Ripley was always a special dog. He joined his new owners shortly after the tragic death of their previous puppy, Dexter. As Kate Castle, his owner, told me: “Dexter was the dog we had so desperately wanted. Two weeks after we said goodbye, we realized that the only thing that was going to help was to bring another furry friend into our lives. After Rip chose us, we soon realized that while Dexter had been the dog we wanted, Ripley was the dog we needed.”
New pup Ripley soon captured the hearts of his family and become a fixture in the neighborhood, regularly visiting the residents of a nearby home for disabled adults. By the time he was two years old, he was qualified as a therapy dog, working regularly with special needs kids in the local school system. “From early on,” said Castle, “Ripley always wanted to be with people who seemed to need him.”
Image: Kate Castle
Ripley's owners realized, after speaking with their veterinarian, that he was going to need a very active lifestyle, with at least two hours activity per day, to stay fit and healthy. Labradors are notorious for their food fixation and given the opportunity will happily eat themselves into a state of morbid obesity. So when Kate came across a crowd-funding campaign for Whistle, a collar-mounted wearable dog activity tracker, she felt it was something that could be useful for Ripley.
The market for wearable pet technologies is expanding rapidly, with predictions the market could be worth in excess of $2.3 billion by 2022, and that pet owners could be spending more on wearable devices than on pet food as soon as next year. Several different manufacturers are offering collar-mounted GPS trackers and activity monitors, like the Whistle, cameras, and a number of webcam-based systems such as the PetCube, which allow concerned owners to keep track of what their pets are up to at home when they are out at work, and even communicate with them and play remotely.
While some of the uses of pet-focused technologies are pretty obvious—it doesn't take a genius to realize that attaching a GPS tracker to your pet makes it more likely that you will find them again if they go astray—some potential applications are only becoming clear as the technologies mature and more devices find their way into the hands of consumers.
Ripley's owners were reassured that with his Whistle, they could keep a close track of the exercise he was getting when walking with them and when he was out with his dog walker. So when one day they spotted a sudden reduction in his high-activity minutes, from his usual 60 down to seven, they knew something was wrong. Ripley himself seemed OK; perhaps a little quiet, but not especially sick.
“I am not sure I would have taken him to the vet right away without having the data from Whistle,” said Castle. “It’s so hard that dogs can’t talk and tell us what's wrong but the Whistle let me know that something was not right.”
Kate trusted her instincts and the Whistle activity data and took Ripley to the vet that day. They found he was dehydrated with a high temperature over 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and he was admitted immediately for tests and supportive treatment.
After a few days in the animal hospital, Ripley made a good recovery from a nasty infection. Now aged four, he continues to thrive. But Kate is convinced that without the Whistle, things could have been very different.
“I think if we had waited a day to take Rip to the vet, with the high fever he had, it could have been a much worse outcome so give huge props to our Whistle for giving a voice to our dog!”
from It's a Dog's Life