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Tag: online

Online service offers to match you up with the right adoptable dog, not the cutest

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Borrowing from eHarmony, three women in New England have started an online service that matches those seeking dogs to adoptable dogs that will best fit their personalities and lifestyles.

How I Met My Dog features a detailed questionnaire for potential adopters that asks dozens of questions about a potential pet owner’s tastes and interests.

Those shelters and rescue taking part, meanwhile, provide specific information on the animal’s habits and behavior patterns.

Computer software does the rest.

The goal is to match up would-be dog owners with pets they won’t regret taking home — and will be less likely to return, according to the Boston Globe.

Jody Andersen and Mary Ann Zeman launched the company earlier this year in New England under the belief that adopting the right dog, as opposed to the cutest dog, can make a huge difference in the outcome of that adoption.

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Andersen, author of a 2002 book, “The Latchkey Dog,” is a believer in computer-assisted relationships, having met her husband online. She also used the developing software to find her current dog, a Weimaraner named Finn.

“We want you to fall in love at first sight, with a dog you can live with,” she said.

The service is free while in startup mode. Afterward, it will charge $49 to match would-be owners to available pets, and $75 to a current dog owner who wants to rehome their pet. Animal shelters can list their dogs at no charge.

Andersen lives in Long Island, N.Y., Zeman, lives in Connecticut, while Alana Mahoney, who manages the company’s relationships with pet shelters, serves on the board of the Massachusetts Animal Coalition and lives in Hopkinton, Mass.

Andersen said she has received inquiries from 400 animal shelters nationwide that are interested in trying out the new service.

“Every year there’s four million dogs surrendered to shelters,” Andersen said. “How I Met My Dog wants to find a home for every dog, where it will thrive.”

(Top photo: Jodi Andersen (left) and Mary Ann Zeman, cofounders of How I Met My Dog, in Boston, with Andersen’s dog Finn, a Weimaraner; by Jonathan Wiggs / Boston Globe)

When drones deliver will dogs get to growling? Amazon wants to know

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Reports surfaced this week that Amazon, as it continues to develop its top secret project to someday deliver packages by drones, has obtained a “simulated dog” so they can assess what obstacles dogs might pose to drones, and how to avoid them.

This is a real story. Honest.

It sounds a little like something out of an episode of Robot Wars, but the dangers dogs could pose to drones, and, more important, drones could pose to dogs, are well worth considering if this whole drone delivery idea is going to come to pass.

(Which I’d prefer it didn’t.)

Amazon doesn’t care what I think, though, and it is proceeding very secretly on the drone project, and looking at how to equip drones with enough artificial intelligence (beyond GPS) for them to cope with what postal carriers have long been coping with — everything from dogs to clotheslines.

Ironically, the Amazon simulated dog story came out same day the Postal Service released its latest dog bite figures, which are undergoing the largest increase in three decades.

Dog attacks on postal workers rose last year to 6,755, up 206 from the previous year — but the increase comes amid double-digit increases in the post office’s package business. Postal carriers are visiting more homes more frequently and at all times of day, often burdened with packages, thanks to agreements the Postal Service struck with Amazon in 2013 and 2014.

In other words, the more Internet shopping we all do, the greater burden we put on postal carriers, thereby increasing the chances for them to be victims of dog bites.

Unless of course packages are being delivered by drones, as Amazon — clearly the biggest catalyst in online shopping’s growth — proposes to do.

If there’s a conspiracy theory that might apply to all this, please feel free to apply it. Because I can’t come up with one.

According to the International Business Times, Amazon is using the simulated dogs as it conducts tests with drones in the UK.

It is not known how many simulated dogs there are in Amazon’s pack or what, if any, behaviors they’ve been programmed to imitate — barking, biting, tail-wagging?

410I1FkDAkLNor is it known whether Amazon created them, procured them from a contractor, or ordered them from themselves.

Amazon has been testing delivery drones since 2015. In July 2016 it signed a partnership with the UK government to explore the safe use of UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles) to make deliveries in rural and suburban areas.

There are plenty of rough spots still to be figured out, most of them dealing with the drone’s use of air space.

