A university colleague once suggested that my wife Anne and I might find therapeutic help by starting a 12-step recovery group called Pets Anonymous. That was the time when we had just added a fourth foster dog to our breed brood, along with a cat and another stray dog who took to camping out in our garage. Ray thought maybe we were falling into a pet addiction profile?
Over the past 10 years, we have been a way station for Golden Retrievers, Labs, Goldendoodles, Labradoodles, a Chow, several Greyhounds (very underrated by many as pets), and one strange low-body beagle mongrel we called “Mr. Stubblefield” who loved me, hated everyone else, and often got inexplicably mad at his right rear foot. He was the garage dog who couldn’t decide whether to stay or go.
The Web Connection
The connection between all these animals and the Web 2.0 media is that most of them came our way through online portals. Just about every animal rescue group has taken to the Web to find permanent or foster homes for the available animals. A very brief, partial listing of these sites includes:
There is even a site for those wanting to rescue older dogs (www.srdogs.com) and several for those wanting to rescue horses like www.indianahorserescue.com. Then of course there are the many breed-specific sites like the Greyhound site of www.fastfriends.org.
A rescue database
To show you how these rescue sites work, let’s take a look at one of the largest and most well-known: Petfinder.com, or the last one on the above bulleted list. This outfit, which is really a kind of Grand Central Station for individual adoption agencies, is the virtual home of some 350,000 dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, reptiles, pigs, and other barnyard animals.
Petfinder is a Discovery Communications company, the same outfit that brings us the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, Planet Green, etc. Sounds like a neat group to work for if you’re into animals, or exploring/saving the planet. Petfinder says of itself the following:
“Petfinder is an online, searchable database of animals who need homes. It is also a directory of more than 13,000 animal shelters and adoption organizations across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Organizations maintain their own home pages and available-pet databases.”
The folks at Petfinder and the myriad of other individual adoption sites know that pet lovers have become accustomed to using the Web to find pets that best match their needs. Online searches allow them to access an individual shelter’s Web page and find out what kind of pets they have, what the rules of adoption are, whether they are no-kill shelters, how they take care of their animals, etc., etc.
Petfinder is made up of animal-care professionals and everyday animal-lovers who volunteer for local and national animal welfare organizations and groups. Together, these people maintain active and accurate homeless pet lists, and Petfinder acts as a central database for most of these organizations. It is very much like a one-stop shopping mall for pets online.
Gotta read this one
I’ll close out with the tale of one rescued tail, this one attached to a fawn-and-white Whippet named Dapper
who was jettisoned to the ASPCA because he was ill and his owner didn’t take the time to find out what exactly was wrong. An employee took interest in the dog, however, had him examined and the problem turned out to be minimal. The result? The loving owner writes:
“As the saying toes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. What a gem! Dapper was easily assimilated into my furry family of one Italian Greyhound and three cats – ass rescues. He aced his obedience class and went on to a career as a therapy dog, working with mentally challenged adults and nursing home residents. However, his most important work was with young men and women dying from AIDS-related illnesses. His story of being cast out because of an illness struck home with many. By empathizing with a skinny, old Whippet, they could finally express their own pain and anger.” (http://www.petfinder.com/before-pet-adoption/tale-dapper-dog.html)
What else is there to say other than, “Wow!” Or maybe even (grrrr…) “Bow Wow?”
Before I start this week’s post, I want to thank those of you who chimed in last week via e-mails and Facebook posts about your own “customer service” misadventures.
My favorite was actually one from my wife Anne who wrote, “In calling my bank to ask a question, an electronic voice put me on a long hold during a busy time of my day. I became more upset when the inanimate entity said my call was very important and I would be connected to a ‘relationship specialist.’”
Okay, so now we turn from relationship specialists to dogs. Seems like an appropriate transition.
Often the ideas for these posts are born out of streams of consciousness (“Really?” you ask in feigned surprise, wondering why this post should be any different), and today’s is, in fact, no exception.
The link is there
Lest there is one or two of you who might ask, “What do dogs have to do with new media technology?” let me explain.
I’m talking about the messages that underground fences impart to digital collars worn around the necks of unsuspecting (until it’s too late) dogs. Hi-tech messaging, right? No one said this blog had to be about how humans communicate. Relevance established, we proceed.
A lot of people collect a lot of different kinds of things. My wife and I collect dogs. More accurately, our home has served for years as a way station for wayward tail-waggers. Some have stayed several years, and some have moved on to other homes that we’ve located for them. One such interloper was a brindled Greyhound named Juggler who had the bad habit of waking up every morning at 3 and insisting we let him out to run around the front yard. That got old pretty fast, and Juggler is now living in Columbus, Ohio.
You can stay, but …
Every dog we’ve shepherded over the past several years has had to meet our unseen fence as a pet safety measure. I swore it could never contain a Greyhound, but I was wrong. In the race between electricity and speed, the former wins every time.
Among the half-dozen or so dogs we’ve fostered since the wire went into the ground, only two of them had problems with it. In their case, however, the problem wasn’t trying to cross the wire; it was trying to get them back outside at all once they encountered the initial zings while crossing the arc of the learning curve.
One of those dogs was a manic hound named Buddy who thought the grass was electrified so refused for a long time to ever venture off the front porch and driveway. The second case was even more interesting. That was our fostered black lab, Shadow, a rough-and-tumble lovable dog who seemed totally fearless of any challenge put in front of him. Except an invisible fence, that is.
Electra beats electric
Shadow’s reaction to the first electronic zing was to assume not, as Buddy had, that the grass was electrified. Shadow assumed that the entire ground was electrified, so he concluded the only safe place to be was on the roof of our Buick. And that is where he scampered and took up residence for a few hours until being coaxed by his pal Margie to come on down and give the earth another try.
These invisible fences contain three elements that usually do the trick for all dogs: the buried wire (fence) itself, the control box that’s mounted on a garage wall and allows you to increase or decrease the zing on a scale of 1-10, and the electronic collar wrapped around Fang’s neck. Of the three items, you don’t want to lose the collars because they run about $300 each. The whole fence set is way cheaper than your standard privacy or chain-link fence, though, and it’s in line with a lot more subdivision covenants than above-ground fences which have a way of deteriorating in a few years time.
You go first, Dad
If you’ve never used an invisible fence, you will discover that the installer will first ask you to feel the zing that your dog will feel before installing it, so you won’t feel like a sadist when you flip the on-switch. While noticeable, the sensation is, in fact, more like a mild sting than a power-line shock. Of course most of these human tests are run at lower levels rather than higher, but the fact is that many dogs are contained with the same level 3 or 4. We do have one dog now, Stitch, who won’t stop under anything less than a level 9 zing, and I’m not even sure that really bothers him.
All dogs get an aural warning in the form of a beep (which I’ve never been able to hear) when they get too close to the line and, like Pavlov’s canine, that stops most of them because they know what might come next if they keep going.
Watching this electronic warning system work over the years has often made me wonder if an invisible fence application might not work to keep us humans away from things that are bad for us, just as the street is for dogs. Here are a few places where installing an invisible fence, emitting stronger jolts to say, electronic belts, might work for us:
* A three-foot radius around the refrigerator.
* A mile radius around a casino.
* The entry to our driveways on afternoons we have pledged to work out at the gym first before going home. (Exiting the gym after 30 minutes would deactivate the driveway wire.)
* The entire circumference of a golf course on afternoons we husbands should be spending doing home or yard improvements.
* The bag containing our laptop and the clip containing our i-Phone or Droid on weekends and vacations.
Feel free to add to the list. Might as well make technology help us live the kind of lives we, as well our dogs, should be living.