October 10th 2007 11:42 am
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Dogs, cats and computers
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
BY MARY ANN ALBRIGHT, Columbian staff writer
Devoted pet owners are always looking for a captive audience to listen to anecdotes and page through photo albums chronicling just why their cats and dogs are the world's greatest.
Through Dogster.com and Catster.com, animal aficionados worldwide are finding that audience and creating relationships with like-minded individuals.
Kristi Workman, 29, of Vancouver jokes that she's known among her co-workers and friends as "pug nutty, pugged or that crazy pug lady." But on Dogster, where she spends at least an hour a day updating her three pugs' pages, her obsession has earned her dogs hundreds of "pup pals." She even spent an extra $19.95 a year to upgrade from a free membership to DogsterPlus so she can post more pictures of her dogs, Penelope, Milton and Gabby, on their Web pages.
"Some people think I am truly nuts, and the moment I talk about Dogster or someone I know through Dogster, they just start smiling. They just don't understand that it is a great, safe, fun place to just let loose and meet new people through your dogs," said Workman, a contract specialist at Cascade Centers Inc. in Portland.
Workman uses the site as a creative outlet. She also views it as a safer alternative to popular social networking Web sites such as MySpace or Friendster, where members provide information about themselves. At Dogster, she writes from her dogs' perspectives.
That doesn't mean it's not a place where humans bond and ultimately learn about each other, though.
Meeting online buddies
Workman uses Dogster to discuss breed-specific issues with other pug owners. The friendships have developed to the point where she's gone to dog parks in Portland and as far away as Seattle to rendezvous with online buddies.
Giving pet owners a new way to make connections is what inspired Ted Rheingold to found Dogster and its sister site, Catster, in 2004.
"It's a place to show off the love of your life, and it's a place to learn from other people," said Rheingold, a 37 year old who lives in San Francisco, Calif. The networks give pet owners opportunities to share everything from tips to personal tragedies.
Workman created a memorial page for her deceased cat, Macie Mae Kitten, on Catster.
"It is nice to keep their page active. Other members will send little notes or (virtual) presents to them, and it really cheers you up. Dogster and Catster members are very strong and supportive when it comes to a death of a pet," Workman said.
That same sense of camaraderie helped inspire Vancouver dog lover Kelly Young to join in the search for a stolen pooch whose owner was active on Dogster. Last spring Young, 39, learned about the plight of Teddi Sue, a Chihuahua mix from Eugene, and sprung into action.
Teddi Sue's owner briefly left her in the car while on a trip to Auburn, and the vehicle was stolen with the dog inside. Young and other Dogster members contacted family and friends in the Seattle area and told them to be on the lookout for Teddi Sue. Eventually the dog was found and returned to her owner.
"That kind of made me a believer, that (Dogster) wasn't as hokey as you think," said Young, an executive assistant at Oregon Health & Science University with four dogs listed on the site.
Not all the interaction on the site is supportive.
While Dogster members can be generous, some are competitive, Young said.
Many owners, such as Young and Workman, will accept any request to be pup pals. Others are more discriminating. It stings when your request to be pals goes unanswered or gets rejected, Workman said.
"Why wouldn't everyone want to be friends with my perfect, cute pugs?" she mused.
The site encourages a little friendly competition. It gives members icons to declare their affection for another member's pet. For dogs, it's bones. For cats, it's fish. The bones and fish eventually expire, forcing members to continually update their declarations of friendship. "Bones come and go pretty fast, so it is an ongoing joke that when your bone count gets low, then you make a post on the message board saying that you are starving and you need more treats. Other dogs just rush over and give more bones," Workman said.
Zealies are another way of letting Dogster or Catster members know you're admiring their pet. Zealies are a virtual currency. A zealie buys one rosette, which is a rotating icon such as an apple, heart or blue ribbon that disappears after one month. A yellow star costs five zealies, but it lasts forever.
Although they're virtual treats, stars and rosettes are real gifts. Members receive some complimentary zealies, but additional ones are available for purchase.
Zealie packages range from 20 for $5 to 500 for $100. Workman hasn't bought any zealies, but Young purchased $20 worth to dole out to pup pals. She's happy to give out stars and rosettes to other dogs, since she knows how good it feels when Otis, a wire fox terrier, and her other dogs receive treats.
"It starts as a novelty, but then your dog becomes popular. Otis has this little fan following," Young said.
By the numbers
- 329,916 dogs on Dogster.com .
- 298 Vancouver dogs on Dogster.com.
- 2,195 dogs named Lucy (most popular female name).
- 2,225 dogs named Buddy (most popular male name).
- 137,471 cats on Catster.com .
- 166 Vancouver cats on Catster.com .
- 609 cats named Chloe (most popular female name).
- 577 cats named Tigger (most popular male name).
Sources: Dogster.com and Catster.com . Numbers current as of late last week.
Mary Ann Albright can be reached at 360-759-8019 or email@example.com
August 2nd 2007 9:34 pm
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I've been tagged again! This time by Chester - http://www.dogster.com/dogs/582349
Cute is spelled P.U.G.
Fun with Pugs
August 2nd 2007 9:20 PM
Here are the rules: each player starts with 7 random facts about themselves. Dogs who are tagged need to post in their diaries "the rules" and their "7 Pawsome Facts."
Then choose 7 dogs to tag and list their names. Don't forget to bark them a pmail that they have been tagged and tell them to read your Diary, or send them a fun Rosette announcing they've been tagged!!
7 Pawsome Facts About Me:
1. I love to curl up under my blankies in my box during the day.
2. I'll pin ANYONE down for popcorn.
3. I don't like it when my little sister, Gabby, bites my tail when I potty.
4. I like to eat the leftover food in Gabby's dish.... mmmmm puppy food!
5. I like to chase the dryer sheets fresh out of the dryer.
6. I paw at the window in the car when we go for drives.... people think I am waving at them, I just want the window down!
7. I like watching CSI with my Mommy.
7 PuggyPals I've tagged:
1. Guido Luigi Snugglebunz
2. Brunhilda aka Hilde the Large
3. giselle fifi
May 24th 2007 8:51 pm
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Each player starts with seven random facts about themselves. Dogs who are tagged need to post the rules of the game and 7 pawsome facts about themselves in their diary. Then once you are tagged, you choose 7 dogs to tag, listing their names in your diary. Don’t forget to bark your friends pmail that they have been tagged and to read your Diary for the rules -- or better yet, send them a fun Rosette announcing they've been tagged!
7 things about me, Penelope
I love to kiss anyone who gets within tongue distance.
I love to pin my brother, Milton, down and pull on his thick neck folds.
I love peanut butta! In the kong please!
I love to nap with Daddy on the couch.
I like dryer sheets -- straight out of the dryer!
I have very soft fur --- everone thinks that I have just come from the groomer, nope just good food!
I like to go for rides, especially when it is to the beach!
#8 - but most important - I love Maxwell!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!