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The iDog, The Android Dog and The Refurbished Dog

by Dr. Aime Berman, VMD
Medical Director, Dutton Road Veterinary Clinic

This article is not about phones. This is about dogs. As a veterinarian, the co-dependence I have on my phone is limited to an intense attachment to social connections with family and friends. However, the co-dependence I have on my dog - has no limits. That being said, however, try to take my dog, I cry. Try to take my phone - watch out/beware/stand clear. Actually, I left my phone in the car coming into work today and decided to leave it there. When I left work several hours later, my heart was still beating in spite of the separation. I was surprised.

Surely your phone is very close to you as you read this. How about your dog or your cat? Where is your pet right now? Do you have a purebred or a mixed breed? From a breeder? You found your pet? From a shelter or rescue? How about your phone? Brand new iphone? Android? Refurbished?

Our society has a serious division. It is not religion, color, race or sex. It is beyond nationality and political opinions. This division is concrete and tangible – you either have an iPhone or an Android. Flip phones are also available for those who don’t want to deal with the technicalities and perks of an iPhone or Android. Or perhaps there are financial constraints and the flip phone is all that is accessible. However, it seems that regardless of one’s economic status, cell phone choices are rarely limited by finances. Cell phones are a status symbol and people will prioritize and save to get what they want. Furthermore, one of the wealthiest people I know had just a flip phone up until very recently. He finally got an Android (his whole family has Androids) but he has yet to learn texting. He continues to use his flip phone for answering calls and carries both cell phones. I think he is codependent on his little flipper.

The other night my mother asked me, "what is the difference between an Android and an iPhone?" My very savvy elementary schoolers tried to explain this difference using terms like "operating system". She looked confused. So I asked her, "what is the difference between a Standard Poodle and a Mutt?" "Nothing," she replied. I said, "exactly."

This is clearly a controversial answer. I am certain the owner of an expensive purebred dog will argue this point quite meticulously, and would probably win. But when considering the "operating system" of a living thing, we are all pretty much the same. When considering other factors - outward appearance, status, finances, expectations - the differences are enormous. The same goes for cell phones. There are so many phones on the market - the iPhone, the multitude of Androids, the flip phones, the refurbished phones. Sky is the limit when it comes to choices....kind of like choosing a dog.

The Apple name has impressed our society profoundly. Its reputation reminds me of how certain breeds have earned certain reputations. When a lady walks out of the groomer in Beverly Hills with her pick-dyed fluffy poodle, heads turn and people talk. When someone has an iphone, ears perk up and there is interest. It seems that iphone people are a separate breed. There is nothing like it in the Android world, even though they are so, so similar in their actual function. Yes, there are differences. However, they are both phones, both text, both access the internet, and both have apps ‘til the cows come home. The animal reference is important when a veterinarian is writing about cell phones.

Operating systems. I am not entirely sure what that means. However, a dog is a dog is a dog. Yes. The Doberman is sleek and strong. The Maltese is cute and adorable. The Cocker, in spite of its enormous genetic mutations towards medical problems, is fantastically cute. The German Shepherd is an excellent companion and great protector. The Golden is gorgeous and a great family dog. The list goes on. When choosing these breeds, we are expecting certain traits. We know what we will get. We assume the “breed standard” will apply to our pet. However, after many years of practicing, this is not across the board true. Not all individual animals read the purebred manual. That being said, there is truth to reputation – both with breeds and phones. I don’t own an iphone but I love most breeds of dog.

I am also a fan of mixed breed dogs. I think the different combinations are exciting. And quite honestly, if a Mutt is actually a Golden mix, he or she can actually act like a Golden. Or, is it just that we train the dog to meet our expectations and to accommodate our life style? Hound dogs can be from the woods of North Carolina, where mom and dad from two different sides of the mountain were partying one night and things got a little crazy. A mixed breed hound dog is often very similar to its purebred parent. Or maybe not. Maybe better! While they don’t have “fancy” associated with their “breed” and they don’t come with the same guarantees or “name brand” as their purebred relative, they are equally, if not more fabulous because of their uniqueness. They are the Androids of the dog world. These types of dogs come from rescues, unintentional litters of males and females that aren’t spayed or neutered, or maybe found in a shelter.

