How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?

1197907422There is no sadder sight than a boy without a dog — standing there, clutching and ready to throw a ball, but with no furry friend around to retrieve it. I know because I was such a boy. My mother was opposed to having animals in the house (she made an exception for my father and me), so I was forced to play with the neighbors’ dogs in order to get my fix.

Later on, after I moved out on my own, I lived in apartments. I still do. And so I’ve never owned a dog because I’ve never had the proper space. Inside the black recesses of my heart, deep below the scar tissue, I still feel pain over that.

Ah, but now comes a cure for what ails me: Rent-A-Rover.

OK, it’s actually called FlexPetz (I like my name better, incidentally), a California-based company that allows busy or lonely professionals to rent canine companions for days or nights or weekends. With branches in San Diego, San Fran, LA and New York, FlexPetz is finally expanding to Boston. Starting this spring, you’ll be able to chose from a roster of 10 dogs, though the service isn’t cheap.

To rent a dog, customers must pay $300 in initiation and membership fees and then shell out more when it comes time to rent a dog. A weekend day with a dog is $39.95. Dog drop-off and pickup at a home or office is an additional $35. An “inconvenience fee” of $75 a day is added for dogs brought back late.

FlexPetz’s procedure for renting a dog includes an evaluation in which prospective renters are interviewed about dogs they have owned in the past. Their credit histories are also reviewed. Next comes a meeting with a trainer who familiarizes the renter with his or her dog of choice and explains the dog’s habits, routines, and commands. Customers may then sign up for time with a dog using an online reservation system.

Sounds pretty good to me, though some animal rights activists say that the service treats the dogs as “disposable,” and that dogs need stable environments, not half-way homes. An understandable point. The company counters that, though, by saying many of the dogs come from shelters, and are better off since they’re allowed to roam free and play with other dogs at company HQ when they aren’t being rented.

Dunno about you, but I think the biggest problem here isn’t some kind of mistreatment of the animals — because anyone who wants to rent a dog is almost certainly an animal nut, and would likely slobber all over the beast. The biggest problem, to my mind, would be giving the pooch back. Because once you get to frolic together — once you’re playing frisbee and licking each other’s faces — how do you possibly part ways?

Oh, my aching heart.