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Assistive Technology for Dogs

I want someone to create a device for me. It needs to be big enough to accommodate paw sized buttons, with pictures on them and maybe even sounds attached. Cricket needs a device like this, next to the front door, so that when she races across the apartment barking her head off, she can press a button to identify the source of horror. Is it the mailman? A neighbor? A leaf in the wind?

“Why don’t you understand me?!

“I am a very articulate barker!”

The device would have to be on the wall, rather than the floor, to avoid the possibility that Butterfly would pee on it.

“You want me to pee on something?”

I read about assistive technologies in a class about exceptional children, by which they meant children with disabilities in vision or hearing or cognition or other physical limitations that required adaptive methods for communication. But what if some of these adaptations could enhance the other kids’ educations as well? What if using pictures as part of education for longer than we do, or concrete objects for examples, or music, would create more thorough and sustaining connections in children’s minds? Just because a child can jump to the theoretical level, and imagine an apple or the color red without seeing it in front of her, doesn’t mean she would no longer benefit from those inputs. What if your understanding of a poem or a story would be richer if you could see a picture of the ocean, or smell the sea air, or hear the sound of the waves that you’re reading about on the page?

I think Cricket would benefit from having these more concrete connections available to help her organize her thoughts. If she hears the mailman, she can run to the front door and press the picture of the mailman with her paw and hear the word “Mailman” ring out. This would also help me, because instead of barking in the abstract, I would hear the word mailman, or “Bird! Neighbor! Leaf! Car passing by!” And I’d have a better idea of what she wanted to communicate, or complain about.

My fear, though, is that we would just replace the incessant barking with a chorus of “Mailman! Mailman! Mailman!” all afternoon long.

“Where’s that mailman?”

I don’t think Butterfly particularly wants to talk, like Cricket, but maybe she could have a little music center so she could press a button to pick a song that matches her mood. One time when we were watching Dancing with the Stars (don’t judge me) Patti Labelle was dancing to “When You Wish upon a Star” and Butterfly was entranced. She likes Princess Songs. But sometimes her mood is darker, so she’d have to have a button to press for punk rock, or singer song writers on acoustic guitar for her sad days.

But really, the only assistive device she wants is one that gets her extra food. Her ideal would be to have a room full of treat dispensers, one for cheese, one for peanut butter, one for chicken, etc. She’d at least get exercise running back and forth between her favorite treats.

“Treats? Where?”

What I really need, more than assistive technology, is another person to take over with the girls when I’m tired, or run out of ideas. Someone to take Cricket for long walks, or bring Butterfly to the zoo, or spend an hour a day teaching them new skills.

This is the level of exhaustion I'm looking for.

This is the level of exhaustion I’m looking for.

Oooh! That’s it! I need a robot to train the girls! I’m sure someone is working on this right now. Would the robot be human sized or dog sized? Maybe a robot in the shape of a golden retriever? The robot could be programmed to take them for walks and maybe have an attached pooper scooper?

Do you think this would work? (not my picture)

Do you think this would work? (not my picture)

“I think Mommy’s gone crazy.”

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

78 responses »

  1. So hilarious! Bumble would love the treat dispensers too 🙂

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  2. And to think I’ve had it backwards all this time. I thought the whole point was they were training us!

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  3. I don’t know about assistive technology, but they are beautiful babies.

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  4. Too funny! Right now, in the middle of a high dose of prednisone period for my old Sadie, I need “lemme out! I gotta pee” button!

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  5. I love this! If dogs could talk, we wouldn’t need that type os technology. LOL! Great post, I laughed the whole time I was reading it!

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  6. If you can get cricket to work this device, I want to buy stock in your company as soon as it goes public!

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  7. I think this is a great idea!

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  8. Goodness Celia would be dancing between the treat machines with glee!

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  9. “But really, the only assistive device she wants is one that gets her extra food.” Ha! BTW, you do NOT want a golden retriever as a trainer, robot or not. The trainer will undo any training your dogs might already have, but they’d have a great time.

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  10. Yes! Mommy IS crazy-about her fluffy little friends, no doubt. I love your charming stories.
    Vinnie Conte

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  11. Kaci and Kali have different sounds for things. They do talk. The high pitched squeaks are for lizards, the mostly high pitched squeaks are for rabbits and there are squeaks for birds. I wish they’d have a squeak for a male bird, then I could get excited.

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    • You could train them! They have bird calls online and you could just replay the songs you want them to listen for. The question is: would they squeak for a male bird or just roll their eyes in your direction, as in, this one’s for you.

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  12. Hilarious and amusing. Maybe someday there will be such a device.

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  13. Could this device have a button that depicts pre-emptive? My JRT, Trevor, runs down to the front gate, barking fit to bust, every time we open the front door for him. He reaches the gate (still barking), looks around (still barking) then stops for a leak and calmly and quietly walks back, having found that there is nothing to bark at!.

