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What's Next, Rent A Kid?

Perhaps FlexPetz founder Marlena Cervantes and her clients are well intentioned, but personally, I find this rent-a-dog business appalling. Cervantes prefers to use the term “dog time-share,” as if our canine companions are on a par with a condo. Such semantics might make for good marketing, but it does not change the fact that these dogs are treated like books checked out from the library.

Sure, on the surface, it seems like a good idea. People who don’t have time to properly care for their own dog can rent one for a few hours every week or for a full day – whatever fits their busy schedule. Well, that’s super convenient for the person, but what about the dog? He is shuttled between multiple homes over the course of a week’s time. What does that constant change do to the dog, both mentally and physically?

According to the company’s Web site, “FlexPetz dogs receive regular ‘refresher’ training sessions with our certified dog trainers.” I imagine the poor dogs need it because of the lack of consistency from home to home. Most dogs thrive on routine and building a bond with their family. What happens when they grow old? Will they be retired and allowed to live in one permanent home?

FlexPetz also spins its service as a way to save shelter dogs and prevent other dogs from ending up there. Again, brilliant marketing, but if the dog’s history is unknown, is it wise to press this dog into such a service? Even the best-trained, physically healthy and temperamentally sound dog might be stressed under these circumstances.

Lastly, what does this teach children about responsibility? That it’s okay to have a dog on the human’s terms, no matter how it might affect the dog’s welfare? That you can always get what you want? If someone truly doesn’t have the time, energy, money, etc., to be a responsible dog guardian, then why not volunteer at a shelter? Those dogs would gladly go for a walk, get a belly rub and enjoy some company, all for the price of a kind word (and maybe a treat).

Julia Kamysz Lane

August 6, 2007 in Current Affairs, Recreation | Permalink


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there can be no justice when an animal who confers unconditional love is not offered the reciprocity of consistent caring that has been the relationship between humankind and the dog evolved over eons.

Posted by: belton Meyer | Nov 5, 2007 8:00:02 PM

I am also glad to see that I'm not the only one who thought this would be problematic. I just, as you do, worry about the mental state of the dog. They won't every feel like they belong anywhere or to anyone. What do they have to look forward to?? A few hours with someone to just be left again? Also my other concern with this is that not everyone trains the same way. What one person will allow someone else won't. If the dog is allowed on the sofa at one place and gets yelled at at someone else's house how is the dog going to feel?? TOTALLY CONFUSED! It's great that they are saving these animals but there are a lot of deeper issues here that need to be looked at.

Posted by: KM | Aug 10, 2007 8:13:45 AM

OK, I've only read their FAQ...but it does address some of the concerns.

From the sound of it, the dogs do have regular homes, steady owners. The ones who are temperamentally suited to the life are available for "checkout"; the ones who aren't are fostered, rehabbed, and found permanent homes for. Same for the older ones, or the ones who are retiring from the program. 'S what they say, anyway. If true, it does rather change my initial perception of the thing.

Absent that stability, yes, there would be a huge problem. But if the dog has a particular person he always returns to, I don't see how being borrowed for a few hours is any different than going out with a dog-walker like they do in big cities (Oh boy! --Here comes that guy who takes me to the beach!)...or how a few days elsewhere would be much different than being boarded.

Our dogs do spend periods of time in the care of others. It doesn't seem to bother most of them much. If the dogs are fine with it, so should we be.


Posted by: Marius | Aug 9, 2007 10:50:16 PM

Glad to hear I'm not the only one who's concerned about this type of business. In particular I liked your commentary about the impression this attitude can have on kids - a very good point that isn't often discussed. When I first heard about FLEXPETZ I wrote an article in my "Why Dogs?" blog that discussed the few pros and many cons.

Posted by: Andrew Schrauben | Aug 6, 2007 4:59:06 PM

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