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2006-02-15 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets...

by Joanne Anderson

Maggie, Last Hope Dog Pet of the Week                Maggie, Last Hope Dog Pet of the Week Harrison Ford has made a lucrative film career portraying a caring dad turned dynamoas a CIA agent, doctor, the President, bank security expert protecting his family and America from horrendous, outside threats. In his latest movie, Firewall, his pet dog, who happens to be wearing a GPS device, saves the day and (the bank’s $100 million). The plot may be Hollywood hype, whereas the canine Lojack is real. For a mere $350, plus set-up and monthly operation fees, you can purchase a collar that uses 2way wireless technology to help keep track of your precious pooch.

The company, GlobalPetFinder (516-938-2121), based nearby in Jericho, manufactures the 5 ounce module that attaches to a collar or harness, and communicates with satellites so their clients will always know where their dog is. The dogs must weigh at least 30 pounds. The module is safe, not surgically implanted, and causes no harm to the pet.

Here’s how it works: First you set up a virtual fence yard within which your dog can roam free. The size of the area can be changed at any time. If your dog wanders outside that boundary, you are automatically alerted with L-O-C-A-T-E, and given continuous sightings of your Fido fugitive, sent to your cell phone, computer, or pda. You can arrange to have an additional person be notified too.

When in the “walk mode”, you can stroll with your dog undisturbed, but if the dog were to bolt or be separated from you, searching can begin instantly and remotely by dialing FO U-N-D on your cell phone. When you check F-O-U-N-D, you receive your pet’s position. GlobalPetFinder also alerts you when your module or cell phone batteries are running low. It surveys the environment for your pet too, by telling you if the dog’s surroundings are too hot or too cold.

Two monthly contracts are available. The “Homebody Peace of Mind” plan, for $17.98 a month, monitors the dog that likes to stay at home. The more intensive “Escape Artist “plan costs $19.98 a month. Both store the dog’s travel history for the last 30 days. Customers must sign up for at least a 1 year subscription. Households get multi-dog discounts.

The GlobalPetFinder is water resistant so your dog can be out in the rain or splash through puddles without losing his signal. The advanced module is able to track in wooded areas too because it minimizes the “canopy effect”. You can’t use the device to find your kids, elderly relatives, or cats. However, the company is trying to develop a model for cats (and, ultimately, smaller dogs) but that product is not ready yet.

This invention is quite different from the injected microchip. Microchips are proof of ownership, if they are scanned and registered. Only vets and shelters have scanners. Therefore, distraught owners are not given a location or guaranteed a reunion. My dogs are chipped and wear a bright yellow tag that says so, but even this would not help me locate them if they were on the lam, or were picked up by a Good Samaritan without access to a scanner.

In addition, unlike the electric collars for the underground fences, (trademark rules don’t permit me to use the familiar name with the initials “IF”), the GlobalPetFinder does not produce a shock to deter your dog from escaping. Let’s face itno product is going to protect your lost dog from the dangers of cars or strangers, but this state-of-the-art GPS technology ensures that your dog will never be out of sight. That peace of mind is worth the investment to many dog lovers.

The critics weren’t wild about the Firewall film.Variety even called the finale with Ford’s dog “laughable”, but Ford is a huge box office draw. Sometimes pets ride on a star’s coattails, for bad or good. In the 1991 film Regarding Henry, Harrison Ford’s character bought an adorable Beagle puppy for his daughter. Beagle Rescue lamented the sudden popularity of their breed spawned by that movie. Despite the mediocre reviews, this new Harrison Ford film could turn out to be a terrific commercial for the GlobalPetFinder.

This week’s poster dog “Maggie” could have used a GlobalPetFinder when she arrived at the Last Hope Dog Center 2 weeks ago. The sweet, spayed Chow/Retriever mix had spent 5 months at Huntington Town Shelter, without anyone ever considering her. On her first day at the Last Hope Center, her collar popped open while a volunteer was walking her. The bewildered pup took off in her new neighborhood near Rt. 109. (This is why Ms. Paranoid, yours truly, always moves new shelter dogs like marionettes with 2 leashes and collars on.) The vet staff and volunteers spent hours looking for “Maggie”. Her good friend and Animal Control officer at Huntington Shelter came down to coax her back. After a few hours she was able to convince “Maggie” that the Last Hope Center was a good place to be. A GlobalPetFinder would have eased her capture. She is now a loving addition to our mini-shelter. To adopt “Maggie” or another Last Hope dog, rescued from various LI town shelters, call 643-2284.

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