Tag Archives: animals

Lives of their own

We’re surrounded by objects 24/7, we claim their ownership, make them do things, exchange them for newer models, throw them away, but also play with them, love them, take care of them, spend our lives’ fortunes on them. I’ve always wanted objects to have a little bit more soul to them as much as they always seem so tied to their original functions. Perhaps this thinking is coming out of my not-so-recent infatuation with Miyazaki’s films, working with kids, or just my head, not sure. Anyhow, I really like IKEA’s Robotics project.

IKEA Robotics created furniture that responded to its environment in animal-like ways, whether looking for attention or threatening those who get too close. Behaviour-responsive furniture sounds like a great idea, though perhaps non-animal-like behaviour might be a little more useful.

[Via the fantastic Pixelsumo]

Strays of Moscow

I higly recommend you read the recent article from FT called ‘Moscow’s stray dogs‘. It not only contains an in-depth study of their habits, behaviours and hierarchy systems, but also explains some of the somewhat baffling sympathy these creatures have managed to evoke in the locals. Below you can find some of the interesting snippets, but for more depth, please read the entire article at FT.

Where did these animals come from? It’s a question Andrei Poyarkov, 56, a biologist specialising in wolves, has dedicated himself to answering. His research focuses on how different environments affect dogs’ behaviour and social organisation. About 30 years ago, he began studying Moscow’s stray dogs. Poyarkov contends that their appearance and behaviour have changed over the decades as they have continuously adapted to the changing face of Russia’s capital. Virtually all the city’s strays were born that way: dumping a pet dog on the streets of Moscow amounts to a near-certain death sentence. Poyarkov reckons fewer than 3 per cent survive.

The metro dog also has uncannily good instincts about people, happily greeting kindly passers by, but slinking down the furthest escalator to avoid the intolerant older women who oversee the metro’s electronic turnstiles.

They also acted differently. Every so often, you would see one waiting on a metro platform. When the train pulled up, the dog would step in, scramble up to lie on a seat or sit on the floor if the carriage was crowded, and then exit a few stops later. There is even a website dedicated to the metro stray (www.metrodog.ru) on which passengers post photos and video clips taken with their mobile phones, documenting the savviest of the pack using the public transport system like any other Muscovite.

The dogs divide into four types, he says, which are determined by their character, how they forage for food, their level of socialisation to people and the ecological niche they inhabit.

Neuronov says there are some 500 strays that live in the metro stations, especially during the colder months, but only about 20 have learned how to ride the trains. This happened gradually, first as a way to broaden their territory. Later, it became a way of life. “Why should they go by foot if they can move around by public transport?” he asks.



I always begged my parents for a puppy when I was little. I did get one in the end, but along the way I incurred an interesting bill of suicidal hamsters, a canary, some  fish and a nomadic cat that one day chose to be free (or so I like to portray his scenario). Years later, I’m guessing that through all these creatures my parents were actually experimenting with making me care for smaller animals before getting me a dog. Of all breeds, I remember begging my dad for a Yorkshire Terrier; I always had the idea that the smaller the dog I begged for the greater the chance of getting one was. My dad replied, ‘if I get you a dog, it’ll have to be of a breed we won’t be stepping on my accident all the time.’ My first Polish Sheepdog arrived a few weeks later wrapped up in a shirt and ready to take over the world. It was one of those dogs that consist 90% hair and 10% actual dog.


Since leaving home, I’ve gone through fits of wanting to have a pet again, first a dog, then a cat, subsequently a sugar glide (2 actually) and finally today, the consideration hit the mini-pig (omg, so cute!). No, I won’t be getting one, but I think it’s quite amusing how many small pets are entering the market these days. Causing less trouble for parents and less guilt-inducing for those with smaller flats, small pets might seem like the right solution if one has to have one. But does one really ever have to have a pet? By saying ‘pet’ I exclude dogs used in drug detection or for the blind or any other animals serving a function in the society. For some, businesses like FlexPetz seemed to provide a solution. But perhaps instead of saying ‘no, you can’t have one’ or ‘you wouldn’t take care of it properly’, kids should also be encouraged to consider whether the pets themselves would be happy rather than perpetually bored (and lonely) with the exception of playtime. Considering the numbers of pets abandoned every year, the piles of food that needs to be bought for them over the years and effectively providing support for an entire industry that breeds a lot of unhappy animals, really, do think twice.

[Image courtesy of mcglinch]

A dog’s life

Upon hearing about FlexPetz, I thought that it was my long-lived dream of having a dog in London finally coming true. So I thought, until I actually visited the site of the company moving to London from the States and supplying this rent-a-dog service to the busy, mobile, or the purely lazy urban dog lovers. I never thought that the shared ownership would be doable, simply because I think it requires a set of conditions that makes it convenient for the owners and not upsetting to the animal. I would guess that something along the lines a close friend or family member who lives in the same street would potentially do, but a company-facilitated dog rental? I think that the business has a potential of making some people happy, but is it really the right way to go about dog sharing? The other side of this is the money: not only does FlexPetz charge a monthly fee of 100 GBP, but on top of that requires a mandatory fee of at least 180 GBP a month for the minimum of 4 days a month it assumes you’ll spend with the dog. Some of the funds FlexPetz generates do go to caring for the dogs, but ekhem, has sharing anything ever been more expensive than full ownership?

So how will the dogs feel about all this? FlexPetz claims that a dog will have a maximum of 2-3 owners at one time, but how many owner will that amount to over the dogs entire life? What are the ‘permanent’ homes that they go to once too old and sick? In principle, they aren’t all about money and convenience – all the dogs are rescued, but doesn’t FlexPetz really leave them to a fate similar to the one they seek to leave, a semi-permanent life of seeking the one owner that will not get rid of them once they’re inconvenient? Maybe shared dog ownership is a good idea, but one that just isn’t workable on a business scale?