Lori, John, David, Yuko (with Raja) and Paul
During our travels in the San Francisco area, we were fortunate to get to visit the headquarters of Dogster Inc., the highly successful global online community for dogs and their people, or is it people and their dogs?… the identities do blur. Dogster is mirrored by its other half, Catster Inc. Together they represent over 700,000 online members world-wide, although by the time you read this post, it may well be over a million. We were hosted by Lori Malm, Dogster’s Community Manager in charge of groups, special projects and law and order. Raja got to meet and photo op with many of the Dogster staff. I am saying “many” because three were on vacation. Dogster central is operated by about 9 human beings. Our interview is with Anders Porter, Editorial and Content Manager at Dogster. H&R: How would you characterize Dogster: social networking for people, a showcase for members’ dogs, or social networking for dogs? Anders: When Ted Rheingold started Dogster five years ago, he wanted to create an online portal where dog owners could post images of their dogs, and easily share them with others. As people joined and started showing interest, they suggested and asked for other features, which (over a period of years) led to the current state of the site: it is a fun combination of four things - social networking for people, social networking for dogs, a showcase for member dogs and a portal for pet-related entertainment and information. The past year has really seen a growth in the information that we provide - we'd like to be the destination for dog owners when they have a health, training, behavior or breed-based issue with their dog. H&R: How would you say the development of Dogster has changed from concept to present? Did the focus stay the same? Anders: As mentioned, we did not know that people were going to want to use it to communicate with other dog owners, only that they would be interested in showcasing their dogs. That proved not to be the case - as social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace grew, people were on the prowl for other networking sites that provided a much more "niched" user experience. Thus, people who join ALREADY have something in common - FB and MS can not provide this with their "broad strokes" coverage. H&R: What are some important things you all have learned along the way? Anders: When it comes to the development of a successful online social networking community, it has to be ALL about the members. Listening to the community is one of the most important things that a "niched" social network can do. People are here because of their love for pets, and because they adore their furry friends and want to show them off to the rest of the world. So taking into consideration the features that they like (and they don't like) is crucial. H&R: Why dogs and cats now. For centuries dogs and cats lived short lives adjacent to human beings. Rather suddenly, they have attained great status in many nations worldwide. What do you think is the cause of this transformation? Anders: I think that dogs and cats have always played important roles in the lives of people, it's just that these roles have changed a bit. Dogs have progressed beyond the role of protector and/or herder and cats have progressed beyond the role of mouse-chaser. They play much more social roles in our lives now, that is for sure - though it is hard to really establish why that is. But the fact of the matter is that pets are family members now, they are important part of the social circle nowadays, which is something that I find very refreshing, and something that makes sites like Dogster and Catster possible. Raja and I want to thank Dogster, Inc. for hosting us and making such a fuss about Raja. Dogster does much more than only provide a forum; Dogster (and Catster) members have bonded and participated in global rescue, assisted in homing thousands of pets and exchanged information about medical and health issues. Besides the tremendous opportunity for play, Dogster (and Catster) validate the importance of animal companionship in our lives. Haven’t been to Dogster yet? Well GO now: www.dogster.com
Anders and Skeezix (http://blogs.catster.com/the-cats-meow-a-cat-and-kitten-blog/)
But, no matter… they don’t like wine. However, they do like Napa Valley in Northern California and Napa Valley, California loves dogs! First it’s never terribly hot or terribly cold, so dog tourists are comfortable. Many hotels and B&B’s accept dog guests. And dogs can accompany you dining outside in a plethora of café settings where heat lamps keep you both cozy all year round. A yearly calendar of the winery dogs of Napa attests to the importance of dogs in viticulture. A Napa hint: a bowl of water outside any establishment tells you who’s welcome.
Napa Valley has a great deal to offer in terms of natural beauty with easy and challenging hiking trails. But, amazingly, the best hiking trails of all, the slopes of Mt. St. Helena, are closed to dogs to “preserve the natural beauty.” Hmmm, last time I looked, dogs did not start forest fires or drop plastic bags and water bottles. Are all wildlife kept off the slopes? Just saying… Oh well, we are forced back to the wineries….
Raja was recently in Napa Valley and the gracious reception he received at various wineries and cafés deserves a nod of appreciation.
Dog Friendly Wineries (of which there are many) include:
Peju Province Winery, a boutique establishment founded by Tony and Herta Peju that has been justly awarded for having the most beautiful tasting salon in Napa with its floor of solid agate. On a sunny afternoon, that cool, smooth floor feels great to hot paws. The award winning wines are farmed organically and sustainably. Raja enjoyed schmoozing with the staff and posing on the French oak barrels.
Grgich Hills Estate, is the winery that produced the American wine that so impressed the French in a famous 1976 wine competition. While the story of Grgich is not represented with any accuracy in the film Bottle Shock (2008), the fact that Grigch wines challenged Europe is accurate. Today Grigch wines are produced completely biodynamically and tasted in a completely dog friendly environment… which is our most favorite biodynamic part.