But, once it comes time for a drone to land, one of the major concerns is going to be dogs. The drones will deliver packages, guided by GPS, and leave them on a special welcome mat the customer has placed on a front porch or a back patio.

Some dogs, I suspect, will cower in fear when a drone appears overhead; maybe a few will take them in stride, but many will see them as humming and hovering monsters, intent on trying to invade their territory.

(Which, to me, is a pretty accurate description.)

A drone’s blades can inflict serious damage, and ingesting a drone’s parts could also be a hazard. And Amazon is not unaware of the potential liabilities.

So now it’s researching how to give drones some artificial intelligence — to equip them with the ability to protect themselves when they sense a danger to themselves or others.

Given it’s a dog friendly company, it’s not likely Amazon will arm drones to spray cayenne pepper when a dog approaches.

Dropping a couple of treats — charming as that would be, and though it works well for postal carriers — probably wouldn’t work, either.

More likely, the drones will be taught to just abort their landing and return to their home base if a dog’s presence is sensed.

That could ruin many a “same day delivery,” but, unless you are ordering insulin, is that really so important?

The best solution is pretty obvious. Drop the fanciful and futuristic pipe dream. Keep the skies clear. Let humans make the deliveries.

I’ll gladly wait another day, or two, or three, for my package in exchange for the benefits that would offer — jobs, peace and quiet, and safer dogs and children among them.

(Photos: At top, an Amazon delivery drone, courtesy of Amazon.com; lower, the Genibo SD Robotic Dog, available from Amazon)

Rover.com gobbles up DogVacay

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The country’s largest online pet sitting and dog walking company has bought out the second largest.

Rover.com, based in Seattle, was already top dog, but by acquiring DogVacay, based in Los Angeles, it becomes one offering pet owners access to more than 100,000 “five-star” pet walkers, boarders and sitters across the country.

Together, the two companies generated over $150 million in bookings in 2016.

The combined company will keep the Rover name, and will remain based in Seattle, Geekwire.com reports.

Terms of the all-stock deal were not revealed.

According to the Los Angeles Times, 22 of DogVacay’s 100-plus employees will be laid off.

The combined company, which will have 250 employees, will be led by Rover.com CEO Aaron Easterly. DogVacay CEO Aaron Hirschhorn will join the board of directors

Both companies provide customers with access to independent pet-sitters and dog-walkers, and keep about 20 percent of the fees those contractors charge clients. Pet owners also pay a service fee of up to 7% with each booking.

“Rover and DogVacay are both made up of dog people on a mission to enable everyone to experience the love and joy of a pet,” Easterly said in a news release. “Together, we can accomplish our goals quicker and make an even bigger impact. Plus, this partnership will enable us to pick up engineering velocity, bring new products to market faster and invest even more aggressively in building the best tools for our sitters and dog walkers.”

A 2017 resolution on those silly dog videos

Have you resolved to spend less time watching funny dog videos in the New Year?

Or more?

This one, for instance, will take up 45 seconds to watch, and you’ll never get that time back. On the other hand, it’ll probably make you smile.

We’d suggest devoting the amount of time to watching silly dog videos that seems right to you.

If you’re in need of saving some time, we’d suggest not reading the text that accompanies silly dog videos, because they most often just describe what you’ve just watched, in a very wordy manner, throwing in lots of description but no facts you haven’t already discerned from watching the video you just watched.

Here’s an example from the Daily Mail, one of many media outlets that scour the internet for pet videos they think have viral potential, and then put together — based on no other facts — some words to fill space. (If that weren’t repetitious enough, they generally post numerous stills, taken from the video they just showed you.)

So as you watch this dachshund joyfully consume the bright yellow banana he holds between his paws while lying on his back, keep all that in mind.

And know we resolve — firmly, as with all our resolutions — to never fall victim to that practice.

Harley dishonored? You won’t be seeing this

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Allegations of wide-scale voter fraud may not effect the presidential race, but they have kept a one-eyed Chihuahua from appearing on the tail of Frontier Airlines jets.

The Denver-based airline announced Monday that it has suspended its “Mascot on the Tail” contest because it had been “compromised” by fraudulent voting.

