooch's clone had been born that day.
"Machito died and I was freaking out.
"I suffered for one week because ViaGen didn't want to contact me out of respect for Machito's passing.
"My pain was so strong but when they told me that his clone had been born, I felt relief."
Originally Roberto planned to fly to Austin, Texas, to pick up his pup but due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, ViaGen transported Machitwo to Syracuse, New York, where Roberto was finally able to hold Machito's clone on April 10.
"I was excited and crying.
"When I saw the puppy, I cried that something that belonged to Machito was in my hands.
"It was out of this world.
"He does look exactly like Machito.
"He has the same little white spot on his forehead and on the back of his neck."
He added that he never thought he would be receiving a puppy in the middle of a pandemic.
"I feel for women who have had a baby in this time and the grandparents that can't see the baby.
"For me, it's just a little puppy - it's the same feeling in a different way.
"People want to play with him but it is a very strange feeling because I can't share my happiness with them even though everyone loves puppies.
"It does make it easier to stay inside because he is with me."
Roberto defended his decision to spend $50,000 on cloning his beloved dog, comparing it to buying a car.
"Some people tell me it is crazy to spend $50,000 to clone a dog.
"But this is for me.
"People will spend $50,000 on a car, I spent $50,000 on a dog that will give me unconditional love."
Roberto hopes to one day set up a shelter for pooches who have not received the same kind of care and attention as he has bestowed on his canines.
"I want to open a dog shelter for puppies who have not been as lucky as Machito."