Tag Archives: Pets

How to Check on a Pet When You Can’t Be at Home

PuppyThis is my puppy. He’s fourteen weeks old, and he is nuts. We named him Talmadge, after one of the longest-standing political families in the state where we live.

He is a great little guy to have around, but he really is crazy. No, seriously. Crazy. He weighs five pounds and can jump up to my waste already. He figured out how to climb out of his playpen before he was old enough to visit a dog park. Like I said, crazy.

When my wife and I decided to get a dog, we rationalized our decision by coming to two realizations:

  • Right now, we have fewer commitments than we will probably ever have for the rest of our lives. Why not get a dog now, while we still have a good bit of extra time on our hands and no one else to look after?
  • And, modern technology allows us to keep an eye on the little guy even when we can’t be there, at little to no cost to us. We both work a lot, and we need to be able to check in on him because we can’t come home to let him out for lunch.

So that’s the purpose of my blog post tonight. No, I’m not saying that to be twenty-something, you need to have a dog. What I am saying is – if you’re looking into it, know that it’s a big commitment, a great decision and not as expensive as the critics like to tell you it is. I really do love the little guy. Also know that there is an easy way to keep an eye on pets like Talmadge when you can’t be at home.*

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. An internet connection
  2. A computer with a built-in camera or a webcam
  3. The free software program “Skype” or another video communication service.
  4. A cell phone/iPad/iPhone/Android, etc. that can stream video
  5. Oh yeah…you’ll also need a pet. Although I guess this could work as a security option in general.

And here’s how to do it:

  1. If you don’t already have one, set yourself up a Skype account. Accounts are free and the only cost associated with using the program occurs if you need to call an actual phone number and not communicate via internet. I’ve never paid a cent.
  2. Next, set up another Skype account (using a different e-mail address) for your pet. Yes, Talmadge has his own Skype account. No, you can’t call him.
  3. Once the pet’s Skype account is set up, you need to change some of the settings in order for this process to work correctly. Navigate on over to your preferences, and click the “Privacy” tab. I would transfer every single preference to only receive and allow messages from contacts. Then, I would only add your account to your contact list. This way, no sketchy pet people can watch your pet while you’re not home.
  4. Next, navigate to the “Calls” tab and beside Incoming Calls, click “Answer Automatically”. If you skip this step, you will not be able to successfully use this process. Unless your pet can answer his/her own Skype calls. Which would be awesome.
  5. Position your camera so that you can see your pet’s play space.
  6. Finally, mute the computer’s sound or turn off the computer speakers. It might make your pet go insane if they can hear you when you call to check in on them.
  7. Once you’ve done all of this, you can log in to your Skype account via your iPhone, iPad, work computer or whatever and your pet’s account should pop up as being online once you’ve logged in if you’ve added him/her to your contact list.
  8. Click “Make Video Call” and you should see and hear your pet momentarily. I recommend testing this out in another room before leaving home.

A special note: Skype is free, but it will use a good bit of your data if you’re not making calls over a WiFi network. I would recommend waiting until you’re in an area with a WiFi connection before making a call, unless you happen to have an unlimited data plan.

Some people think we’re crazy for doing this, but in the early stages of having a puppy, it has proven to be an invaluable tool for us. Remember how I mentioned that Talmadge figured out how to get out of his playpen already? I wouldn’t have realized that he had done that until hours later if it hadn’t been for this process, and my wife was able to turn around and put him back in the pen and calm him down.

What do you think? Am I crazy? What crazy things have you done for your pet?

*Do not misinterpret this post as an endorsement of being away from your pet for long periods of time. They love you and they need you, and you need to be there for them.

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