Sunday, August 05, 2007

Flexible pets for people with bendable minds

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An interesting thing about human beings is that we keep inventing new ways to be lazier than the previous generation. In the past two years alone, how many new inventions have we developed just so we can be really, really lazy? Leaf blowers. Drinkable yogurt. I can’t be bothered to count the rest, but it’s a lot, probably.

And now, for the lazy person who has a very small amount of conditional and egocentric love to share every so often, there’s a new invention: part-time dogs!

Read this story from the AP:

“From the state that popularized purse puppies, drive-thru dog washes and gourmet dog food delivery comes the latest in canine convenience — a company that contracts out dogs by the day to urbanites without the time or space to care for a pet full-time.”

Did I mention this is in California, or was it already obvious?

Yes, it’s FlexPetz, a service that rents out dogs for any occasion. Let’s say you really like dogs — nothing makes you feel better than when you’re playing with them, throwing them sticks, horsing around with them. Except you can’t own one. You’re too busy, or you’re too old, or mean old Mr. Roper won’t allow them in his building.

Before, as a dog lover who couldn’t own a dog, your two options were either to deal with it like a grownup, or to round up all the stray puppies in the neighborhood and pack them one-by-one into your tiny apartment by the dozens and never let them out until the authorities are alerted to the stench. What a hassle!

Now you can call up FlexPetz! They’ll let you pick up a dog once in a while, or even deliver it to you. Then you take it for walkies and play frisbee, and return the dog to FlexPetz when you’re finished using it. (After 8 p.m., dog returns go in the mail slot.)

But don’t call it a rent-a-pet service! The good people at FlexPetz bristle at that. See?

“Marlena Cervantes, founder of FlexPetz, bristles when people refer to her five-month-old business as a rent-a-pet service,” the story continues. “She prefers the term ‘shared pet ownership,’ explaining the concept is more akin to a vacation time share or a gym membership.” However, unlike a gym membership, you’ll actually use the dog.

FlexPetz takes the guesswork out of being a responsible pet owner. Can’t remember if dogs eat food? FlexPetz gives you pre-measured food with every rental. Don’t know what kind of surfaces dogs like to sleep on? Not a problem! FlexPetz gives you something called a “dog bed.” Dog piddled on the carpet? Simply return it as defective.

Best of all, there’s no commitment and no intimacy. Hooray, I think. This could revolutionize the concept of companionship. With FlexPetz, having a best friend who always loves you unconditionally doesn’t have to be such a goddam drag.

For this pleasure, FlexPetz charges a modest fee. According to its Web site, that’s $100 a year. Wait. And then $50 a month, in advance. Also, you pay $150 for a training lesson, but that’s it. And also, plus there’s a $25 daily fee for each weekday. If you want weekends, that’s $40. And members are required to rent a dog twice a month or pay for it anyway, so there’s another $50. Think of all that credit card swiping as elbow exercise.

If you’re too lazy to do the math — and who isn’t? — here it is: renting a FlexPetz dog for the minimum number of days per month, weekdays only, will cost you $1,448.15. Want a dog every weekend for a year? That’s $6,044.15. Before tax.

Being an owner of two dogs myself and a lover of all creatures great and cute, the more I researched FlexPetz the more I was horrified. Then, angry. Then, depressed, as I came to realize that people will pay big money for anything as long as it allows them to get out of being responsible.

I’ve taken the liberty of preparing some frequently asked questions about pet rentals, in case you’re still interested. You aren’t, are you? Please don’t be.


Q. I love animals! Except I don’t want them in my life. And I hate dogs. Is there another kind of pet I can rent?

A. Glad you asked! Coming soon to FlexPetz are new FlexFish, the only goldfish that work part-time to service your ego. For a simple $26 per-day fee, $120 yearly payment, plus $37 a month, and a one-time training fee of $229.99, you can rent a goldfish of your very own! And they rent the bowls really cheap, too!


Q. After a long, hard day of flushing fistfuls of wadded cash down the toilet, I’m too exhausted to actually pick up a rental dog. Do they deliver?

A. Even better! Starting now is a new service: NetFlixPetz. Simply go online and make a list of the dogs you want. In one business day, NetFlixPetz will send you three dogs from your list. When you’re finished with one, return it in the handy postage-paid duffle bag, and they’ll send you a new dog from your list.


Q. What if my FlexPetz dog is too tired from being pimped out all week to play when I rent it?

A. As far as I’m aware, FlexPetz currently does not have a “cranky canine” clause to allow for dogs who end up loafing on your couch while you wave your rental contract at them irritably. Try tying pork chops around your neck. That got the dog to play with you when you were an ugly kid.


Q. FlexPetz calls its service “shared pet ownership.” Isn’t that sort of like calling prostitution “shared girlfriendism”?

A. I bristle at that, sir! FlexPetz is nothing like prostitution. With FlexPetz, you don’t have the hassle of a relationship — you just have as much fun as you want. Then, after you’re done with it, you pay them money. They got all kind of bitches (and male dogs are available too). They can do tricks all day, all night, whatever you want, whatever you need. They love you, long time!


Q. I love dogs, but can’t own one. And FlexPetz is expensive! Is there a service out there that’s cheaper?

A. Yeah, it’s called “going to the animal shelter and being a volunteer dog-walker.” It’s free. You’ll love it, and they’ll love you for it. In Fall River, there’s Forever Paws and Faxon. Go there. Shelter dogs need attention, exercise and permanent, stable homes a lot more than they need to be passed around as playthings for rich, emotionally needy saps (although, if you are such a person, most shelters also gratefully accept donations).

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