Monday, April 24, 2017

PhDog - an idea whose time has come?

PhDog, Phdawg
Bosca loves it when people stay home and study all day. As long as they are happy to throw a walk or two in.

I was chatting to a client last week who mentioned that she has five weeks until she submits her PhD. Her next comment was “the dogs have absolutely LOVED having me at home all of this time.”

We moved on to discuss her dog’s specific health issues, but my mind kept coming back to the idea.

Exhibit A: the PhD student. SAT is based in Sydney, home to multiple universities. Consider the number of PhD students in the greater Sydney area, daily whittling away at their doctoral research. Even with a scholarship, PhD students are usually surviving on a shoestring budget. They might be living in a share house or accommodation with little space. Office space at universities has become a scarce. When I started studying, even honours students were guaranteed their own office. Now, not every PhD student is able to have that space. PhD work often requires extended hours of research. A comfortable, quiet space with wifi helps.

Exhibit B: Companion animals whose human companions go to work, leaving their pets home alone for extended periods. It isn’t always an issue – many pets sleep. But the presence of a warm body in the home is often welcomed. A warm body that can provide a walk in the middle of the day might be even better.
Eureka: “PhDog!” – what about a website or app where PhD students could be matched with local people with a spare study and a companion animal or two? Companion animal owners could benefit by having someone around with their animals, and maybe even a dog walk or two during the day, AND the good feeling of supporting scholarship. PhD students would benefit from a spare study, and a companion – and, in the case of dogs, some exercise during the day.

It would operate a little like Airbnb – the ID of all parties would need to be checked and verified. But it seems like a nice way of pairing up otherwise lonely souls who could do with some company. There would probably be a gazillion variations on the theme – maybe some PhD students want to work in their own home but have the space to foster a dog. Or maybe some home owners want to offer free or cheap rent to a scholar in need.

My friend Tanya suggested that when the PhD student graduates, the companion animal who they kept company could get a DOGtorate. Genius.

Of course these things take time and money to put together and we’re preoccupied at this end on some animal welfare and ethics projects, so it isn’t going to happen here. And the thought of monetising this feels like it goes against the spirit of the idea. Possibly, someone is already doing this. There are limitations – it wouldn’t work for PhDs involving extensive periods of field work, or lab work.

There would need to be a feline version – it’s just hard to think of a catchy equivalent. (Although I can think of a program for Mousters students…).