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Tag: screening

Loaner dogs: There’s an app for that … but should there be?

barknborrow

Once again, I’m app-rehensive.

Seems to me we’re turning to apps for just about everything these days — even to accomplish all the simple things that used to come naturally, in time, with a little effort.

Want all the ingredients to cook up a tasty dinner? Don’t go to the grocery store. Fire up an app and have them delivered. Want a ride from here to there, a date, a wife, a plumber, travel directions? Turn to an app.

Need an inspirational phrase or selection of scripture to get through your day? Need to know what the weather’s doing? Don’t open a Bible. Don’t step outside. Fire up an app.

There are, of course, plenty of apps you can use to buy or adopt a dog, or at least get pointed in the right direction. But now comes an app aimed at those who want a dog but can’t have one.

It matches up people who want to spend a limited time with a dog with dog owners who wouldn’t mind a little help — in other words, the app serves as a middle man, as apps often do, charging both sides, as apps often do.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m between dogs, and find myself seeking out a canine fix several times a week. I strongly believe that the joy of dogs should be spread among as many people as possible, and that it’s in a dog’s interest to hang out with as many new people in new situations as possible.

I’m all for those two groups — those with dogs and dog-less folks wanting to spend time with one — getting matched up, assuming all involved are sincere dog-loving sorts without evil agendas. But what’s to assure that?

All these start-up apps promise “screening” and “vetting,” but try to find one that actually describes what steps they take in that process, other than using a vague term like “background check.” You rarely, if ever, will.

My guess is that they all use a background check app for that.

So we end up with psycho Uber drivers, and getting matched up for dates with “millionaire bachelors” who are actually unemployed sex offenders, and plumbers who are only vaguely familiar with what a wrench does.

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Berkeley

Bark’N’Borrow is the brainchild of 24-year-old Liam Berkeley.

Berkeley says the app is meant for people who wish they could have a dog, but can’t care for one full-time. It connects them with dog-owners who are willing or wanting to loan them their dog for playdates and sleepovers.

The app also caters to dog owners who are interested in trading dog sitting responsibilities with each other, thereby avoiding hiring a dog sitter or relying on a kennel.

The app had 70,000 users even before it debuted its 2.0 version on Friday, National Dog Day, according to Forbes.com. The new version includes a paid subscription model — users pay $7.99 for one month or $4.99 a month if they sign up for three months.

“Dog sharing connects you with people and puts your dog in a happier place,” Berkeley said. “There’s more love to be shared.”

With the app, dog owners can browse potential borrowers, and borrowers can flip through borrow-able dogs, seeing where they are located, their breed, size, personality, breed and training level.

On the plus side, Bark’N’Borrow is donating 5% of all subscription fees to the Best Friends Animal Society.

It also says it is insuring every subscriber — both dog owner and dog borrower — for accidents up to $2 million, just to be on the safe side. (That insurance only applies to dog dates that are scheduled on the app’s platform.)

Berkeley points out that dog owners hire dog walkers they don’t know all the time. “Your dog sitter and dog walker are a stranger until they become your dog sitter or dog walker,” he said. “We do a very good job of vetting each individual. We try to create the safest, most responsible community possible.”

The website does not describe what’s involved in that “vetting.”

Berkeley, originally from Sydney, moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment and launched the site in 2014. He said he came up with the app idea when he and his then-girlfriend wanted to adopt a dog but knew they couldn’t look after one with their busy schedules.

Instead, they played with neighbors’ dogs, which helped Berkeley realized many people — those with dogs and those without them — would like an arrangement like that.

It is a wonderful thing, when it happens naturally.

To coax it into place by remote control, and on a nationwide scale, strikes me as problematic — just like those dog rental companies that popped up a few years ago and, thankfully, went away.

For a non-dog owner seeking some dog time, there might be better ways:

Go for walks and see who you run into. Strike up conversations (an exchange of words that occurs verbally and face to face, without the use of a device). Volunteer at your local shelter or with a rescue group. Go to a dog park, even though you don’t have a dog. (It’s allowed.) Attend dog-related functions.

