Friday, August 16, 2013

Interview with Techlife journo and rescue-dog parent Peter Dockrill

Meet Belle. What is not to love about this face?
SAT interviewed Peter Dockrill, technology journalist for APC and Techlife magazines, about his rescue dog Belle and why we should step away from our tablets, smartphones and social media and walk the dog once in a while.

How did Belle come into your life?

My wife Nita wanted to get a dog. I wasn’t so sure. I knew having a pet would be fun, but I also wasn’t sure if I wanted to deal with the extra responsibility. It seems so silly now. I insisted on adopting a rescue animal rather than getting one through other means as frankly I feel it’s the ethical thing to do since so many poor animals are abandoned through no fault of their own. So Nita sent me through a zillion profiles of dogs on the Pet Rescue web site. Eventually she found Belle, who we both liked the look of. We went to meet her on a Saturday, and half an hour later she was ours.

Tell us a bit about Belle - what is she like and what are her favourite things to do?

Belle is an extremely loveable dog, but she’s also very timid and feisty - likely the result of her upbringing before we had her (We got her at approx. 18 months, and they told us that she’d had it pretty rough before.) She’s very defensive. She barks at strangers, and will warm to women before men. She’ll also yap like crazy whenever anyone approaches the house. But she’s very friendly and warm once she knows you, very affectionate. She loves walks. I take her for two quick walks per day. When time allows we also frequent the massive dog park by the canal in Leichhardt. She’s not great around other dogs. She gets very excited and goes a bit crazy if she’s on a leash. Off leash she’s better, but she’s still a bit edgy. She either intimidates them or they intimidate her. Occasionally she’ll have a good run with some other dogs in the dog park, but she doesn’t make dog friends easily. 

One of the benefits of your job is that you can work from home at times. SAT supports working from home as less commuting means a reduced carbon footprint, but also because it means one tends to be available more for one's non-human companions. What are the benefits of working from home as a pet owner?

I think it’s much more natural for the pet - especially dogs - if you can be home more often than not. The idea of the animal being essentially imprisoned between 9-5 (or longer) during the week seems pretty insensitive, all things considered. If they have access to the outside that’s better, but apartments and closed houses must be terribly limiting for a dog during the day. We currently don’t have a dog door in our rental house, and Belle is more of an inside animal than an outside one, so if we’re both at work Belle is pretty cooped up. As such, it’s great to have the flexibility to work from home (which I do frequently) and spend more time with her, just by being around. Even so I often feel a bit guilty because I’m busy when I work at home and can’t dedicate much time to spending with her, but at least she knows I’m around and I think we both enjoy the company - even if she’d like me to step away from the computer and play around a bit more I think!

Would you disturb this snuggle to pick up your tablet and start answering emails?
In your view does technology help or hinder our relationships with pets?

I don’t think consumer technology has really gotten to the point where it can help us with pets - as opposed to scientific technology being used to help animal experts and zoologists communicate with animals like orangutans etc. If anything, it’s the opposite. Consumer technology is so addictive and omnipresent now, it actually has the potential to make people spend less time with their pets. We have to remind ourselves to put our phones and tablets down and play with our pets more! 

As a pet owner, how would you like to see vets use technology to communicate with clients?

I think things like the DNA test for your pet is a fantastic example of science and technology helping us to understand our pets better. We don’t know Belle’s makeup, and we often think about getting the test done (which is a little expensive) just to satisfy our curiosity!

[Ed: I performed the DNA test on Phil and was totally shocked by the result - I expected him to be a chihuahua cross something, but he is something altogether else!!!]

Belle found a home with Peter and Nita and life has been awesome ever since.
Have you got any favourite pet or vet related websites or apps?

I was very impressed with the ease of adopting a pet through Pet Rescue. If we ever get another dog I’d like to go through them again, and I encourage anybody reading this to do the right thing and adopt a pet who’s already around and waiting rather than picking up a new animal, which supports an industry that frankly provides us with a surplus of animals.

Thanks Peter-D!