Vet visits aside, dogs require no gadgets. Yet the supply of 'canine' techno-doodads only grows, as evidenced by the pitches that accumulate in the delete box, requesting that this or that new animal-machine be 'reviewed.'
I place the word in scare quotes because PR people invariably do this cute thing whereby they ask to send it to my dogs to be reviewed. "Tell me what puppy thinks!" Then something arrives in the mail addressed to "Trixy and Mocha Beschizza" and the UPS man looks at me all weird.
So, fair enough, one exception is the excellent Zoombak GPS collar, reviewed here by Steven Leckart. It is exactly what it purports to be. "If it's an emergency, getting an update with a specific address that is even 1-2 blocks away from your dog is an AMAZING proposition. For only $100 and a monthly fee of $10-15, despite some technical difficulties, this thing's a winner."
PetCell is a similar offering, but allows you to actually call your pet and speak to it, too. Sit! I can see that working, but only if the animal were trained appropriately -- would many of us do so? But there's the rub: you're buying yourself an idea whose successful execution depends on many other things. And so it is with pet tech, where we disengage ourselves in increments from our furry friend's real needs and enter the world of our own whims.
You might also consider outsourcing the love to Wag, a pet hotel Lisa Katayama says "promises the ultimate in canine luxury." Among the technological delights: flatscreen television, a networked camera for remote pet-welfare inspection, and an atmospheric filtration system. Arugula for rabbits!
Is this Pet Doorbell necessary? I ask because my dogs sit by closed doors and bark; less enchanting, but just as easily understood. And not $30.
And did you know there was postmodern furniture for pets? Not a gadget, I know. But it's still the same basic idea: pay lots of money to validate one's personal bond to an inscrutable beast, which in this case would prefer to recline on an Ettore Sottsass shelf.
You know how Tamagotchi and Nintendogs are like pale, sad shadows of the real thing? TheSnif Tag goes one better, turning the chop-licking joy of a real animal companion into a series of neat statistical charts for you to examine while it begs for your attention. It's an accellerometer and RFID collar-tag that transmits 'motion data' to a base station; so armed, you can quantify your dog's daily routines.
More fun is the Pets Eye View Camera, a tiny dangly box which hangs from Rover's collar and snaps ground-level pictures at 1, 5 or 15 minute intervals. Caveats: the pictures are 0.3 megapixels and poor quality, and there's only enough space for 40 of them. A skilled maker could easily make something better.
Pictured above is a $555 dog-powered scooter, trike and skateboard system, presented here without comment.
There is, however, a final item whose utility is clear: Bissell's Spotbot Pet edition, a mini spot cleaner that sqirts stains, brushes them clean and slurps the mess into an easily-cleanable tank. It works great on "puke, pee, or butt juice," and is $130 at Amazon.
Have you have any success with anything in the genre? One thing I've been tempted to try one of those portion-control electronic feeder thingies, but I just can't think of a good reason to that isn't really just an incentive to spend less time with my dogs.
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