“We have determined that the contest has been compromised by fraudulent activity and ineligible voting that has created an unfair environment for all participants,” the airline said in a statement. “We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience.”

The contest, launched in March, invited universities, high schools and other organizations to campaign and vote for their mascot to appear on the tail of some Frontier planes.

Given that getting themselves free publicity (and gathering as many email addresses as possible) were the real reasons for Frontier to hold the contest, and given online contests aren’t exactly the epitome of the one-person-one-vote ideal, the airline’s explanation came across as a little hollow, and a little suspect.

Especially to those supporting Harley, a one-eyed Chihuahua who was the mascot of National Mill Dog Rescue.

Harley3Harley, a puppy mill survivor and the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog for 2015, was among the top vote-getters in the contest (voting was scheduled to end April 30) when it was abruptly called off.

“Once entered, Harley quickly gained tremendous support thanks to you – his fans – and he also gained the support of several news stations, animal welfare organizations and even celebrities,” a statement on on Harley’s Facebook page says.

“Over the course of a week Harley reached over 37,000 votes and was in first place. He was well ahead of all other contestants…It soon became clear that Harley had an excellent chance of winning the contest. Then, suddenly, Frontier Airlines suspended the contest. Their explanation was that there was voter fraud and they blamed international voters.”

Frontier spokesman Jim Faulkner said the airline did not suspend the voting due to the possibility of Harley winning, the Denver Post reported.

Instead, the contest was halted due to “several” instances of fraud, including cases of ineligible, non-U.S. residents voting, he said.

Faulkner did not pinpoint any particular contestant that was benefiting from “fraudulent” voting.

The airline plans to send $20 travel vouchers to everyone who voted in the online contest as “a token of good will,” he added.

Harley’s supporters freely admit to campaigning heavily for their candidate. They saw it as a way to educate the public about the horrors of puppy mills and honor the memory of Harley, who passed away last month at the age of 15.

Creating a social media buzz, and spreading the word about the contest served them well, and served Frontier Airlines well.

harley2So is there some other reason — other than wanting to be certain their online voting process was pristine and ethical — behind Frontier’s decision to terminate the contest?

We’d hate to think politics were involved, or that some airline big wig thought the image of a one-eyed dog might besmirch their shiny jets.

Other mascots competing in the contest included Colorado State University’s Cam the Ram; University of Colorado’s Ralphie the bison; University of Florida’s Albert and Alberta Gator; and the University of California Santa Cruz mascot, Sammy the Slug.

Harley, a little dog who came to represent perseverance and resiliency, was the only contestant with a message — and maybe that frightened the airline. Maybe they were afraid of losing any unethical breeders they had as passengers.

Michele Burchfield, marketing director for the National Mill Dog Rescue, said Harley’s high number of votes were the result of his message and an active social media and e-mail campaign that caught on with puppy mill opponents across the country.

“If Frontier opens up the contest again, we would be thrilled to enter him again and honored to have him on the tail of a plane knowing that our voting is legitimate and honest,” Burchfield said. “We did everything we could to bring this honor to him.”

“This little guy could get a million votes in a month if he needed it,” she said.

Be careful what you write in the memo field

Bruce Francis wrote a check to his dog walker this month the same way he always does — online.

He logged on to his Chase account from his home in the San Francisco area, filled out the payment form, and in the memo field he typed the name of his dog, Dash.

dashDash is a 9-year-old pit bull and a certified therapy dog who helps Francis deal with multiple sclerosis.

Later, though, the dog walker reported to him that she never got the money.

Francis logged back into his account and saw he had a message that his transaction had been “flagged,” and the money had not been sent to the intended recipient.

The message said his payment was “under compliance department review for a possible OFAC or JPM risk policy issue.” It asked him to provide an explanation of what DASH was, and, if it was a company, where it was based.

(OFAC — though I’d guess maybe only one of out of every 50 Americans knows this — stands for Office of Foreign Assets Control. It’s part of the Treasury Department.)

Bruce called OFAC, and was informed that the transaction was flagged because his dog’s name is similar to the word DAESH, a term for ISIS in the Islamic world.