The refurbished dog is one found in a shelter or from a rescue organization. They are often wonderful, well trained, loving animals from families who for one reason or another couldn’t keep their pet. The family moved, a child was born, allergies developed, or maybe the pet got bigger than was expected. Sometimes refurbished dogs are ones that are no longer of use to humans. For example, purebreds that were strictly used for breeding. They get too old or they no longer do a good job.

The most common refurbished dog is the Greyhound. Talk about a great dog! They run at the track for a few years, then are either euthanized or rescue groups take over their ownership and find them forever homes. They are sweet, well behaved, gentle, well trained and beautiful.

It is a sad and overwhelmingly horrifying truth that pets are disposable in the eyes of some people in our society. The numbers are staggering as to how many unwanted pets there are. Many shelter animals are perfectly healthy, some are sick and will be medicated by the shelter veterinarians, some cannot be healed, some are brand new puppies, some are purebreds and some are mixes. Shelter dogs are sometimes born in a shelter because a pregnant dog is found and the puppies come soon after. It is more economical to dump an unwanted animal at a shelter or an animal control, costing the city money and ruining an animal's wife. There can be treatable medical issues, or perhaps behavior issues. Shelter staff will do behavior assessments and health examinations before he or she is put up for adoption by the public. Unfortunately, many are not fit for homes and they are sadly not adopted. A shelter dog can adjust to a home in time, with proper training and with proper understanding of their operating system. They just need a chance to succeed.

Surrendering a dog is as easy and as common as divorce these days. And while an animal should not remain in a home if it is definitely not the right combination of people and animal, concerted effort should be put into making it work if that is possible. Behavior problems, training problems – these can be found in any dog, purebred or not. Intensive training and consistency are crucial and that goes for purebreds or mixes. You get out of that relationship what you put into it. However, if over time, the fruits of your labor don’t pay off and the pet is not right for your home, maybe he or she is better off somewhere else. For example, if my husband consistently urinated on the floor, in spite of consistently reminding him not to, I am not sure our relationship would not remain as strong and loving as it is today. I get it. However, it is important to understand the operating system of a living thing in order for you to get the most out of that relationship. Maybe my husband needs a cleaner toilet? Maybe he has a urinary tract infection? Maybe he is marking his territory because he feels threatened by the dog?

As a pet owner, consult with your veterinarian if you are having trouble with your pet before surrendering. (As for your husband, this is out of my league.) There are so many options, including medication. The commitment you made to that pet at the time of adoption should be everlasting, if possible. Yes, you can always return the dog, just like you can return a phone. However, a phone can be refurbished and placed into the hands of a new owner where it will live out its electronic life joyfully and unharmed. However, animals can be emotionally scarred and have abandonment issues when they switch families. This leads to a decreased chance of ever actually acclimating to a new home due to behavior problems. Try to keep your dog - whether he or she is from a breeder or a shelter.

Whether one gets a purebred idog, a mixed up Android dog, or a refurbished dog from a shelter or rescue, it can be a relationship closer than what you have with your phone. The operating system of a pet is actually easier to learn than all the system shananigans on your phone. All they really need is love, food and warmth. Charge them with some treats and don’t drop them….you can’t go wrong. If it’s possible to rescue a dog, try that first. Just because the famous name brand is not written on their papers and you can’t impress your friends with a fancy breed, rescued dogs can make excellent companions!

So many phones, so many dogs. I cannot live without my phone. I cannot live without my dogs. I am an Android person with Flip dogs. They have conformed to my world, my family and my life style with very little effort. Love, attention and dedication helped me learn about them and them about me. While I cannot text them or access the internet through their fur, I talk to them and hold them and love them. I am attached to them and feel lost without them...but if I had to chose between my phone and my dog......oh my.

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