GateHouse – Do you like the idea of having a canine companion around to share love and companionship, but are far too selfish to want to inconvenience yourself when it comes to dinners out, three-day benders or occasional impulse vacations?
Then boy, does the Internet have a thing for you and your equally unpleasant friends: Flexpetz, a service by which you can rent dogs.
I oversimplify, of course, and that’s not entirely accurate. By “rent dogs” I mean “Check out a dog when you want one for a few hours, and then, when you’ve grown tired or hungry or have a chance at hooking up, returning it expeditiously to the warehouse.”
Flexpetz is a new club in California, surprisingly, that rents dogs to its members, all of who pay a monthly membership fee of $39.95 (with a yearly commitment), a registration charge of $289, daily fees when the dogs are taken out and late fees if they’re not returned on time. However, to accommodate late returns, the company has installed medium-to-large drawer-type doors on its roadside drop boxes. I’m kidding. Come on, I’m kidding.
“Pets have often become family and special companions, but there are many obligations — providing appropriate care, socialization, welfare, a predictable routine, health care — that go with having a pet,” the site says, adding, “Also, there’s the having to take them for a walk during martini time, the way they keep sniffing around all through ‘Entourage’ and, oh my God, the stringy dog hair on the couch, nothing gets that out.”
Oh sure, it may sound garish and horrifying and make you wonder why someone would spend over $300 a pop instead of, I don’t know, driving down to the shelter, but that is because 1) You don’t live in California; and 2) You have never spent your weekends speed-scrubbing baked-in terrier sprayings out of the carpet behind the couch. Generally speaking, the No. 1 complaint I hear from people about their dogs is that the dogs are around all the time, morning and night, requiring care and attention and love and meals nearly every day. In my experience I’ve found that the fun parts about dogs — fetch in the park, romps on the beach, the training to hunt down one’s enemies with a cruel yet gleeful lack of mercy — tend to run smack directly into the bad parts about dogs, which generally involve anything entering or leaving their gastrointestinal systems. (If you’re my brother, there’s also the matter of their occasionally developing passionate obsessions with the couch pillows, but we’ll leave that for another story time.)
But this is what you do when you decide to get a dog; you make a choice. You weigh the good with the bad, the sloppy wet kisses vs. the 5 a.m. walks around the courtyard to spray every plant within a reasonable blast radius with pee, the love vs. the inconvenience, and you make your call. With Flexpetz, you get to bypass the second part, which is fantastically good news for everybody but the dog. My old dog Cutty used to give a considerably tragic sad-face when I went to school in the morning; I am relatively certain that, if given the option, she probably wouldn’t be into the frequent-family plan.
(Are you worried about designer babies and embryo tinkering? Boy, just you wait until the first full-service baby rental operation opens up online; it’s gonna make pre-programming your little zygote with blue eyes seem like the most boring ethical problem anyone’s ever faced, except, of course, Dick Cheney.)
“But Jeff,” you’re saying if you’ve for some reason read this far and talk to your newspaper, “Aren’t you being needlessly harsh? What if someone isn’t looking to wield a dog as a sprightly, temporary fashion accessory, but truly wants a dog and simply has a legitimate physical or medical reason they can’t?” A fair point, and luckily Flexpetz.com has a section on its web site to address that very question:
“FLEXPETZ was present at one of the pre-Oscar luxury suites on Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, a great opportunity to present the FLEXPETZ concept to the Hollywood glitterati! Amazingly well received, don’t be surprised if you find yourself sharing a FLEXPETZ dog with a movie or television star!” I know a tiny pink Chihuahua that needs a home for about the next 19 days.