This weekend, The New York Post featured me and my dog, School For The Dogs’ Yorkiepoo spokesdog Amos, at a demo we recently did at the Manhattan computer store Tekserve.
We were there to show how to teach dogs to use iPads. Over the last few years, I’ve developed a training program that helps people basically play dog training games using handheld devices. Using apps that have been repurposed for use with a nose, dogs can draw, take pictures, paint, and even read.
The iDog classes we hold at School For The Dogs have gotten a good deal of media coverage, but this particular press hit was sort of funny to me for a few reasons. (One of those reasons is NOT because it is about dogs using iPads, which is actually something I take pretty seriously.) It’s funny for these reasons:
1. Before I decided to devote my life to canine education, I was a journalist. For the better part of a decade I worked as a freelancer, but, for a year, I worked for The New York Post. This was in the early 2000s, and it was mostly a failed experiment. My superiors at the Post were not very good dog trainers: I was under-stimulated and the fixed rate of reinforcement of a meager paycheck left me uninspired to try very hard. A few years later journalism ran headlong into the recession, and I decided to find explore another career path. I never dreamed I would be appearing in the same pages a decade later, wearing overalls and yapping about teaching dogs to use touchscreens (the Post reporter, Jessica Hullinger, didn’t know I’d worked there when she contacted me). I can say that I’m about a thousand times happier in this career than I was when I was on the other side of the page. Of course, I still am a fan of newsprint: It is very useful for cleaning up dog poop.
2. This weekend, while I was out, my apartment was burglarized! The thief stole only one thing from me: the iPad Mini Amos used. This is more “ironic funny” in that the theft happened on the same day that a story ran about this particular object that I own. Or owned. Also funny: if the thieves manage to unlock the device, they’re going to find a bunch of apps I use with dogs, most of which were designed for handicapped people. I hope this makes him (or her) feel extra terrible. They’ll also find a lot of selfies and drawings done by dogs.
3. Sunday, shortly before the iPad theft took place, Amos, my iPad-using Yorkiepoo, discovered an old toy on the street. It has buttons much like the ones he is trained to touch on the iPad. But here is what’s funny: He is obsessed with this thing! Yes, after more than a year of training him with touchscreens, he did get excited whenever I brought out my iPad Mini. But after only one or two training sessions, he is already going nuts for this clunky, tactile plastic toy that probably $500 less than the device that had the pixelizated buttons he was trained on. It’s like showing a kid an old touchtone phone when all they’ve ever known is a slab of glass.
Anyway, I’m sure there will be other iPads in our future. What Amos really wants is an iPhone 6.