Castleo di Amorosa,’s tasting salon is set in a castle on a hill. A segment of the movie Bedtime Stories (2008) was filmed there and you will want to roam around the marvelous, theatrical chambers in the keep. Entering, Raja was greeted warmly by the gatekeepers and in the salon he met Lupo, the enormous and gentle wolf dog who trolls for belly rubs. I suppose the wine is good. I was playing with Lupo and Raja.
Some wineries do not accept dogs. Their loss.
Dog Friendly Restaurants include: Restorante Allegria , Cindy’s Back Street Café, and Michael Chiarello’s Botega. Raja met a lovely girl from the UK at Botega and abandoned his party to sit with her. I don’t suppose anybody blames him. (In an upcoming topic, we’ll be covering pawty manners in cafés because, let’s be honest, doggies can’t mooch or beg.)
The naturalness and relaxation of Napa as a bucolic tourist entity / agrarian manufactory balances industry and gastronomy. Dogs fit right in to this casual but energetic Northern California culture. If you go, say “Hi” to Lupo for us.
Raja's glamorous friend from the UK.
Veronica from Canada at Arrowleaf Winery in the Okanagan Valley
Raja and I are always barking about getting out and exercising, but in the literal Dog Days of Summer … um… Literally what ARE the Dog Days of Summer?
The Dog Days are the period when the brightest star, Sirius, in the constellation Canis Major (the Big Dog) rises and sets with the sun. Roman astronomers thought the earth was warmed by Sirius because it is so bright and they reasoned that Sirius, added its heat to the sun, causing the hot hot hot weather of July and August. For the Romans, technically, the Dog Days were the 20 days before and after the conjunction of the Sun and Sirius.
Returning to our original topic… the real dogs of summer do have to continue to walk and exercise and get out, even on the most hot and humid days. Heat can be dangerous for all dogs, particularly short nosed dogs, dogs who carry their weight up front, heavy dogs and dogs that have allergies, heart or lung considerations. Getting out early avoids the heat and makes for a safer walk.
Our blog features Raja’s first exercise video. We thought about it for a long time and finally Raja explained that all dogs really want to do is run until they get tired and then roll in the grass. So that’s what he did for our video crew.
For the next week, Raja and I are traveling and working on blog spots of the future to share with you. While we’re gone, we hope the Dog Star of Summer shines on you and your little dog stars wherever your paws are roaming.
Mollie and Sophie know how to cool down!
In the last 5 years, pet furnishings and toy products have increased exponentially. It’s perfectly understandable. There are more house pets than ever round the world. And we have come ever so far from the days when aristocrats of the middle ages kept pets as much for companionship as to attract fleas away from themselves. As for the popularity of modern pets, we have all read cliché statements like: “Pets are starter children.” “Cats are the new dog.” “Large dogs are the new pony.”
Of course none of this is really true. Pets are more cooperative than children. Cats and dogs are radically different. Your 5 year old should never ride the Malamute. I think pet products have increased as a reflection of the fact that the world is getting to be a kinder and more playful place in the lucky pockets here and there on the globe where people have basic needs met so they can be generous to pets. This is good. Let’s hope these pockets of calm and prosperity spread all over the earth. Back to product. Some catalogs approach pets as accessories. If you like minimalist décor, buy biomorphic, but not species specific, plush toys. If you are eco conscious, buy pet beds from recycled soft drink bottles. Urban East Coast dogs, LA dogs, Francophile dogs, Country dogs and Japanese kawaii-so dogs are styled differently. Hunting dogs like decoys printed on things. The dog and the décor and the cultural orientation should all match, according to what I’m seeing. Since that is the case, Beanie Babies with chewed faces represent the style icon of this house. No cynicism here. Pets need soft beds and clean, safe, toys to chase or chew or roll about. They need fitting, comfortable, sturdy harnesses and leashes that will restrain them from wandering into traffic. And these things need replacing, because they will wear out. Beds sprouting stuffing or plush with loose eyes and split seams have to be repaired and washed in non-toxic soap, or discarded and replaced. Whatever’s safer. Raja and I recommend repair whenever possible. It’s eco-best. Plus, as we’ve all discovered, dogs get used to things and don’t prefer change. There is indeed a lot of dog product out there. None of it stylistically really fits what I’d call my décor, but that’s OK. He’s got what he likes and I’ve got what I like, somewhere underneath all the stuff he likes. We invite readers to send us a jpeg you’d like posted in this segment of your dog with his or her favorite old toy or bed or mystery item. Write to us at email@example.com. Next week, we’re interviewing a dedicated rescuer of Shih Tzus, responsible for homing hundreds of great dogs nationally. Some people think dog rescue is a business, but our interview reveals the ways that many people give so much in time, services and medical care to save and re-home abandoned and hopelessly lost pets.