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  14. Young Nicholas, our little dachshund, went for his first run with the rest of us this morning: that will have tired him out! Pip and the boys

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  15. Oh, electronic robot dog helpers are clearly the wave of the future. Forget they mailman, they can bark at emails as they come flying in.

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  16. what a great idea- I think would makes things much easier!

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    • We might have to special order the buttons our particular dogs are most likely to need; mailman is universal, but Cricket needs a buttton for “maintenance man is vacuuming in the hallway!”

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  17. Great post, and the thought of Mailman, Mailman, Mailman made me chuckle. Seriously though, I think this kind of technology is in the pipeline. A picture says a thousand words after all (would we then have a thousand mailmen I ask myself?) 🙂

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  18. it would be purrfect, I am not a barker but Cissy used to be..

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  19. I really love the idea of a robot. Lady has been barking at 5.30 AM a bit lately and so having a robot that told her no barking before breakfast would be a start. Meanwhile, Bilbo, is completely ball obsessed. I could use some sort of automatic ball throwing robot. At the moment, our so-called walks along the beach are just about me throwing his ball. He takes persistence to a whole new level too and barks until you throw the ball. He has stolen other dogs balls. He has trained up other dog walkers to throw his ball and has become something of a menace. I think he needs to go into rehab.

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  20. Haha..this is hilarious. Maybe someone really is working on that robot.
    I love reding about Cricket and Butterfly. 😀

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  21. No Rachel you are perfectly normal. One day Ali completely surprised me. I was working in my studio for several hours, getting lost in a project. I did take a break for a walk so Ali could relieve herself. Anyway, it was about 4pm and I look down at my feet; there she is with the TV remote in her mouth. She promptly drops it, sits down and stares at me. I started laughing. I was astonished how intelligent she is. She was letting me know it is time to stop working and come upstairs and watch TV so she could cuddle by my side.

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    • Cricket does something just like that! When she’s mad at me for watching TV and ignoring her, she jumps up onto the couch and steps on the remote until the channel changes or the whole thing turns off!

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  22. I think you’re on to something! Great post.

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  23. Dogs are smart. I’m pretty sure there is something out there with big push buttons for toddlers and infants. Just past a picture of the mailman on one of the buttons and mount it on the wall where she jumps up. Every time she pushes a button give her a treat or take her out. She’ll get the idea.

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  24. Let me know if they develop such a thing. I’d take one. If only to give Huny something to let me know what’s she’s so desperately trying to SAY….It’d be wonderful, wouldn’t it?

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  25. We need one, too, to find out what’s disturbing Chicki 🙂

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  26. I saved this so I could comment when the internet connection wasn’t so bad. Yes I think it would work! Not so much the training robot but definitely the special buttons or signs to identify the source of their disturbance. I know my dog is getting clearer and clearer in his communication as he ages, I am sure he would master such an extension in no time! 🙂 Great idea, we just need someone good at building stuff 🙂

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    • You don’t like the robot idea? What if the robot could make the communication device?

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      • Oh no I love the robot idea!! Love it :D. I see it as less immediately workeable than the device, is all 🙂 I think my doggy would not appreciate anyone else taking him out, but I KNOW he would LOVE the communication device. Then again, having a robot as clever as that I can think of MAAAAANY things he could do for me. Like perhaps WASHING the aforementined pooch? 😀

      • Oh my goodness! Cricket could be biting the robot instead of me!!!!!!!!

  27. Choppy is with Butterfly on the extra food assistive device (wait…I think she already has that. Its name is Sarah and, come to think of it, she looks a lot like me).

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  28. You are soooo funny! Love it…

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  29. My son hung a string of bells on the back door and his dogs ring the bells when they want to go out. They think they are very smart!

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  30. I think Chienne would like something like that. Our postie rides a scooter and is too far away to be a concern, but she would like some sort of button to push when the neighbour’s cats get come over the fence or when she wants water or treats.

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    • I’m surprised Cricket hasn’t learned how to meow, with all of the time she spends cat-spotting, but then, the cats are usually hissing at her, or trying to stay still and play statue. We definitely need to get this device into production for all of the frustrated pups in the world.

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  31. Rachel you make me laugh out loud, oh my, you are funny girl. Example; The pic of Butterfly with the caption underneath “You want me to pee on something?” But my favorite has to be the 2 following comments;
    ” I think Cricket would really benefit from these concrete devises available to her to help her organize her thoughts”. & “My fear though, is the incessant barking with a choir of mailman, mailman, mailman …”

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  32. I think I have told you before, but I love your photo captions. Wouldn’t it be great if Cricket could press a button and it would send out a little puff of smell–peanut butter or chicken? That would distract her enough to cause her to stop barking. Then Butterfly could press her music button…..I see both little girls happily entranced in sounds and smells. Yes, make this happen, Rachel! 😀

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  33. Brilliant – and hilarious, too!

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  34. My dog blisses out on Tony Bennett. (She likes crooners). I wonder whether you’ve looked into inter-species communication. The “device” being telepathy, it’s portable! Nice post.

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  35. It WOULD be so much easier if they could talk, wouldn’t it.

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