[first posted November 3, 2009]
Just when I thought public consciousness about dog care was being raised, with shows and articles devoted to avoiding puppy mills and promoting rescue, along comes the latest proof that popular culture is still clueless: Jokes about dog rental.
Case in point (and disappoint): A recent segment of one of my favorite NPR shows, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. Here’s a rough transcript of the conversation that took place between host Peter Sagal, regulars Mo Rocca and Tom Bodett, and special “What’s My Job” segment guest Susie Essman.
Susie: Mo is very close with my dog, by the way… we walk together. He even rented a dog so he could walk with me.
Mo: I can’t believe you told people that, but yes, and the only dog that was available was named Nixon.
Peter [sounding appalled]: How do you rent a dog?
Mo: Everyone’s doing it.
Peter: No, nobody is renting dogs!
Susie: People do it, because they want canine companionship and they don’t want the responsibility of a dog so they rent it for a weekend.
Tom: But that’s got to be a jaded dog, he’s known so many people.
Mo: He has trust issues, it’s true, but actually it’s great, you pick it up for a day and you go for a walk with somebody like Susie Essman and then drop it off.
Susie: Yes, we had a great time.
[lots of laughter throughout]
Listen to the entire October 17 segment — the dog rental part starts at about 6min, 15 second — here:
Ha, ha, ha. Trust issues. A dog referred to as “it.” Fun was had by all. (To his credit, Peter Sagal tried to put the issue into perspective, but it’s his job not to be a buzzkill.)
And then there’s the latest Jim Beam ad.
Again, ha, ha, ha: Puppy rental, dog rescue. Not to mention the amusing sexism. Guys don’t love puppies, only pussy.
But, you’re probably saying, this is all comic exaggeration. Dog rental isn’t widespread, is it?
Sadly, it is.
Rent-a-dog programs such as FlexPetz have become so common that people concerned about animal welfare are working to get them banned (they succeeded in Boston). If you have trouble getting your head around the problem with renting a pet — even aside from the enforced puppy prostitution issue — think how you would view its application to those too busy to raise a child full time.
Take, for example, this copy from the FlexPet’s FAQ section:
Are the dogs stressed by going home to home?
FLEXPETZ dogs live with one primary carer and their pack of FLEXPETZ dogs where they happily play and are never kenneled. When FLEXPETZ dogs visit with members it always full of fun time! Members plan for the time with a FLEXPETZ dog and the dogs are loved and adored with undivided attention.
What if it read like this?
FLEXKIDZ orphans live with one primary set of foster parents and their pack of FLEXKIDZ urchins where they happily play and are never locked into a room. When FLEXKIDZ visit with members it always full of fun time! Members plan for the time with a FLEXKIDZ child and the children are loved and adored with undivided attention.
The company claims that they work with trainers but I’d be hard pressed to believe any reputable trainer would go along with such a program. But maybe I’m just a humorless spoilsport. If any members of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers — especially certified (CPDT) members — or veterinary behaviorists disagree, I’d love to hear from them.
Update December 7: As Twitter pal Maryann Mott (@PetWriter) pointed out — and as a teeny notice on their website confirmed — FlexPetz is no longer operating. That’s thanks to the hard work and vigilance of people like Jo Jacques, a certified pet dog trainer and behavioral consultant who worked to get the company banned in Boston (see comments section). I did a search for the company that Mo Rocca and Susie Essman might have been referring to, and couldn’t find anything. That’s confusing — but good. The more difficult it is to rent dogs, the better.