For dog owners, good old-fashioned friends are probably a preferable, and less pimp-like, alternative, to turning your dog’s leash over to a stranger and saying “OK, have fun, see ya in a few hours.”

I won’t go so far as to say one should never use this app.

I’d just say use it carefully, as you might use Craigslist. If you do meet with a listed dog borrower (or even an owner), do it in public, with a friend along. And don’t rely on your first impression, or all that vetting the app promises.

In other words, do like they did in the old days and get to know that person first.

Before you turn your dog over to a stranger, make sure he or she is not a stranger anymore.

(Photos: Barn’N’Borrow)

A dog in every doctor’s office? Why not?

With evidence both anecdotal and scientific showing dogs have the potential to sniff out diabetes — or at least detect the changes that occur when a person is about to have a hypoglycemic attack — a research center in southern England is training dogs to warn diabetic owners when their blood sugar levels fall to dangerously low levels.

As this 2007 video shows, some dogs already have the skill down, but the Cancer and Bio-Detection Dogs research center in Aylesbury, based on recent evidence suggesting a dog’s hyper-sensitive nose can detect impending attacks, is now working to train 17 dogs that will be paired up with diabetic owners.

A survey last December by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast found 65 percent of 212 people with insulin-dependent diabetes reported that their pets had reacted by whining, barking, licking or some other display when they had a hypoglycemic episode, according to Reuters.

“Dogs have been trained to detect certain odors down to parts per trillion, so we are talking tiny, tiny amounts. Their world is really very different to ours,” research center Chief Executive Claire Guest said.

The center is continuing work to perfect dogs’ ability in spotting signs of cancer. Guest said having a dog in every doctor’s office would be impractical, but the research could help lead to the invention of an electronic nose that will mimic a dog’s.

“At the moment electronic noses are not as advanced as the dogs’, they are about 15 years behind. But the work that we are doing and what we are finding out will help scientists advance quickly so that they can use electronic noses to do the same thing,” she said.

Pretty amazing stuff, but I think I’d rather be diagnosed by a dog than an electronic nose. And what’s so impractical about a dog in every doctor’s office? Seems entirely practical to me, and a good way — if shelter dogs could be trained to sniff out disease — to allow everyone to live a little longer.

Besides, it would make doctors’ offices far more inviting, and give us something to do in the waiting room.

Scientists trace golden retriever disorder

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Scientists in Sweden have tracked down the source of sensory ataxic neuropathy (SAN) — a recently identified neurological disorder in golden retrievers.

The disease strikes goldens in puppyhood, causing them to move in an uncoordinated manner and have sensory deficits.

The researchers were able to trace back all affected offspring on the maternal side, over more than 10 generations, to a female that lived during the 1970s, confirming that SAN is caused by a mutation in the mitochondrial DNA.

The study by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala University and the Karolinska Institutet was published May 29 in the journal PLoS Genetics.

The researchers showed that about five percent of the golden retriever population in Sweden carries the mutation causing SAN — and that, with proper screening by breeders, the disorder could be eliminated.

“This is a good example of how a close collaboration between clinicians and geneticists led to a rapid detection of a harmful mutation that can now be eliminated from this dog population to reduce suffering and disease,” said co-author Karin Hultin Jäderlund.

SPCA previews “Hotel for Dogs” Saturday

The Maryland SPCA is holding a special screening of Hotel for Dogs Saturday morning at Regal Cinemas Hunt Valley.

Admission is free, but a $5 donation is requested. Donations will help provide food, vaccinations, spay/neuter, shelter, care and enrichment for homeless and lost animals at The Maryland SPCA.

The film stars Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin as two kids who secretly take in nine stray dogs, using an abandoned building as a dog hotel.

Several adoptable dogs from The Maryland SPCA will be at the theater. Doors open at 10:00 a.m. The movie starts at 10:30 a.m. The theater is at 118 Shawan Road in Cockeysvile.

All moviegoers will be automatically entered into a drawing for one of ten free special edition stuffed dogs. Additional stuffed dogs will be available for a $15 donation.

Because space is limited the SPCA recommends registering by Thursday if you plan to attend. To do so, contact Tami Gosheff at tgosheff@mdspca.org with the names and email addresses of those attending. Names must be on the list for admission.