“I thought to myself, ‘Great, they’re stopping the world’s stupidest terrorist,'” Francis told KTVU.

What happened to Francis isn’t that unusual, said Edward Hasbrouck, who represents a civil liberties group called the Identity Project.

Banks are required to scan all the financial transactions of their customers and turn over anything suspicious to the Treasury Department.

“What happens is that the government requires the banks to become in effect, outsourced spies for the government,” Hasbrouck said.

A Chase spokesperson issued this statement to KTVU: “If a name on the OFAC list appears on a payment, we are required to review it. This is an important part of ensuring that crime does not filter through the us banking system. In this instance, the payment was flagged, reviewed and eventually released.”

Francis didn’t seem too bothered by it all. If it’s an intrusion, it’s a necessary one, he said.

“I think anything we can do to stop the terrorists and the funding of terrorists, let’s do it. And if it means an inconvenience to me and my dog walker then that’s a price I’m totally willing to pay.”

What happens when you fall in love online

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It wasn’t the first time someone has fallen in love online.

It wasn’t the first time someone dropped everything to travel across the country to meet and claim the object of his affection.

But it may be the first time that someone has been able to get members of the public to help finance such a trip.

That’s probably because the girl of Joel Carpenter’s dreams was a dog — a husky-shepherd-collie mix named Sadie that he spotted on Petfinder and was so smitten with that he bought a one-way ticket to Minneapolis to adopt her, knowing full well he didn’t have the money to get back home to Maine.

“For whatever reason, Sadie just struck me,” the 23-year-old told the Detroit Free Press. “I felt like I need to fly out to rescue her; at the core, there was just this intense feeling that I was doing the right thing.”

“You could say I’m winging it a little bit,” he added in an interview conducted while he and the dog were stuck in Michigan. “I was just kind of following my heart.”

Joel Carpenter flew from his home in Portland, Maine to Minneapolis on Sept. 22 and adopted Sadie from a local shelter.

While there, what little money he had — what with taxi fares, motels and adoption fees — ran out.

It could be Carpenter is just young and brash and a poor planner, but, more likely, he saw the whole thing as an adventure.

He knew he might have to rely on ride-sharing and couch-surfing on the trip home — and things started out well enough when he got a ride from Minnesota to Grand Rapids in a kindly gentleman’s RV.

There, he found a couple that invited Sadie and him to stay in their home. But when he ran into trouble finding another ride he decided to call a local news station to see if they could help “spread the word that I needed a ride back to Maine.”

Here we have to question whether Carpenter was so gullible as to think a news station would gladly broadcast his ride needs, or so savvy as to know he was sitting in the middle of a pretty good story.

After the news report, Carpenter’s phone started ringing.

“News papers and News stations all curious about my story. What was most encouraging was the positive support for me and Sadie. Many people became invested in our adventure, and wanted to help out any way they could. Many people have told me we should try Go Fund Me … So here we are!” Carpenter wrote on the Gofundme page he established.

Between it and a Facebook page started by his girlfriend, donations and offers of help poured in — food, toys, motel rooms and, finally enough money to buy an airplane ticket.

On Wednesday Joel and Sadie hitched a ride from Grand Rapids to Detroit, where another good Samaritan bought Carpenter and Sadie a hotel room for the night. On Thursday, he and Sadie flew home.

The saga of Carpenter and Sadie raises more than a few questions — including just how loose a screening process that shelter must have had to hand a dog over to someone who lived 1,500 miles away, with no money, and no clear way home. Was that irresponsible, or did they just fall for the romanticism of it all?

I kind of did, and I’m a cynical sort. But then again I uprooted my dog from his stable home to spend a year on the road, traveling across America in a car but on a shoestring, including doing a little couch-surfing and a little relying on the kindness of strangers.

Is the saga of Carpenter and Sadie proof that love conquers all? Is it the epitome of irresponsibility? An excellent adventure? Or is it just the kind of thing dog-crazy people do?

I ‘d love to hear your opinions on all this (and unlike most websites that ask you for that I really mean it) because — other than being happy they are safely back home — I’m not sure what exactly mine is.

(Photo of Joel and Sadie from WZZM)