Thursday, December 27, 2007

Rent a life?

Last Summer, I read an article about Flex Pet, a rent-a-dog service for busy professionals. At the time, I was conflicted about whether this was a good idea or not.

On the one hand, it gives a second chance to shelter animals that might not have a life otherwise. It could give a person, who had not had a dog as a part of their lives before, an idea of what life would be like with a dog. A lot of people adopt dogs, thinking they can be cared for easily, and when they find out otherwise, they land up at the shelter. The owner of the business comes across as a dedicated pet lover, and has several safeguards in place for her charges.

On the other hand, dogs are not commodities, and do best when they have a life of predictability and routine. They also bond to their "alpha" and strive to be with them as a member of the pack. For the renter, they get only restricted view of life with a dog, which can cause significant misunderstanding, maybe even worse than not having had a dog at all.

I can imagine "renting" my Yorkie, Chocolate, for the weekend, and being captivated with his energy, joy, and cuteness. It would take more than a weekend to realize that living with him has other aspects too, and not nearly as endearing as any short visit would reveal. But that's life with a dog (or at least my dog). I love him for everything he brings to my life, but it is a responsibility, one that pays off immeasurably as we share our lives together with the balance of the good, and sometimes, the not so good.

Now is revisiting the subject, as Flex Petz plans to move into the Boston area this coming Spring. It covers all the good and bad listed above, but the best quote is also the best solution:

"Why would you need to rent a dog when you could walk a dog in a shelter in your community?" said Gary Patronek, director of animal welfare and protection at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, where dogs that go out on walks with volunteers wear red vests that read, "Available for adoption."

"If you are feeling a little lonely, we are here," Patronek said.

This is the right way to "rent" a pet if that's what you need to do...

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